Abortion Theology

john f. is a lawyer with an interest in literature, foreign languages, history, theory, and comparative religion. He has been blogging with his brother Jordan F. at a bird’s eye view since July of 2004 and has been commenting at By Common Consent for even longer. In ancient Bloggernacle history they were once described as “the most dangerous minds on the net” although they never quite figured out what this meant except they are pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.
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The anniversary of Roe v. Wade today falls within an election season that could conceivably threaten a fissure in the coalition that the Church seems to have formed in recent decades with Evangelical Christians on certain social issues, including abortion. Specifically, the vocal opposition of many Evangelical Christians to Mormonism and the faith of its adherents has found new outlets in the mainstream media because their view of Mormonism and its adherents now has some relevance on the national political stage as a result of Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the presidency. The increased intensity of Evangelical denunciations of Mormons has also given opportunity to reflect on the political positions of Evangelical Christians (and other creedal Christians) and, more specifically, why they take those positions.

Many or perhaps even most Mormons are pro-life in the sense that they are repulsed by the idea of terminating a pregnancy (which, of course, people who are pro-life describe as killing a baby). Many or most Evangelical Christians are also unqualifiedly pro-life. But are the reasons that Evangelical Christians are pro-life actually acceptable to Latter-day Saints? In a discussion such as this, there is always the risk of mischaracterizing the others’ views and that is not intended here, so corrections are welcome and invited, but it is worth thinking about at a time when a substantial percentage of Evangelical Christians reject a Mormon candidate because of his religion.

Is it accurate to conclude that, at its most basic level, Evangelical Christian political support for the pro-life position stems from a theology that includes the doctrine of election to salvation? Under this doctrine — made famous by Calvin — God, who is of course sovereign over all flesh, elects those who will receive mercy and be saved before they are even born; the billions who are not chosen in this manner to be Evangelical Christians receive justice and are damned. Despite this doctrine of election to salvation (i.e. “unconditional election”), the condition of accepting the Trinitarian Jesus in one’s heart is still viewed as absolute to be able to receive or benefit from the grace of Jesus Christ which alone saves. Thus, even those who are “saved” because they accept the Trinitarian Jesus in their hearts have only done so because God chose them to confess the Trinitarian Jesus in their hearts, implying by necessity that God chose the billions of others who have not confessed the Trinitarian Jesus in the hearts not to do so, including estimated billions who lived out lives of misery and died before anyone even knew about Jesus Christ.

Would this doctrine not demand a pro-life position if it converged with a belief that life begins upon conception? Abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, under this doctrine, means sending another soul straight to the eternal torture by fire and brimstone of God’s damnation in Hell. This is because, if life begins at conception, and if a person must accept Jesus Christ in his or her heart to be saved (both of which Evangelical Christians believe), then terminating a pregnancy means killing a person before he or she has a chance to accept Jesus Christ in his or her heart. The result is that the aborted fetus is one of the “reprobates” who were not elected to be saved but rather receive justice and are damned for eternity. No human, no matter how faithful, wants to be the instrument in the hands of God in damning innocent babies (in this case fetuses) to eternal hell; therefore, a prohibition on all abortion becomes politically imperative.

Is this an acceptable reason for Latter-day Saints to be pro-life? It seems that most Mormons who are pro-life take this position from an accountability standpoint relating to the misuse of divinely appointed powers of procreation informed by an awareness of the pre-existence of the soul and the greater purpose of the Plan of Salvation. It should be noted that the official position of the Church on abortion allowing the procedure in certain circumstances could already make Mormons “pro-choice” to some degree in the eyes of staunch pro-life Evangelical Christians. If this is indeed the case then their toleration of Mormons in their coalition on this cause at all is a manifestation of how they are spitefully using Mormons for their money and grassroots support on this issue, particularly if they really are rejecting Mitt Romney because he is Mormon.

If this brief argument about the reasons for the Evangelical Christian pro-life stance is sound and valid, then is LDS participation with Evangelical Christians in a coalition about this political issue desirable?

Comments

  1. Great reminder (though some evangelicals will protest at their over-calvinization), although many would argue that “life begins at conception” is an ex post facto justification for what is fundamentally a moral claim about the piety of the individual contemplating abortion (which you suggest as the Mormon justification, and one I am not entirely comfortable with). Politics make strange bedfellows, as you note. I personally would be delighted if Mormons politically abandoned the Religious Right (which is not coterminous with evangelical Christianity, despite their aggressive advertising campaigns–I know evangelicals who are deeply concerned about misappropriation of that term by the ultra-ist right-wingers).

    And if you want a declaration of pro-choice, the whole contest in heaven over agency (Satan wanted no choice for humankind) coupled with the guarantee of salvation for all who would have received the gospel seems a reasonably sure foundation.

  2. smb, where do you see Mormons — including those who are both orthodox and conservative — coming down on the issue of when life begins and how that relates to a pro-life position?

  3. I’ve said this before, but I think our Church’s position is one of “pro-choice/consequence” rather than pro-life. The exceptions (incest, rape, mother’s health) are all instances where the woman had no choice (and therefore shouldn’t necessarily have to suffer the consequence). I think our theology backs this up. I don’t think the Church’s position calls abortion “murder” like other groups’.

  4. @ Rusty- You’re right. The Church does not think abortion is murder. This I think is a big theological difference between Mormons and Evangelicals.

  5. John F., thanks for the discussion. I’m not sure if this is the right theological track for understanding Evangelical opposition to abortion or not. The rhetoric generally used invokes the idea of “murder” and relates abortion to the 10 commandments. In Berkeley, pro-life protesters (I see a lot fewer of them in Chicago) routinely used signs linking “abortionists” with a parade of other sinful horribles: child pornographers, drug dealers, rapists. My sense is that the guiding theological concern here is obedience to law, more than fear about sending a soul straight to hell. (After all, many Evangelicals today are not theologically Calvinist, and at least some are theologically flexible enough to find ways to keep the unborn babies out of hell.)

    Rusty, there are times when the church calls abortion murder, but other times when abortion is treated very differently. I remember a church video about how to use the scriptures from when I was a child, in which one of the apostles demonstrated how to search for guidance on topics of interest today. He role-played a person looking for scriptures to help decide whether or not to have an abortion. Failing to find abortion in the topical guide, he instead turned to murder, where he found what he considered to be relevant information. Surely other examples could be offered. On the other hand, for disciplinary purposes and so forth, abortion is treated as a separate category of behavior.

  6. re # 5: After all, many Evangelicals today are not theologically Calvinist, and at least some are theologically flexible enough to find ways to keep the unborn babies out of hell.

    I certainly hope that this is true, particularly with regard to babies and hell. But I am thinking about what might even underlie the obedience-to-law based stance on abortion, and it seems that this election to salvation angle fits the bill for such a motivating doctrine. After all, we are familiar with Evangelical repudiation of “law” and it seems unlikely that obedience to law could really function as the most fundamental concern in a religion informed by the election to salvation.

  7. john f, there probably are those staunch Calvinists who might phrase it the way you did, but if they really were staunch enough to phrase it that way, they could claim that an omniscient God would know who would and would not have an abortion – and, therefore, not allow anyone who had been elected to salvation to be aborted. In that theology, no human can thwart the will of God, so all abortions would be performed only for those who were elected to damnation anyway. Personally, I think your “reasoning” is sound enough as a viable way to consider the issue, but I don’t think it is how very many evangelicals would articulate it. The vast majority of them with whom I have talked focus on “killing the innocents”, not predestination.

    Since we have no formal doctrine about when the spirit enters the body, we aren’t constrained by the same assumptions. (That’s also why the Mormon Church can avoid having to take an official stance condemning embryonic stem-cell research.)

    Given the classic definitions of pro-life and pro-choice (which terms I find polarizing and personally despise), I believe the Church is firmly pro-choice – albeit with general guidelines and counsel discouraging abortion in most pregnancies. (I think, in general for all issues, the Church is pro-choice with general guidelines.) After all, we teach that agency is a fundamental requisite for proper growth and accountability – that, literally, mortality (“life”) would be wasted and pointless without agency. It’s hard to identify something more fundamental than life itself, but, in our theology, agency is.

  8. I probably should have said that agency is “as fundamental as life in the eyes of God” – that it is inseparable from life from an eternal perspective.

  9. John, abortion, homosexuality, and pornography are often a litany of sins among modern conservative Christians. The “election to salvation” argument only conceivably applies to abortion, though. Since these acts are often seen as comparably bad, it seems that a common explanation ought to be sought for why they’re bad.

    Incidentally, conservative Christian websites often offer explanations for why abortion is seen as bad. They don’t invoke Calvinist theology. What they almost universally do invoke is the 10 commandments, often with other ethical reasoning. Take this example, or this one. There are heavy appeals to the Law of Moses, as well as to the idea that Christians ought to care for others more than for the self. Nothing about Calvinist ideas regarding the reception of grace. When discussing this among themselves, it really seems that conservative Christians see abortion as an issue of ethics, rather than of soteriology as you suggest.

  10. Ray, again, I’m not really focusing on how most everyday Evangelicals would describe their opposition to abortion themselves but looking at core Evangelical theology to see what about it would really require a pro-life stance. Whatever it is, I feel pretty confident that Latter-day Saints don’t share it.

    But your comment # 7 does bring up an interesting point about how this line of reasoning focusing on election to salvation could be irrelevant to practical considerations of the politics of abortion on the ground.

  11. In a country with a secular government and a diverse citizenry I don’t think appeals to specific tenets of religious belief are adequate or appropriate as a basis of law. That’s why I’m not comfortable with arguments like the one John outlines above. And I really don’t like Huckabee’s assertion that we need to amend the constitution to conform to (his view of) God’s standards, though I do think many American Mormons would agree with him.

    But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t use our own moral sensibilities, some of which may be informed by our religious beliefs, as a basis for law. I favor some restrictions on abortion, not due to a specific tenet of my faith, but due to my personal moral sensibilities that are offended by the unwarranted destruction of what I view as a form of human life. I also favor some allowances based on my personal moral sensibilities to the effect that women should be able to choose whether or not to conceive and whether or not to endanger their own life in the case of medically dangerous pregnancies. For me, it’s not what I think God wants that determines my position, it’s what I want and what I think is best for our society.

    So, while I share some goals with hardcore religious pro-lifers, such as enacting more restrictions than currently allowed by Roe v. Wade, I don’t want to go as far as they do and I don’t want to be seen as one of them. When it comes up I tell people that I’m pro-choice/anti-abortion, partly because that describes my view pretty well and partly because it indicates that I’m not a far right pro-lifer.

  12. Name (required) says:

    #5–I immediately thought of that video as well. My kids were watching it just a few months ago. Its BKP, but I don’t remember the title of the video. It probably wouldn’t be difficult to find similar stuff in Ensigns articles.

    On a number of controversial issues, the church doesn’t articulate a clear position. In this month’s ensign, for example, there is an article that trash talks evolution. It would leave the reader with the impression that the church is clearly opposed to evolution, but I’m not sure that the church has officially taken any position. This has been discussed elsewhere, but an ensign article or a talk by an apostle doesn’t seem sufficient to establish something as an official church position.

  13. re # 11, Tom, I found your comment to be very insightful on the general topic of Mormons and abortion. It is a very sensible position and I think one that many Latter-day Saints take, if I am not mistaken. Thank you for articulating it.

    As for the argument relating to election to salvation outlined in the main post, I think that JNS and Ray have made good points that make it seem like a bit of a straw man, although I’m not fully convinced there’s not something to it. Hopefully there would be some theological element requiring Evangelical Christians to take the view that they do rather than taking that view out of mere intolerance for agency and/or an arrogant imposition of their ethical sensibilities on the rest of society. I am not convinced that a law-based approach can fulfil this role given that the Evangelical Christian movement is grounded in a certain interpretation of Paul’s writings rejecting law and the Law in favor of free grace following a confession of the Trinitarian Jesus in one’s heart. This is common to Evangelicals of most stripes, whether influenced predominantly by Calvin, Luther, or some other Protestant theorist.

  14. John, the equivocation regarding “law” is profound in American conservative Christianity. There is no other theological basis in such religion for opposition to same-sex marriage, for example — yet such opposition is, if anything, more fervent than opposition to abortion.

  15. re # 14 There is no other theological basis in such religion for opposition to same-sex marriage, for example — yet such opposition is, if anything, more fervent than opposition to abortion.

    Right. I have considered this with regard to Evangelical Christian opposition to SSM as well and have found the law-based approach to be particularly contradictory in this context. Not only do Evangelical Christians otherwise argue vociferously against the Law (following their particular interpretation of Paul), which should in theory invalidate OT references to homosexuality, such as they are, but they also subscribe to the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. This would seem to imply that once one accepts Jesus in one’s heart one is saved by grace once and for all and therefore if one engages in homosexual intercourse after that it cannot affect one’s salvation, which occured at the time one accepted the Trinitarian Jesus in one’s heart.

  16. The thing I’m more interested in is whether this whole Romney controversy is going to last long enough for the Christian Right to wise-up to the fact that the Mormons aren’t necessarily “on-board.” At least, not in the way they want us to be.

    It’s always been assumed that Mormons are solidly in the GOP corner. I don’t think very many people (including the Mormons themselves) have stopped to consider that the Mormons are in that corner for much different reasons than, say, a Southern Baptist.

    Since Romney himself dodged the issue when he opposed stem cell research, it is possible the LDS Church may manage to fly below the radar on this for a while longer.

    But eventually, I think both the Christian Right and right-wing Mormons are going to have to come to grips with the harsh truth that we just aren’t Southern Baptists. No matter how much we’d like to be.

  17. Many or perhaps even most Mormons are pro-life in the sense that they are repulsed by the idea of terminating a pregnancy

    For what it’s worth, I submit that many or perhaps most pro-choice people feel the same way.

  18. Some Christians posit that they, (the saved Christian as an individual) are not under the law. The rest of society is still under the law, because grace has not been applied to them, because they have not accepted Jesus. And an important part of their thinking is that they (the saved Christian) are new creatures with out a disposition to do evil, and hence do not need the law, whereas the unsaved person is still in need of the law.

    Hence the OT law is still relevant for society as a whole. It is similar to the thinking of many Saints who feel they are following the Spirit, and hence rules that they don’t see as important don’t apply to them.

  19. re # 17 — exactly. I even noted in the original post that Mormons could technically be considered pro-choice by Evangelical Christian standards based on the Church’s allowance of abortion in certain circumstances.

    re # 16, But eventually, I think both the Christian Right and right-wing Mormons are going to have to come to grips with the harsh truth that we just aren’t Southern Baptists.

    I think this is true and I think the current election season will play a large role at least in disabusing right-wing Mormons of this notion.

  20. Anyone taking bets on when Adam Greenwood will show up?

  21. Thanks for the post, John.

    CW:

    It is similar to the thinking of many Saints who feel they are following the Spirit, and hence rules that they don’t see as important don’t apply to them.

    Doesn’t this belong here?

  22. Ann, not that I know of but I would welcome A. Greenwood’s input on the issue given some of the questions in the original post and subsequent comments.

    One issue I am interested in I put forward for smb and others in comment # 2: is there a Mormon consensus or commonly held view on when life begins and how that relates to the pro-life position?

  23. #21- Amen.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    A few off the cuff thoughts:

    1. At General Conference time there is often a protestor holding a sign disparaging the Church’s position on abortion. So very conservative Christians certainly perceive the Church as not in line with them on this issue.

    2. I like the Church’s pragmatism on this issue. To be ideologically pure on the pro-life side, one has to take the position that a raped woman should have to bring the baby to term. That might be ideologically consistent, but I suspect a majority of Americans would find that an abominable result, even if they couldn’t articulate with precision why it’s abominable. My guess is that the Church’s position, which is actually pretty middle of the road, is one that would likely resonate with a lot of ordinary Americans.

    3. The Church has no official position on when life begins. (Brigham Young said it was at quickening, which we now know is not a significant medical event.) Again, we’re pragmatic on the issue, and I think pragmatism is the way to go.

    4. It’s a pretty safe bet that the Church as an institution does not equate abortion with murder, even if no doubt some individual members do. Elder Dallin Oaks came to a ward I happened to be visiting once, and the subject of abortion came up (this was in high priests group, so I heard this second hand after church), and someone asserted that abortion was murder. Elder Oaks corrected the statement and said that abortion is not murder. Maybe that was just the lawyer in him drawing a legal distinction, but he had to know his remarks would be construed as Doctrine with a capital D by those present.

  25. StillConfused says:

    Has anyone read the passage in Freakonomics on Abortion? That had an impact on my thinking.

  26. Kevin, the CHI section on church discipline provides some fine parsing on the abortion/murder question. The text ends up saying that the church does not consider abortion to be murder for the purposes of discipline. This at least implies that the church might consider abortion to be murder for other purposes.

  27. #24- BKP had to know his words would be taken as doctrine as well, especially in a church video. I agree the church does not define abortion as murder, but the example was hearsay and can easily be smacked down with other hearsay.

    #22- My thoughts are again with #24. We have no clear definition of when life begins. Most women who have experienced miscarriages have their own varied feelings as to whether that pregnancy represented a child (having a spirit identity), or just a potential for life that never progressed. Some say the first breath is the key. There are so many different feelings that it seems obvious there is no one answer. This is why procreative power seems more central to the issue than fetal life.

  28. Peter, no it belongs here because the discussion was of whether or not the OT law should be applied, in the thinking of certain Christians.

    For example one person above said: “Not only do Evangelical Christians otherwise argue vociferously against the Law (following their particular interpretation of Paul), which should in theory invalidate OT references to homosexuality, such as they are, but they also subscribe to the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. This would seem to imply that once one accepts Jesus in one’s heart one is saved by grace once and for all and therefore if one engages in homosexual intercourse after that it cannot affect one’s salvation, which occurred at the time one accepted the Trinitarian Jesus in one’s heart.”

    My comment addresses that comment. Whereas certain Christians apply grace to themselves, as illustrated by that comment made by John F, I am pointing out that some of those same Christians do not necessarily believe the OT law is invalidated when it comes to others. Hence the OT law is a basis for legislation affecting society, in their thinking even though violation of that same law would not affect their salvation.

    And as a side comment it is worth noting that many saints feel the same way, as far as rules applying to others, but not to themselves. I think in many instances Saints and Christians with out the full gospel use different terminology, but say essentially the same thing.

    As mentioned above this election might bring out some of the differences between the Mormons and the Christian right. But it might reinforce some of our commonality as well. Most of the evangelical Christians I know, will in the end feel they have more in commons with Mitt, than with Hilary, if it came down to that choice.

  29. This focus on calvinist belief seems odd to me. Within the US and Europe, the opposition to abortion came first and foremost from the Catholic church (particularly its more conservative segment), which ‘convinced’ evangelicals and others that abortion was as essentially harmful to the dignity of life (which is, of course, the same basis of Catholic opposition to the death penalty). Should we not also consider their (much more modern) theological reasons (for we are no less in coalition with COnservative Catholics on these issues than with Evangelicals), as expressed in Evangelium Vitae, Humanae Vitae, and Veritatus Splendor, which are probably more prevalent among pro-life protestants and evangelical theologians as well, and which are more similar to the statements of the church on the matter?

  30. StillConfused (#25)–

    I have read the abortion segment in Freakonomics. To summarize for others who haven’t read it: The author believes that Roe v. Wade was a significant factor in the the general decrease in U.S. crime rate during the 1990s. He posited that less unwanted babies = less criminal teens and twentysomethings.

    Fascinating study. I though his analysis left many open questions. “Crime rate” is a hard thing to consistently measure and compare across years. And there were so many other social and economic factors at work during the 1970s – 1990s. To do a proper cause-effect statistical comparison, you have to control for all other significant factors (as the Freakonomics author readily admits in the book). I take his analysis on the issue with a grain of salt.

  31. re # 24, 4. It’s a pretty safe bet that the Church as an institution does not equate abortion with murder, even if no doubt some individual members do. Elder Dallin Oaks came to a ward I happened to be visiting once, and the subject of abortion came up (this was in high priests group, so I heard this second hand after church), and someone asserted that abortion was murder. Elder Oaks corrected the statement and said that abortion is not murder. Maybe that was just the lawyer in him drawing a legal distinction, but he had to know his remarks would be construed as Doctrine with a capital D by those present.

    Kevin, this is fascinating considering that Elder Oaks has invoked Doctrine and Covenants 59:6 in another discussion of choice and agency:

    Pro-choice slogans have been particularly seductive to Latter-day Saints because we know that moral agency, which can be described as the power of choice, is a fundamental necessity in the gospel plan. All Latter-day Saints are pro-choice according to that theological definition. But being pro-choice on the need for moral agency does not end the matter for us. Choice is a method, not the ultimate goal. We are accountable for our choices, and only righteous choices will move us toward our eternal goals.

    In this effort, Latter-day Saints follow the teachings of the prophets. On this subject our prophetic guidance is clear. The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience. Our members are taught that, subject only to some very rare exceptions, they must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. That direction tells us what we need to do on the weightier matters of the law, the choices that will move us toward eternal life. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Weightier Matters”, Clark Memorandum (Spring 1999), pg. 5.)

    The article goes on to encourage Latter-day Saints to stand behind an essentially pro-life position based on an agency argument.

  32. Victor Van says:

    If we continue to tolerate violence against innocent human life, we will have lost all basis for justly claiming to have any rights of our own.

  33. TMD, great suggestion! I agree that Catholic theology on this point is more enlightening and relevant than Calvinist thought.

  34. An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown provides an example of a past apostle who didn’t view abortion as murder:

    Hugh B. Brown: “It is a dangerous thing to try to regulate the private lives of husbands and wives or for church leaders to go into the bedroom of a couple who is married and try to dictate what they should or should not do. Many of the problems people bring to the authorities of the church should be settled by the persons themselves. They know the basic rule of right and wrong. For example, there are cases where abortion is absolutely justified, in fact necessary, such as in the case of forcible rape, the threat of permanent injury to the mother’s health or life, or the possibility of a grossly deformed birth. The church opposes abortion generally because it seems to be an easy way for young people to avoid pregnancy.” (emphasis added)

  35. I’ve always concidered life to begin with brainwaves. I find myself unable to discuss this issue politely, so I will merely put up the church’s policy as found on lds.org. and wish you all a lovely day.

    Abortion
    Human life is a sacred gift from God. Elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church.

    Additional Information

    In today’s society, abortion has become a common practice, defended by deceptive arguments. Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord’s declaration, “Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). Their counsel on the matter is clear: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.

    Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.

    When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship. If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services (see “Adoption”).

    —See True to the Faith (2004), 4–5

  36. Oops, I forgot to use quotes on my #35. The lds.org quote is everything after “lovely day.”

    Have fun.

  37. Jami,

    Based on those quotes and my political science background I have always considered the Church to fall right in the middle of the pro-life spectrum.

    97% of abortions are for reasons of birth control or convenience. Some grey area in church teachings on the final 3% does not make for a pro-choice church or teaching.

  38. Steve Evans says:

    Welcome to Firebrand Johnny!

    John, I can’t help but think that like most other points in Mormonism, we don’t really have a consistent theological system to explain our approach to abortion. We are eminently pragmatic about it. Accordingly I don’t think we can jump onboard of mainstream political campaigns on either the pro-life or pro-choice side of the equation, as both of them fail to adequately describe the Mormon position.

    The question I have is: why should be feel compelled as a religion to align ourselves politically on this issue?

  39. Couple thoughts I get from listening to pro-choicers who are LDS…

    Comments on Agency, and how agency is fundemental -
    People are allowd to make bad choices. You can decide to drink before you are of age and you can get an abortion if it is illegal.

    You still have your agency and that is not taken away from you.

    The issue of abortion is one of the life of the (potential) child and the choice of the mother. Sometimes the mother’s life is at stake, or pregnancy has serious health consequences, but usually this is a canard. quack quack. More often than not it’s just not wanting to deal with pregnancy. Motives should be evaluated here, but they should not trump all. The most important thing should probably be “life” instead of “choice”.

    I also hear Mormons say things like God will work it all out, even if someone does something bad like get an abortion, it will be ok because we have a believe in Salvation through other means (temple work, missionary work in the spirit world, etc). Or maybe just that baby spirit will get moved into a new body/family.

    If that’s the case why come here at all? Surely the experiences in this life are important. If you think the aborted babies will just have to “wait in line” a little longer you’re doing exactly what the pro-choice people dislike by bringing your relgious views into policy by claiming God will work things out.

    Policy should be influenced by religion, but it religious views should not be the determining factor.

    So it seems to me the issue ultimately comes down to one of a growing, developing human life vs. a person’s choice/opinion.

    I really don’t see how choice can trump life. And using Mormon’s distrust of Evangelical reasoning as a wedge to get people to side with one side seems like a pretty pathetic tactic.

    What’s more important? A baby or a choice?

    It used to be that Mothers (and fathers) would die for their children. Now we toss them over bridges or into trash cans, or better yet just kill them off before they pass through the vaginal canal.

  40. This reminds me of when evangelicals tell Mormons that we don’t really know what we believe and that we really secretly believe such-and-such, even if we think such-and-such is the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever heard.

    So I can’t tell if you’re in earnest or if this is just a brilliant-albeit-obscure satire. But I’ll play along.

    Let’s assume that the reasoning behind the evangelical pro-life position really is this convoluted. So what? We may find it theologically offensive, but ultimately it’s irrelevant, as the common goal of everyone in the pro-life coalition is not to enforce a particular theology on the citizenry, but to place more legal restrictions on abortion. Who has the petty fixation on theological differences again?

  41. If aborted foetuses were fore-ordained to be damned, why should I care whether they are aborted or not?

    (Calvin is an idiot.)

  42. Really, it’s surprising that we aren’t pro-abortion, if we believe that unborn children get treated the same way as children who die before the age of accountability. What better way to get more spirits to the Celestial Kingdom? (Satanic, you say?)

    I apologize for my lay comment amongst all the high minded ones thus far. =)

  43. Steve Evans says:

    sam (#39), I would hope that we could avoid some of the more overblown rhetoric on the abortion issue. Your last paragraph, for example, is hardly on topic. John F.’s question has little to do about the merits of abortion per se, and if we’re to listen to people prattle about the evils of abortion I’d prefer someone a little more nuanced — Adam, Matt? You guys there?

  44. 97% of abortions are for reasons of birth control or convenience.

    Are you sure, bbell? This is going to be hugely prone to measurement error, certainly. How many people who were date-raped are going to tell that to their doctors if it isn’t legally required in order to get an abortion? How much consent, of which kinds, is necessary to make abortion acceptable? The percentage of “gray-area” abortions is going to depend a great deal on answers to these kinds of questions.

    Making laws that reflect LDS moral teaching about abortion would put the state in the position of requiring women to prove that they were raped in order to get an abortion. That gives me nightmares. Better to teach correct principles.

  45. re # 38, I agree that you have raised a better question. This post was just exploring a theory about why Evangelicals see themselves as committed to a political platform dominated by the pro-life side of the abortion issue. But the direction it has taken in exploring Mormon thought on the issue is fine as well.

    I think bbell makes a good point in # 37 that the Church’s position as quoted by Jami from True to the Faith actually lands us in a moderate position on the issue and actually not far from the real stance of the majority of pro-choicers who want abortion to be legal so that it can be done in these tragic cases. I think the main concern of Church leadership is avoiding the appearance of supporting elective abortion in any circumstance and therefore emphasis is placed on placing clear restrictions on abortions to keep it within those narrow exceptions.

    re # 40, it sounds like you are putting forward ends-based reasoning in support of Mormons continuing in a coalition with Evangelicals in opposition to abortion. I think that works although ends-based reasoning is problematic in many other areas. Also, I might be wrong but I am not sure that the Church’s position favors the extent of the legal restrictions that Evangelicals wish to put on abortion — but I might be wrong about the extent of their desired restrictions as well.

  46. re # 42, I think the Church’s position on abortion stems from an accountability approach that takes in the broader Plan of Salvation into view. One problem with your point is that the question of when life begins is unsettled, even to the point that miscarried or stillborn children are not included in a family’s membership records and temple work is not done for them, to my understanding.

    Our understanding of the pre-existence might shed some light on this although it starts crossing the line into space doctrine — but perhaps knowing that each of us has a spirit that existed in an environment of agency before birth implies that our spirit could inhabit a different physical body than the one that has miscarried.

  47. I have a friend and former colleague who, in noticing President Brigham Young’s association of the entry of the soul into the body with quickening, was assured that the connected event was something only a mother could determine to have happened.

    I don’t know that abortion is a great imposition to any given unborn person, because I don’t know that it will stop a soul from coming to earth. I know that it is a great trial for those who have undergone it. FWIW

  48. Jami’s #35 and bbells response #37 both take the logical leap between moral opposition and legal proscription as axiomatic. Considering elective abortion to be ethically unjustifiable does not mean elective abortion should be criminalized. Equating a moral position with enforceable laws can be a slippery slope. That is not necessarily an argument against the hard-line pro-life position either. You can think something is fundamentally immoral (say, infant baptism) and take any number of positions as to whether there should be laws that regulate said behavior in any way.

    FWIW, I happen to be pretty committed pro-choice, largely for pragmatic reasons. Regardless of the subtle suggestions one way or another, the Church’s official position is that abortion is not murder. I simply see no legal rational for criminalizing abortion that does not presuppose that aborting an unborn baby is an act of depriving life from a rights-bearing individual — the basic legal definition of murder. But, to be honest, it is the lack of an official position from the Church on abortion as a legal/political qustion that leads me to consider it independently as a legal/political issue.

    My sense speaking with well informed, thoughtful prolife Mormons (Adam Greenwood comes to mind) is that their position is not primarily driven by LDS theology but by other political considerations. I think that the reasons for the largely prolife position taken by LDS are more historical — connected with the reallignment and reconstitution of conservative political coalitions after the 1960s in the wake of the departure of southern whites from the New Deal coalition after the civil rights act, the salience of culture war rhetoric in forging said realligned coalition, etc. etc. — than theological.

    I’m not saying that being Mormon should put you in one camp or the other. I’m saying that being Mormon gives you the freedom to choose either in good conscience, and that choice is and should be based on considerations outside Mormon theology.

  49. I know this won’t be the answer that many of you are looking for, but the Church’s position on “when life begins” is essentially “long before conception or even before this world was created.”

    The Church’s doctrine of the pre-existence has always seemed to me to take a lot of the teeth out of a purely pro-life stance. If a baby does not make it to term on this pregnancy because of a human intervention, are we to assume that it gets another shot? I feel like with the Church’s pro-family orientation, aside from its particular position on abortion, not many Church members would be receiving or performing abortions even if the Church’s position on it was (or was perceived as) so pro-life. So, assuming that it is primarily or exclusively non-Mormons getting abortions, can we then also say that if a aborted spirit gets another shot, maybe the second chance will work out better than the first would have?

    It is a strange argument, I know, and one somewhat akin to the theory addressed in Freakonomics. I guess my own view is that, given what I know about the Plan of Salvation, I just don’t see what a big deal abortion is, at least as long as members of the Church are not doing it, other than its effects on the person (read: parents) undergoing the abortion.

  50. Steve Evans says:

    “in noticing President Brigham Young’s association of the entry of the soul into the body with quickening”

    like this?

  51. Well, a “hard” Calvinist would believe that once God determines the predestination of a soul, it doesn’t matter when the body dies, so abortion has no effect at all.

    A “soft” Calvinist probably doesn’t believe that babies and children pre-baptism are damned.

    It should be noted that the official position of the Church on abortion allowing the procedure in certain circumstances could already make Mormons “pro-choice” to some degree in the eyes of staunch pro-life Evangelical Christians.

    Except, of course, the vast majority of pro-life individuals are pretty much in sync with that position.

    The reality is that the vast majority take a soft pro-life position when viewed from an Orthodox Catholic viewpoint.

    I don’t see that puts us in conflict.

    Interesting exercise though.

  52. Perhaps in theoretical terms that may be one reason why some Evangelical denominations are pro-life, but I can’t see that as being the compelling reason why most individuals in the pro-life movement see themselves as pro-life. I think most pro-life individuals are more driven by the idea that life begins at conception and that ending that conception constitutes murder rather than out of concern for the unborn child’s eternal welfare. Actually, most evangelicals I’ve known seem to share the belief that babies who die before they are able to accept Christ are covered by his atonement (whether or not that might be the doctrinal creed of their respective denomination). This, however, brings up another interesting nuance between Mormon and Evangelical belief about when exactly life begins. Mormon doctrine is silent on this issue and this has left a good portion of the LDS congressional delegation open to supporting stem-cell research legislation in the past. It also is likely why the Church does not treat abortion, while still a grievous sin, on par with murder (for example, women who have had abortions and men who have encouraged them typically only need a second interview with a mission president to be baptized). It also leaves Mormons more free to allow for abortions in exceptional circumstances such as when the life and health of the mother are threatened or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

  53. non-mormon-observer says:

    As someone who was raised in an Evangelical home, by a pastor with over 40 years of professional experience, I can say that unless we are speaking of a minority of members of the Southern Baptist convention or one of the conservative “Reformed” denominations (like the Christian Reformed Church or the Presbyterian Church in America not to be confused with the much larger Presbyterian Church (USA) ) most Evangelicals are not Calvinist in their Soteriology. Most Evangelicals are Arminianist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism)

    Armianism is very similar to LDS agency theology. So I don’t think that Calvins Unconditional Election plays much of a role in the pro-life movement among Evangelicals.

  54. non-mormon-observer says:

    “Armianism is very similar to LDS agency theology”

    Of course I do not know the theology behind Agency as well as I do Arminianism… ;)

  55. There isn’t really such a thing as “core evangelical theology.” Many committed Calvinists out there today are not evangelicals; many evangelicals today are either Methodist or particularly influenced by Methodist Arminianism, which specifically repudiates Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election. So TMD’s point is particularly well taken, I think – most evangelical rhetoric on abortion echoes the firm Catholic position on ‘life’ rather than particular evangelical theology.

    On when Mormons believe life begins – I’m not sure we have a clear sense of this. We tend to echo Calvinists in our rhetoric about death in ways particularly illustrative of the plan of salvation – that is, we talk about this life being only a moment in a broader existence that stretches both ways and is mo; we say that God “takes” people for a reason. All of this seems to downplay the importance of death. As to abortion, however, we can draw on similar themes as those Calvinist ones john points out – sam’s post #39 is illustrative here. We talk about how abortion wrecks divine plan: but the plan in question is one of our choice rather than God’s choice.

    One interesting scripture that sometimes gets summoned up here is 3 Nephi 1:13.

  56. ends-based reasoning is problematic in many other areas

    Yes, it is problematic when the underpinning reasons for a group’s particular position are not irrelevant. Planned Parenthood was originally aligned with the eugenics movement. That doesn’t mean everyone in the contraceptive movement at large was necessarily a eugenicist, but they were allied with eugenicists, a group whose raison d’etre was to purge the human race of “undesirables,” i.e. those who were disabled, of low intelligence, or particular races. Belief that abortion deprives someone of the opportunity to accept the trinitarian Jesus and therefore frustrates God’s purposes is an odd but ultimately irrelevant theological idiosyncrasy that is of no consequence to anyone who doesn’t share it (assuming that it is factually erroneous, of course). There are many theologies represented among pro-lifers, but they are motivated by a common value thesis: human life trumps reproductive freedom. In the case of the early 20th-century contraceptive movement and the eugenicists, the movement at large had the motivating value of reproductive freedom, while the eugenicists’ motivating value was racial purity. I could comfortably align myself with the former but not with the latter.

    Also, I might be wrong but I am not sure that the Church’s position favors the extent of the legal restrictions that Evangelicals wish to put on abortion

    This assumes that the Church allies itself with the most extreme element of the evangelical pro-life movement. If that were the case, such a coalition would not be prudent or desirable. But I see no evidence that that’s the case.

    To say that pro-life Mormons and pro-life Evangelicals share a common goal (be it criminalizing abortion or reducing abortion, whichever is the case) and therefore theology shouldn’t matter is not necessarily arguing that the ends justifies the means. In this case, pro-life Mormons and pro-life Evangelicals pretty much share the same end *and* the same means–insofar as non-extremist Mormons are cooperating with non-extremist Evangelicals. They obviously don’t share the same theology, but the theology doesn’t have much bearing on the “means” in this case, unless you’re talking about extremists, in which case theology may very well be relevant.

  57. JNS.

    Here is some data. This one shows 98% I have seen others that show 97%.

    http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/abreasons.html

    Also I would not go to far in trying to establish deep theological reasons for the typical evangelicals oppostion to abortion. Evangelicals are low church in their beliefs and worship style. I am surrounded by evangelics at work. Its more like this:

    Its wrong to kill, fetuses are babies

  58. bbell, I think you’re exactly right about evangelicals’ ideas about abortion.

    I know the existing data about abortion reasons. The problem is, as I noted above, the data are known to be horribly biased. People systematically underreport rape and incest. The size of the bias is unknown.

  59. #50,

    You’re getting predictable, SG.

  60. Brad, 48–I did not leap anywhere, I quoted the church website and said goodbye.

  61. Timmy, I know — but someone had to do it. Tell me you and our 5 million readers weren’t also thinking it!

  62. #48 brad
    The only problem I have with your position is that in the official church website info that Jami posted said anyone who has or preforms or pays for an elective (social) abortion are putting their membership in the church up for elimination.

    I think, pretty clearly that we are mostly pro-life camp with exceptions rather than Ray’s mostly pro-choice with exceptions.

  63. Murder: 1. It was alive when you started and dead when you finished. 2. You meant to kill it. 3. It was human. Seems to me only the last of those conditions is debatable.

    On Sunday, a friend showed me a 3-D picture of her first granddaughter, a 20 week fetus. That sweet little piece of tissue was sucking her thumb.

  64. I’m a little skeptical of AGI statistics. They over report the number of abortions in the US by including some miscarriages. They claim something over 40% of all American women will have an abortion in their lifetime, which seems incredibly high until you realize that they include some spontaneous abortions in that number–but they don’t tell you exactly where or why.

  65. Dan Dewsnup says:

    If we enter a coalition with anyone and misrepresent ourselves, it will not lead to trust and mutual understanding. But most participants in political coalitions do understand that eventually their personal interests will divurge at some basic area with others, but they still can work out legislative solutions that will advance both parties aims.

    It is clearly stated that the LDS church believes that there may be infrequent circumstances in which abortion is the best course for the mother and fetus. So shouldn’t a member’s personal legislative agenda be more like President Clinton’s previously stated legislative goals for abortion legislation, i.e., “…abortion should be safe, legal, and rare…”, than an agenda that seeks to prohibit all abortion, no matter what the circumstance?

  66. #63, I think your definition is incomplete. By that definition, all our war heros are murderers.

  67. Evangelical says:

    I think it’s sad and appalling that you caricature evangelicals as believing in the damnation of infants. The majority of evangelicals certainly aren’t Calvinists, and among the many Calvinists I’ve met I’ve met maybe two that believes infants may possibly be damned. I’d challenge Mormons to name a few prominent evangelical Calvinistic figures who believe in the damnation of infants. I certainly don’t know any.

  68. Uh, Dan, She’s not president yet.

  69. This story
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22689931/page/2/
    has some interesting abortion statistics.

  70. Evangelical, sorry that you were appalled. Perhaps you should pen a limerick on the topic?

    An Evangelical once felt Appall
    For Mormons would look on and LOL
    Cuz damning a baby
    Just sounds outright crazy
    And Mormons believe in Kobol!

  71. [deleted because it was lame]

  72. JNS, I’ve attended and participated in many debates about abortion. I don’t ever recall seeing an abortion supporter contest the claim that very few abortions (2-7%) are for rape, incest or maternal health.

    Ray #7, the church’s abortion stance (exceptions only for rape, incest, maternal health or fetal deformity) is uniformly considered to be pro-life. No pro-choice group would sponsor a speaker — let alone endorse a candidate — who advocated the church’s position.

  73. JNS, I’ve attended and participated in many debates about abortion. I don’t ever recall seeing an abortion supporter contest the claim that very few abortions (2-7%) are for rape, incest or maternal health.

    Matt, I don’t know what to say. The numbers are widely known to be very unreliable.

  74. blah 2 (66) I’d say that soldiers do commit murder. It’s just state-sanctioned murder. Sometimes someone else is morally responsible.

    I think that calling all intentional killing of humans murder is not only accurate, but would also help put things like the death penalty, abortion and war in the same camp. Things that kill people on purpose.

    Sometimes murder is justifiable. I think that the debate should be, is murder in this instance morally justifiable.

    I vote that murdering fetuses because of rape (especially incest) or danger to the mother is justifiable. (Although I know a very nice girl whose father and grandfather happen to be the same man. I think she might vote the other way.)

    Murdering a fetus because it messes with your school plans, your Disneyland trip, or because you currently despise the fetus’ father all seem unjustifiable to me.

    From the great scholastic halls of dictionary.com:

    mur·der. /?m?rd?r/ –noun 1. Law. the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder), and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder).
    2. Slang. something extremely difficult or perilous: That final exam was murder!
    3. a group or flock of crows.
    –verb (used with object) 4. Law. to kill by an act constituting murder.
    5. to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.
    6. to spoil or mar by bad performance, representation, pronunciation, etc.: The tenor murdered the aria.

    (As a sidenote, my husband vehemntly disagrees with me on this as he believes murder always is a sin. Any non-sinful killing should not be refered to as killing. [ex. Nephi did not murder Laban, but rather slayed him.])

  75. Matt: “the church’s abortion stance (exceptions only for rape, incest, maternal health or fetal deformity) is uniformly considered to be pro-life.”

    Matt, really? Are there any pro-life groups that explicitly say that the Mormon position is pro-life? I’m sincerely asking here, because I thought that our position on abortion was not tightly aligned that way.

  76. um, I meant “Any non-sinful killing should not be referred to as murder.” Again that is according to my DH, who is oh-so-wrong.

  77. MikeInWeHo says:

    There once was a blogger named Steve…

    Oops, I digress. In Evangelical’s defense, I do think the initial post and subsequent comments really distort contemporary evangelical thinking about the eternal destiny of infants. Strict Calvinism is pretty rare these days. Bbell’s take on it seems right on.

  78. Jami,
    You’re making a moral argument when the whole question is political and legal. Like it or not, the Church’s position is that abortion is not murder. It’s not treated as murder in severity of sin. If you try to baptize a potential convert who has had or encouraged or performed an abortion, said individual must interview with local stake or mission leadership to proceed. If the person has committed murder, it requires special permission by the First Presidency. The Church has never taken a position for or against any piece of legislation having to do with abortion. Your characterization of abortion as self-evidently murderous, while perhaps effectively manipulative, is logically indefensible from an LDS perspective.

    This is a question of creating enforceable laws within a framework in which government exists to protect individual rights. Because there is a dependent, inseparable relationship between an unborn baby and the mother, you cannot confer upon the unborn specific rights (even as fundamental and basic as the right to life) which the state is obligated to protect, without in the process altering the legal status of the mother. Period. Whether conferring legal status upon the unborn at the expense of the legal status if pregnant women is a preferable policy is up for debate. For me, that’s where the whole pro-choice/anti-choice (as opposed to pro-/anti-abortion) argument turns. The best answer to the question of how pregnancy problematizes the classically liberal concept of the rights-bearing individual in a society where we are increasingly capable of viewing (literally) the unborn as genuinely human is by no means self-evident.

    I take the position I do because, for my own reasons, I think that the negative effects of conferring legal status upon the unborn for the legal status of women outweigh the negative effects of keeping abortions legal (even morally wrong elective ones) and trying to proactively take social and political measures to make them safe and rare. Other rational, well-informed, well-intentioned, totally non-crazy people might weigh the costs or frame the questions differently than I do and draw different conclusions.

    The whole point of my original post was that these decisions are made — especially for Mormons — largely outside the domain of abstract theological principals and within the domain of political theory and pragmatic political action.

  79. John F. says:

    True to the Faith actually lands us in a moderate position on the issue and actually not far from the real stance of the majority of pro-choicers who want abortion to be legal so that it can be done in these tragic cases.

    Stricter limits on abortion may well result in the unavailability of legal abortions in situations where Church policy would permit them. How Church members resolve this issue–in favor of looser restrictions that would permit the hypothetical Church member to obtain a legal abortion (but which would, presumably, permit a lot of people to obtain abortions in circumstances that the Church would object to) or in favor of tighter restrictions that would reduce the number of abortions overall but which might also prevent a Church member from obtaining a legal abortion in a situation where Church policy would have permitted it–will determine whether they would be more comfortable with the pro-life or pro-choice label.

    My hunch is that any of us facing a personal decision in the matter–ourselves, our wife, our daughter or our sister–would suddenly become much more vigorously pro-choice if the state began to inquire into the validity of our family member’s choice to abort a pregnancy.

    I remember Pres. Oaks (I use that title intentionally) advocating a rights-based argument for determining when abortion might be permissable, where the unborn child was represented by a guardian ad litem and a hearing held to determine whether the mother’s interests in having an abortion outweighed the child’s interests. (I don’t know how far he went with this–whether he ever put the argument in writing or if he would make the same argument today–nothing showed up on Lexis.) The proposal has some appeal, until you consider, say, your own daughter having to face a judge and a hearing after already following Church policy and receiving heavenly confirmation that an abortion in that case is permissable.

  80. Evangelical (#67), I confess to not ever having asked any of my evangelical friends and associates about this (seems like it would be kind of rude). However, I would love to have your perspective here. Even Arminianized Calvinists still assert that one needs to be “born again” in order to be saved and that God foreordained the experience, no? What is the difference between infant damnation and the damnation of heathens in tribal Amazonia who never had the opportunity to hear the Good Word?

    Unless I am mistaken, even a strait up TULIP-rejecting Arminian believes that the ignorant are damned, no?

    If I am out to lunch here, please help me out.

  81. J, in antebellum Protestantism not everyone believed the ignorant were damned. many despised Hopkins who took the most radical position that we ought to desire to be damned ourselves if it is to the glory of God.

    There are moderate evangelicals who aren’t quite so strident about the damnation of the ignorant.

  82. On the question of whether the LDS position is considered pro-life by the pro-life groups. I served for years on the board of directors of Right to Life and they oppose abortion in every instance and look down their nose at the LDS “exceptions”. They consider our willingness to consider abortion in the case of rape, as discriminating against a baby, just because the father was a jerk.

  83. a random John says:

    Matt,

    You’re assuming that the position can only be one of two things. It seems clear to me that Church policy for its members’ actions is neither strictly pro-life or pro-choice. As for where a LDS falls politically, I think you could be anywhere on the spectrum, though stridently pro-life would seem to put you at odds with the exceptions the Church allows for.

  84. Steve Evans says:

    CW, that’s my experience as well. Uh-oh, we see eye-to-eye!

  85. 77. Brad That’s Pro-Life & Anti-Life, isn’t it? I don’t find the phrase “pro-choice, anti-choice” to be accurate. What normal person is anti-life or anti-choice? I am pro-choice before conception, pro-life after. I know people who are pro-choice for others, but pro-life for themselves. The standard nick-names for complicated position don’t really apply.

    As for the point of the original post, I’ve NEVER known a living human being to take that position regarding Calvinism and the unborn. Everyone I know (and I do have a very big Southern Baptist family and a bunch of Evangelical friends) stick with the “It’s a baby, not a choice,” “Abortion stops a beating heart,” and “Adoption, the Other Option” bumper stickers. I have found myself to be in complete agreement with every pro-life-er I’ve spoken to about it, except conservative Catholics. I’m a bit too liberal for them.

    As for abortion being self-evidently murder, it is all in how you define murder. I’m not trying to be manipulative. I just think killing a human being on purpose is murder. And I disagree with my husband about murder always being a sin. Always serious, not always a sin.

    You say, “You’re making a moral argument when the whole question is political and legal.” Do you mean in the OP? In general? Can we really separate morals, politics and the law? And if we can, is that a good idea?

    Regarding the interview requirements for abortion vs. murder prior to baptism, I think that that is a matter of people being accountable only for what they know. Most people prior to the gospel know murder is illegal and wrong (in most cases). Whereas, most people think that abortion is legal and morally acceptable. That difference in understanding strikes me as being the reason behind the need for 1st Presidency approval in the case of murder and not for abortion.

    Regarding human rights for women and their fetuses, I don’t understand how someone can be tried for two murder charges for murdering a woman and her near-term fetus if that fetus has no rights. Perhaps the logic there is that fetuses develop human rights as part of their maturation process.

    (See, I should have stayed away and stuck to my fond farewell in post 35. Steve, could you just ban me for the day?)

  86. Steve Evans says:

    Jami, consider it done.

  87. The church has taken a stance on legislation in Utah, according to Lester Bush’s 1985 Dialogue article on ethical issues in reproductive medicine.

  88. A little lament–It is horribly unfortunate that in many areas (abortion, welfare, marriage/divorce), governments are unable to have the kind of nuance that the Lord’s government has. My Bishop has a level of control over me, and access to personal knowledge about me, that IMHO it would be insane to entrust a government with (Bishops also have the spirit and other gifts that are needed to do a good job). Bring on the Millennium!

  89. Jami,
    Pro-choice/anti-choice may not strike the kind of hyper-moralizing tones with which you appear to want to frame this question, and it may force the question into the domain of policy-making rather than abstract moral reductionism, but it is an essentially accurate characterization. Pro-choice/right-to-life is also a fairly accurate description, but ultimately pro-choice think that pregnant women should be legally allowed to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, pro-lifers don’t. It’s a policy issue. Should elective abortion be legal. You can take your position on that question for whatever reasons you like, but the crux of this question (remember NO ONE here is debating whether or not elective abortion is morally justifiable) is individual choice versus state regulation.

    And, for the record, the General Handbook states clearly that the official position of the Church is that abortion is not murder. [For a reference see Elder Nelson's "Reverence for Life" in the May 1985 Ensign]

  90. JNS, when you say AGI’s stats are “widely known to be very unreliable”, who or what are you referring to? Pro-lifers are often question their impartiality given that they started as the research arm of Planned Parenthood, but they are the primary source for several tables in the Census Bureau’s annual Statistical Abstract of the United States, and are cited authoritatively by everyone in the abortion debate.

    Steve, the only pro-life group of consequence that advocates a no-exceptions policy is the American Life League. (They say an exception for life-of-the-mother is unnecessary because she can claim common law self-defense). But they participate with the other major pro-life groups at the March for Life, etc., even though some of them allow for exceptions for rape and maternal health.

    John F., you wrote: “True to the Faith actually lands us in a moderate position on the issue and actually not far from the real stance of the majority of pro-choicers who want abortion to be legal so that it can be done in these tragic cases

    Very few (read: almost zero) people who self-identify as pro-choice want abortion to be restricted in all cases save the church’s exceptions. Pro-choicers believe the decision is between the woman and her doctor — and that it’s not the government’s place to second-guess her reasons.

  91. #85 Regarding the interview requirements for abortion vs. murder prior to baptism, I think that that is a matter of people being accountable only for what they know.

    I guess the litmus test for this would be what stance the church takes on knowledgeable members who have abortions. Don’t know the answer. Anyone?

  92. I have some Evangelicals in my family and they’re basing their vote soley on a candidate’s position on abortion. The reasoning behind this is they say our nation has “blood guilt,” which they describe as a nation that kills innocent lives. According to the Bible, they say, a nation with blood guilt is held accountable to God. This, they say trumps all other political positions and views because we as a nation will be condemned due to the “blood guilt” that’s hangin over our heads.

    Has anyone heard of this before? What are your thoughts?

  93. And i think I meant “lithmus”.

  94. Steve Evans says:

    sol, why “lithmus”? You had it right before.

  95. Something about 7th grade science and “lithmus paper”. My brain just remembered it that way. Thanks for the right answer.

  96. BTW, do you know the answer to the other question?

  97. Steve Evans says:

    sol, the Church’s position towards members who have abortions varies in relation to the circumstances under which the abortion is obtained. It’s never exactly smiled upon, but under some circumstances it’s recognized as permissible.

  98. Brad, do you support civil rights or are you anti-popular soverignty? Stephen A. Douglas thought slavery was immoral, and you can imagine why Lincoln (or the abolitionists) would resent being labeled “anti-choice” or “anti-popular soverignty” simply because slavery apologists wanted to refocus the debate from the morality of slavery to whether the government should remove the citizens’ “right to decide for themselves whether to own slaves.”

    Because it’s better (rhetorically and politically) to be known by what you favor than what you oppose, I have been urging pro-life groups to insist the media refer to them as “fetal-rights” groups.

  99. Guess that rules out the above reasoning for the pre-baptism interview versus FP approval. Thanks.

  100. aaron, I just did a search for “‘blood guilt’ and abortion” on google…holy crap.

  101. Matt,
    I think your suggestion for the name change is very apt. My position has nothing to do with popular sovereignty. It has to do with the very problems that attend the conferral of enforceable rights onto the unborn from the perspective of the rights of pregnant women. See my comment #48 or my old back and forth with Adam on his “like unto it” thread for a more detailed articulation of my position.

    FWIW, I’m really hoping you’ll continue to engage me on the substantive questions I’m raising. I like discussion with smart people who disagree with me, but I have yet to meet a serious, thoughtful right-to-lifer who will address the implications that conferring enforceable rights onto the unborn will have for the legal status of pregnant and/or potentially pregnant women.

  102. Stape -

    Even Arminianized Calvinists still assert that one needs to be “born again” in order to be saved and that God foreordained the experience, no?

    That’s kind of what Arminius himself believed (though the concept of being ‘born again’ as we think of it today is of later derivation, dating to the evangelical movement or maybe the Puritans). Arminius argued simply that grace is not irresistable, or that God foreordained the saved but not the damned.

    In popular theology, however, as Sam notes, this sort of evolved, lost its nuance, and became, essentially, that we must accept the grace God offers. This sort of dissolution led to the New Haven Theology, which in the 1820s basically redefined predestination of any sort out of existence.

  103. Brad, I’m happy to answer your questions. Ask away.

    I don’t know if this is what you have in mind by “legal status of pregnant women”, but I believe pregnant women are mothers, and mothers, as parents, have affirmative duties to care for their children unless and until they can find a substitute. Once we recognize the rights of all human beings, including unborn human beings, we’ll recognize the mother’s duty to care for her unborn child as we do now her born children (again, unless and until she can find a substitute).

    The law already recognizes that *paternal* obligations begin at conception. The starting date of paternal obligations has been litigated many times, most often in bankruptcy cases involving divorced men owing alimony and child support. Because alimony is dischargable through bankruptcy, but child support isn’t, fathers going through bankruptcy ask the courts to attribute the mother’s prenatal medical bills to his alimony obligations. The courts have uniformly held that prenatal medical expenses are part of his obligations to support his child, and not dischargable.

    I would use that same rationale, which I believe to morally and legally sound, and apply it generally: parenthood begins at fertilization.

  104. Matt–

    the only pro-life group of consequence that advocates a no-exceptions policy is the American Life League. (They say an exception for life-of-the-mother is unnecessary … some [other groups] allow for exceptions for rape and maternal health.

    Apparently there are a lot of “of consequence” people out there because 2(ish?) years ago, South Dakota passed, and the governor signed, legislation that had no exceptions and defined both life and pregnancy as beginning at conception (this is notably different from the medical definition of pregnancy). Courts nixed it and, IIRC, the people successfully did a referendum on it. But it did pass.

    Also, my understanding is that a “health” exception is a total non-starter for most pro-life groups. Recall in the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry was castigated by the pro-life crowd for his vote against the “Partial-Birth” Abortion Ban, when he was actually in favor of such a ban if only it included a health exception. I really doubt you had any pro-life groups out there patting him on the back for Kerry’s health-exception support, am I wrong?

  105. maternal health

    I’d have to say that many pro-abortion camp doctors believe that 99% of all abortions are important to preserve and nurture the mental health of the mother.

    It is the reason for all the debate and anger around “health of the mother” discussions.

    aron, I just did a search for “‘blood guilt’ and abortion” on google…holy crap.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 22, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

    Makes the harshest discussions we have seem pretty mild, doesn’t it.

  106. Matt,
    That does clarify your position in a fairly reasonable way. It also goes to the heart of concerns I have. “Parenthood begins at conception” is a far more sane approach (IMHO) than “abortion is murder.” But even talking about parenthood of the unborn raises questions. In the first place, state protection of fetuses presumes the legal conference of some kind of personhood upon the fetus, and with it rights which the state is obligated to use its power to protect and enforce, preeminent among them being the right to life.

    In the case of living (i.e.born) children, the state has several mechanisms by which it can intervene to protect a child. If a child is being abused, endangered, or threatened by her parents, the state can remove the child from the custody of the parents, appoint a new legal guardian, prosecute the parents, etc. But how does the state intervene in the interests of the unborn? If a doctor has good reason to believe that a crime is going to be committed, that obviates her patient/client obligations and she is required to notify authorities.

    What if, in the aftermath of a law change criminalizing abortion and offering state protection for the unborn, an ignorant woman consults her physician about the possibility of terminating an unwanted pregnancy, thereby indicating her intent to violently harm–murder (since taking the life of an innocent, rights-bearing person is, I think, the very legal definition of murder)–her unborn child? What should the authorities do? Should the court appoint a separate legal guardian for the yet-unborn child? Does the biological mother then effectively become an incubator for a child whose interests the state is actively intervening to protect? Does she get to see hte child after it is born (since her murderous intent toward the child obviously precludes the possibility of her being fit for custody)? Do we really want pregnant women — especially poor, young, or scared ones — avoiding seeing a doctor and getting proper prenatal care because they don’t want the DCFS to start intervening in their affairs? What if we see a pregnant woman smoking or ingesting alchohol or riding a roller coaster?

    These might seem like extreme or silly extrapolations, but let’s take the example of a real case:

    A couple of years ago, in Utah there was a bizarre case that made national headlines. A woman was pregnant with twins and was told by her doctor that, due to complications, the best chance for the babies’ survival was for her to undergo a C-section. She refused, delivered both children vaginally, and one of them died. The DA attempted to charge her with negligent homicide – for actions she took (or refused to take) during her pregnancy that contributed to the post-birth death of her child. I had very little sympathy for this woman, especially since she refused the C-section because she knew the operation would expose her heroine addiction. The charges ended up being reduced and the case went away, but no one (at least that I’m aware of) discussed the almost frightening implications of the case: if her act of criminal negligence consisted in refusing to have a C-section, then does it follow that the state can intervene by FORCING her to allow a doctor to cut open her abdomen? What if the stakes aren’t quite as high? What if, in spite of the fact that the risk is considerably less, a doctor advises a patient that the best interest of her child will be most likely served by a c-section rather than a natural birth? Should Mom even have a choice (the million-dollar word) in the matter?

  107. Regarding Jami and the definition of “murder.” I’d suggest a first-year law school course in criminal law. Get that under your belt and you’ll join that happy crowd of lawyers who, as either Mark Twain or Ambrose Bierce said, go to a lot of trouble to distinguish between different degrees of homicide, but, in any case, the dead man is still dead.

  108. I still think George Lakoff offers the best insight into the abortion debate with his discussion of framing and worldviews.

  109. I like his analysis as well, Sam. I think he gets the linguistic components better than Nunquist.

  110. blah 2,

    I was responding to the claim that pro-life groups consider the Mormon church pro-choice because of the exceptions it allows, and saying that even the groups who refuse the exceptions still consider those of us want them to be pro-lifers. The pro-lifers in the SD legislature would consider Mormons pro-life because we both oppose elective abortion (97% of abortions).

    Polls show that about 15-22% of people want to prohibit all abortions, no exceptions. (Life of the mother is protected by existing common law self-defense.) Many activists are especially suspicious of the health exception because the Supreme Court’s Doe v Bolton case said that a mother’s mental and emotional health had to be included, effectively allowing mothers the option of aborting at any time for any reason.

    Brad,

    I agree that there are lots of tricky cases we could imagine, as there are in child protection cases already (DNS taking a child because parents wouldn’t pursue aggressive cancer treatment, etc.). We don’t have to know the answer to all of the potential conflicts between parents and children to know that children are full and equal human beings. So long as the people making the rules truly believe that all human beings are of equal value, no matter their age, I’d trust their decisions.

    I think that many, many people have it exactly backwards, however. They consider scenarios like yours, decide they’re complicated, and conclude that fetuses must not be full human beings after all. That’s like letting the debate about what to do with all the ex-slaves determine whether or not blacks were full and equal human beings: inside-out.

  111. I think abortion is tragic, but necessary, until we as a society collectively decide that:
    1. We are willing to pony up the funds to ensure that the woman we force to carry the baby to term is provided with nutritious food, shelter and safety.
    2. We are willing to pony up the funds to ensure that she is given proper pre- and post-natal medical care and attention.
    3. We are willing to ensure that, if she cannot or will not demonstrate a willingness to keep and properly nurture the baby, that we find a good, loving home for the baby (adoption).
    4. We are willing to pony up the funds to ensure that, if she decides to keep her baby, they both will have access to adequate food, shelter and medical care.

    Problem is that most of the so-called “pro-life” folks seem to be really just “pro-fetus”, concerned more with punishing mom for her sins, than caring whether or not Jr. is coming into a world where (s)he will be wanted, loved, and properly cared for. They seem to have little regard for mom or baby once baby is born. Since most “pro-life” folks also fall into the pro-tax-cut, anti-universal-health care camp, items 1-4 would therefore never happen if they got their way. It would seem there’s more than a bit of hypocrisy to the “pro-life” label. Obviously I’m speaking in generalities, and I hope that the really passionate pro-life folks like Jami are truly pro-life, and not just pro-fetus.

  112. Matt: my anecdotal experience mirrors CW’s and Steve’s in that I have seen representatives of some pro-life groups state that Mormons aren’t actually pro-life because of the sanctioned exceptions, although this does not prevent them from taking money and grassroots support from Mormons.

    But I find the slavery comparison persuasive, as well as the invocation of the paternity/child support cases.

    Those two examples help overcome the legislation barrier that prevents people dedicated to liberal democracy from supporting actual legislation that imposes on women the consequences of a belief system they don’t share. This is because it reframes the debate away from religious justifications for restricting abortion to rights-based arguments. In doing this, it also resonates nicely with what Elder Oaks wrote in his article (pg. 8) that I cited above in comment # 31:

    Similarly, some reach the pro-choice position by saying we should not legislate morality. Those who take this position should realize that the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. Should we repeal all laws with a moral basis so our government will not punish any choices some persons consider immoral? Such an action would wipe out virtually all of the laws against crimes.

    The paternity/child support argument brings the discussion into the secular realm and returns it to a rights-based approach that recognizes the human fetus as a human being regardless of the science on when human life begins (if such a thing can possibility be determined by science outside of the realm of opinion before birth). The brings the objective type of morality that can be discussed among people with widely varying religious beliefs or none at all back into mix. The slavery comparison performs the same function on an emotional level — rallying emotions behind the cause of fetuses’ right to life without injecting a particular religious dogma into the argument. As Elder Oaks states, the law of crimes legislates nothing but morality. This must be a morality that people agree upon outside of what their particular religion dictates in a pluralistic society.

  113. The citation in # 112 is to page 8 — the smiley was not intentional.

  114. JNS, when you say AGI’s stats are “widely known to be very unreliable”, who or what are you referring to? Pro-lifers are often question their impartiality given that they started as the research arm of Planned Parenthood, but they are the primary source for several tables in the Census Bureau’s annual Statistical Abstract of the United States, and are cited authoritatively by everyone in the abortion debate.

    Matt, let me clarify: I don’t mean that AGI’s stats are particularly bad, or are worse than anyone else’s. Rather, the point is that all abortion numbers are known to have certain systematic biases. There are questions people just don’t answer honestly. For example, people systematically overreport having a library card and voting, and they underreport trouble with the IRS. There’s good social science evidence that women underreport rapes of various kinds, as well. Since the proportion of abortions that involve rape or incest depend in the end on women’s reports of rape, it is clear that the existing statistics underestimate the proportion of abortions due to rape — because women don’t report nearly all rapes. To what extent abortion due to rape is underreported is unclear, but it does make the 3% figure dubious.

  115. Brad,

    I think you have stated the pro-choice view about as well as it can be stated, and you make the case persuasively for preventing the government from interfering in the question of whether a woman is allowed to abort. But I can’t discern anything in your argument that prevents it from being used to justify an eight month, three week abortion for frivolous reasons. Help me out, man.

  116. JNS,

    The 3% figure includes Rape, Incest, health of mother or fetal issues.

    I would wager rape and incest is a fragment of the 3% at about .03% to be exact in the study I cite above.

    Are you somehow trying to expand the rape/incest numbers for some reason?

  117. To what extent abortion due to rape is underreported is unclear, but it does make the 3% figure dubious.

    Most of the 3% figure for non-elective abortions is actually to preserve maternal health. According to AGI reports, rape is implicated in about 1% of abortions, and less than 0.5% of respondents report rape as the primary reason for their abortion.

    But even taking the highest value for each factor, the number of abortions because of rape would be a small percentage of total abortions. The number of reported rapes and attempted rapes in the US is around 90,000 annually, the rape-pregnancy rate is believed to be less than 1%, and 60% of these are aborted.

    Even substituting the highest published estimates for those figures (600k rapes and attempts, and a rape-pregnancy rate of 5%), even a 100% abortion rate would yield only 30,000 abortions, or just 2.5% of the 1.2 million abortions.

  118. Mark B. Surely you are being a little picky. My kids we completely persuaded with my murder definition after we ran over a squirrel on Monday. 1. It was dead. 2. We didn’t mean to do it. 3. It wasn’t human. Therefore we didn’t murder it. They burst into applause at the depth of my thinking.

    ‘A first-year law school course in criminal law’ Bah! Humbug!

  119. Matt,
    The relevant conclusion is not whether the unborn are humans in the most profound, moral sense but whether they should be treated as rights-bearing humans before the law. Doing so would have positive and negative consequences. It’s for each of us to decide how to weigh them. Also, I think it’s difficult to square treating the unborn as fully/legally human with all the exceptions (rape, incest, etc). Killing an unborn person because her mother was raped is no more justifiable than killing a living (i.e. born) child because she was the product of a rape. The hard-line right-to-life position — no exceptions except possibly in the case of severe threat to the mother’s life — is much more ethically consistent. Maybe I’m a horrible person for this, but as much as I believe that killing fetuses for convenience is morally deplorable, I just don’t see non-viable fetuses as fully and equally human. If I were in a major fire and had the opportunity to either save a freezer with 10,000,000,000,000 fertilized frozen embryos or one living child, I wouldn’t even have to think about it for a second.

    Mark,
    On the one hand, the concern you raise (it’s a totally valid one) points up precisely how pregnancy in an age of advanced medicine problematizes liberal political theory. The only possible solution I can imagine would be to treat fetuses past the point of viability as having something like a proto-legal status owing to the qualitative change in the nature of dependency on the mother at that point. Ideally (though by no means practically) elective abortion past the point of viability should be off the table under post-Roe policy. But, really, there is no perfect solution. And Matt admits that his solution is far from perfect as well. Treating the unborn as either fully human or as lifeless cell clusters are both unreasonable options from a legal standpoint. I would be in favor of a graduated system of increased burden on women who want abortions. The further into the pregnancy, the greater the burden on the woman to demonstrate reasonably just cause for the necessity of the abortion. Not sure how practical that is. Apparently, there are western European countries with such policies already in place, but I confess to know nothing about how it actually works in practice. Also, burdening women in this way does complicate the question of rape, since if the threshold for legal abortion in rape cases is higher than for elective abortions that will very likely result in lessened credibility of women claiming rape and seeking abortions.

    Messy, messy stuff.

  120. Are you somehow trying to expand the rape/incest numbers for some reason?

    No, I’m pointing out that they’re known to be somewhat low. This isn’t my project, it’s just a problem with the data.

    Matt #117, right — the figure for rape and incest, given strict definitions of both, is almost certainly somewhere between 0% and 2.5% of abortions. Choosing a specific value in that range involves assumptions about the rate of underreporting of rape. Including borderline or ambiguous rape cases would probably expand the range even more. So the proportion of all abortions that are due to rape, incest, or health of the mother is probably between about 3% and 6%. But it’s important to remember that the published data on abortions due to reported rape are a lower bound on the number of abortions that actually involve rape.

  121. sister Blah 2 says:

    I would be in favor of a graduated system of increased burden on women who want abortions. The further into the pregnancy, the greater the burden on the woman to demonstrate reasonably just cause for the necessity of the abortion. Not sure how practical that is. Apparently, there are western European countries with such policies already in place,

    Brad, America has a system like you describe, albeit maybe looser in each stage than you would prefer(?). Roe v Wade set up a trimester-based system.

  122. JNS #120, How do you know the reported rape abortions are on the lower bound? Not that I know the correct answer either, but I thought it was common procedure for some girls to claim rape when they find out they are pregnant, rather than acknowledge that it was consensual. Wouldn’t that tend to put the reported rape abortion cases on the upper bound of the number of abortions that actually involve rape?

  123. I thought it was common procedure for some girls to claim rape when they find out they are pregnant, rather than acknowledge that it was consensual.

    Nope, that’s a bit of a misconception. There are very few documented instances.

  124. JNS #123, Sounds like you work in this field or at least have more knowledge than I do.

    I hate to ask stupid questions, but isn’t the fact that “There are very few documented instances.”, exactly the point. Three months later when the girl says he forced me, isn’t it a little late to document anything one way or the other? And everybody knows it, and that is why it is so popular with your average pregnant teenager?

    So how do we know that it is a misconception? Not that I am saying it isn’t a misconception. I am just wondering how we arrive at that conclusion.

    I would give high credibility to somebody who reported a rape within 6-12 hours of the incident. However somebody who is 9-10 weeks pregnant, who then claims it was rape might also be telling the truth, but I wouldn’t believe them quite as automatically.

    So I guess what would be very interesting to me is to know what percentage of rape abortions were reported with in hours of the incident, and how many were reported weeks later.

  125. And that is why so many people lie about the reasons for their abortions.

  126. I don’t work in the field, CW, but I have read as much of the existing scholarly literature on “false rape allegations” as possible.

    Here’s the thing: rape is a crime. When a woman, of whatever age, claims to have been raped, the police have to investigate. The police have to reach a determination of some kind about each alleged rape. We know for sure that many rapes are never reported, although we have no way of knowing how many. But of reported rapes, we have access to police data about the proportion that the police don’t pass on for prosecution.

    Depending on the jurisdiction, failure to prosecute rates given initial accusations seem to vary but can reach 50% or more. Some percentage of these cases are obviously based on investigative failures of some kind by the police. Some very small number are due to mental illness leading to delusions of some kind on the part of the accuser. The remaining percentage involve some kind of confusion or falsification on the part of the accuser; that’s the category you’re interested in. In one study focused on a rural area, and repeately cited because it seems to be the main empirically available number, this category accounted for about 20% of rape allegations reported to the police.

    But this needs to be counterbalanced by the fact that rape crisis centers report that from about 25% to about 45% (depending on the year) of the raped women they work with report the rape to the police. These figures are corroborated by data from the federal government’s National Crime Victimization Survey. This, in combination with the previous information, suggests that the rate of women reporting rape to get an alibi for pregnancy, etc., is quite probably very small compared to the number of women who are actually raped: the ratio is probably in the neighborhood of 1:15.

  127. CW,
    There are numerous reasons, related to feelings of shame, psychological trauma, and (wait for it) the fear that people will not believe them, why women who are raped do not run off and trumpet it within, say, 6-12 hours of its occurrence. For the better part of human history, rape was a meaningless concept because a woman’s word was not considered legally credible or binding as testimony. You can’t have a rape if you can’t verify that a voiceless woman voiced her opposition to the sexual encounter.

    Part of the problem with legally proscribing elective abortion but preserving rape exemptions is that people like you will question the credibility of women who do not want to go through the grief of publicly confronting their rapist and having their sexual history trumpeted as evidence of their having “asked for it” but still do not wish to keep the baby that is the product of a rape.

    As little as 20 years ago, the GHI described part of a Bishop’s duty in counseling a rape victim was to determine the degree of her own culpability. Your concerns, while probably well intentioned, are saturated with misogynistic overtones and assumptions.

  128. I hate to toss out secondhand information, but here goes anyway.

    A good friend from high school had her high school age daughter get pregnant her senior year. She was the last person anyone would have suspected of getting in this situation, but she steadfastly refused to name the father, and carried the child full term.

    After HS graduation and the birth of the baby, she finally broke down and confessed to date-rape. She was convinced that no one would believe her, especially with the YM getting ready to go on a mission. Needless to say, he didn’t go, but her life got pretty messed up, and she didn’t come forward with the allegations, which the YM finally confessed to, for 9 months.

  129. JNS #126, Very helpful answer.

    Brad, #127 I think you are making assumptions and seeing misogynistic overtones where they do not exist. If two people are having consensual sex, lets say 2 unmarried teenagers, it is highly unlikely that the girl is going run off the morning after each encounter and file a false claim of rape to cover her in case she finds out 2-3 weeks later she is pregnant. So my point is that those reports are highly credible.

    On the other hand, there are some false claims according to JNS, #126. My point is that the false clams would probably be in the late reports, not the immediate reports. Nobody ever said that all the reasons that you mentioned for late reporting don’t exist.

    Your statement “that people like you will question the credibility of women who do not want to go through the grief of publicly confronting their rapist” is judgmental and wrong.

    I asked a simple question, acknowledged my inferior knowledge base in the area, and asked for enlightenment. JNS supplied the requested info, acknowledging that there are in fact false reports, but helped to put the number of false reports into perspective.

    You took the same question and passed judgment, incorrectly I might add.

    Well have a good day.

  130. I’ll toss out some more secondhand information.
    I have a friend who went to a party her freshman year in college, woke up naked and didn’t know what the hell happened. She was pregnant. It was presumed that she had rupies put in her drink. She thinks she knows who it was–but she figured no one would believe her. Sadly, she felt like it was partially her fault because she drank a beer.
    She came home from school, and few people did believe it. They thought she was making it up simply because she chose to keep the baby and not put it up for adoption.

    Second case, I know someone who did not report the rape because she had been having an affair and was raped by the guy when she broke it off. She figured no one would believe her. She was pregnant too, gave the baby up, but seriously contemplated abortion.

  131. JNS, because AGI relies on the women’s self-reports, we have no reason to believe the rape number is a lower bound. Many women are highly ambivalent about their abortion and view their decision as a “selfish” act, and we would expect self-reporting to overstate factors diminishing their accountability to temper cognitive dissonance.

    It would be interesting to see the cross-tabs on the “most important reason” and “all reasons” responses. The reliability of responses to big reasons (rape, life of mother) would be lower if they’re listed secondary to relatively trivial reasons.

  132. JNS, because AGI relies on the women’s self-reports, we have no reason to believe the rape number is a lower bound. Many women are highly ambivalent about their abortion and view their decision as a “selfish” act, and we would expect self-reporting to overstate factors diminishing their accountability to temper cognitive dissonance.

    Nope. This is exactly what was discussed above. This issue has been widely studied, and underreporting of rape swamps false reports of rape. Even more so since there’s no benefit whatsoever to reporting a rape as the reason for your abortion — there’s no motive to report a rape even if you were raped, since you’re going to get the abortion anyway.

  133. CW,
    Mea Culpa. My response was unnecessarily aggressive and presumptuous. Please accept my apologies.

  134. Brad, #133, Apology not necessary but certainly accepted.

    And JNS, it is interesting isn’t it, that the truth is so often different than we expect it to be. Of course our research tools are not perfect, and new data will always come along, but putting aside those issues, when we actually go out and seek answers, truth is so often a surprise.

    In our ward I have always been a big fan of doing surveys. Actually administering written surveys to the main families that attend Church, or sending the home teachers to get a written survey filled out by inactive families, or whatever.

    The information I have gotten is always very interesting. For example I administered a confidential written survey last sunday to our ward leaders. (N of 12 I think).

    Only one out of three reported that they have meaningful personal prayer for which they receive answers and support from Heavenly Father. With no criticism of our ward leaders, I would have thought it would have been much higher. This was ward leaders, not the ward membership in general.

    Anyway, my point is that I appreciate the information you shared, and even though it might be modified a little in the future as more information is obtained, it is always enlightening to get real data to base opinions on, even if it is different than we would have thought.

  135. CW #134, great comment. And can I commend your attention to empirical data in church leadership? I wish more of us did that…

  136. JNS, it’s facile to apply the results from criminal rape-reporting to women’s confidential reports on the reasons for their abortion. It’s an interesting thesis but would need verification. The emotional dynamic is vastly different: victims of rape are victims, and reporting the rape exposes them to police questioning and potential publicity; answering an abortion questionnaire is done in private, and in a circumstance where many women believe they’re about to hurt someone.

  137. Matt, I don’t think it’s facile, actually, but you’re right that the results aren’t identical. At the same time, the differences certainly could point toward much less disclosure on the abortion forms. As I noted earlier, there’s absolutely no incentive to claim rape on the abortion forms, even if there was a real-world rape. That’s because the questionnaires are usually anonymous (when not anonymous, instead totally untrustworthy) and the abortion is available to the same extent regardless. So nobody loses out on an abortion because they don’t report rape. And work with other kinds of surveys — which are indeed quite comparable — show that rapes are usually substantially underreported unless special efforts are made to increase response. By contrast, the existing evidence says that the few false claims of rape are usually due to social pressure — which by construction is totally absent in these questionnaires. So they’re a lower bound; I doubt that you could find a professional survey researcher who wouldn’t agree.

    This may or may not make a difference. If our stance on abortion law revolves around those percentages, then these measurement issues are crucial for us. By contrast, those — like you, I might imagine — who choose policy positions for other reasons really shouldn’t care about this issue in any case. If it’s material, then we need to think carefully about improved measurement technique; there are emerging ideas about how to better measure sensitive issues in surveys, although they haven’t yet been applied to the surveys that generate abortion data.

  138. “So nobody loses out on an abortion because they don’t report rape.”

    I’m suggesting that women might overstate the role of external forces to alleviate their cognitive dissonance about their decision to abort. Because they’re conflicted about what they’re doing, they seek to minimize their discretion and emphasize external factors. To themselves, and also to the imagined survey reader.

  139. The Calvinist position on abortion at BCC?

    So where is the source material for this post?

  140. Todd, let us know if the points on Evangelical Christian doctrine are incorrect in the original post.

    The points of doctrine that serve as premises for the argument in the main post are as follows, quoting from the main post:

    1. “God, who is of course sovereign over all flesh, elects those who will receive mercy and be saved before they are even born”;

    2. “the billions who are not chosen in this manner to be Evangelical Christians receive justice and are damned”;

    3. “the condition of accepting the Trinitarian Jesus in one’s heart is still viewed as absolute to be able to receive or benefit from the grace of Jesus Christ which alone saves”;

    4. “even those who are ‘saved’ because they accept the Trinitarian Jesus in their hearts have only done so because God chose them to confess the Trinitarian Jesus in their hearts”;

    5. “life begins upon conception”.

    Do any of these premises mischaracterize standard Calvinist or Evangelical Christian theology/doctrines? Some commenters above have said that they do. I would be interested in your view.

    The hypothesis formulated in the main post based on these premises is as follows:

    if life begins at conception, and if a person must accept Jesus Christ in his or her heart to be saved (both of which Evangelical Christians believe), then terminating a pregnancy means killing a person before he or she has a chance to accept Jesus Christ in his or her heart. The result is that the aborted fetus is one of the “reprobates” who were not elected to be saved but rather receive justice and are damned for eternity. . . . therefore, a prohibition on all abortion becomes politically imperative.

    It is your view that this thesis does not follow from the premises? Many in the comments above have said or implied that it does not, or that even if it follows technically it is irrelevant because it is a straw man in that no actual Evangelicals believe that babies who die are damned in hell because they haven’t accepted Jesus in their hearts.

    I’m interested in your view.

  141. I am not the full fledged Calvinist, John F.

    You know that.

    But what I am interested in is which evangelical, historical and contemporary bonfide Calvinists hold to your logic in the post.

  142. Todd, are the 5 premises listed in comment # 140 mischaracterizations of Evangelical doctrine? If so, how would you clarify to correct them?

  143. Todd, if you are taking requests, I’d love your response to my comment #80.

  144. Adam Greenwood says:

    I haven’t read the comments, John F., but I really deplore the sectarianism behind your post. If two groups agree on the actual political outcome, but disagree on the theology that gets them there, so what? If you don’t like double election or predestination or whatever, say so. But don’t pretend that this somehow makes abortion OK.

    Should we be against religious freedom because contemporary Calvinists favor it?

  145. Adam Greenwood says:

    Finally, John F., this would be a lot more convincing if you found actual pro-lifers making the Calvinist argument you outline here. I suspect that you’re doing what anti-Mormons often do: you’re stitching together an argument based on your assumptions about evangelicals and then claiming that they believe it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Calvinists and or evangelicals have argued that murder is wrong because it can send unrepentant souls to hell (the Book of Mormon says something similar). And I know that you’ll find Calvinists arguing that repentance really is an act of God, not of the sinner. And I know you’ll find prolifers arguing that abortion is wrong because its murder. But I bet no one has put the argument together the way you have. In fact, when you come down to it, the specific belief that you object to (that God ‘elects’ you to be repentant or not) is actually irrelevant to the argument.

    If anything, your real objection should be that from a Calvinist perspective its hard to see why God condemns murder, since in effect He has decreed it to happen.

  146. Adam Greenwood says:

    Having now read the comments, I stand by my previous ones and add that TMD is right that the real theological roots of the pro-life movement are Catholics ideas about human dignity and natural law; and BBell is right that it isn’t really any theology that’s driving the pro-life movement generally, its the intuition that even unborn babies are sorta babies.

  147. “Anyone taking bets on when Adam Greenwood will show up?
    Comment by Ann — January 22, 2008 @ 10:09 am” (20)

    OK, who took the January 24, 2008 @ 1:36 pm slot?

  148. John – your first two points are Calvinist (or, perhaps, Augustinian). Evangelicalism is not Calvinism, and vice versa. Some evangelicals (but not all) are Calvinists, and vice versa. I think, thus, you’re incorrectly conflating the two.

    Your third point is not Calvinist, if we use the term to describe Calvin himself or Reformed orthodoxy. It’s much more characteristic of nineteenth century evangelicalism of the Finney school.

    Indeed, the term ‘Evangelical doctrine’ might be an oxymoron. Evangelicalism is a trans-denominational movement, as much about praxis and emphasis as it is about doctrine. John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards are both considered evangelical, but they disagreed massively on many points of doctrine, including whether grace was irresistible.

  149. re # 145, point well taken A. Greenwood. As I acknowledged in my # 140, other commenters upthread implied strongly that the argument is irrelevant because even if the conclusion follows from the premises, no one actively thinks it. Even the main post kind of acknowledges that by expressing the goal of finding what kind of doctrine actually supports the stance. But I see how it makes the same mistake that many anti-Mormon arguments make in stitching things together in a way that believers do not.

  150. re # 148, Indeed, the term ‘Evangelical doctrine’ might be an oxymoron. Evangelicalism is a trans-denominational movement, as much about praxis and emphasis as it is about doctrine. John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards are both considered evangelical, but they disagreed massively on many points of doctrine, including whether grace was irresistible.

    Believe it or not I do actually know this, and a lot about Calvinism. I also know this: Some evangelicals (but not all) are Calvinists, and vice versa.

    Bringing the Calvinist election to salvation into the picture was a clumsy move. The post still stands with just premises 3-5, replacing 4 with 4a as follows:

    3. “the condition of accepting the Trinitarian Jesus in one’s heart is still viewed as absolute to be able to receive or benefit from the grace of Jesus Christ which alone saves”;

    [4. “even those who are ’saved’ because they accept the Trinitarian Jesus in their hearts have only done so because God chose them to confess the Trinitarian Jesus in their hearts”;]

    4a. The billions of people who have lived who did not accept the Trinitarian Jesus in their hearts are not saved and are damned to hell to be tortured for all eternity;

    5. “life begins upon conception”.

    Thus, even without the Calvinist overlay, the idea still theoretically follows that

    if life begins at conception, and if a person must accept Jesus Christ in his or her heart to be saved (both of which Evangelical Christians believe), then terminating a pregnancy means killing a person before he or she has a chance to accept Jesus Christ in his or her heart.

    Obviously, however, bringing Calvin’s election to salvation into the picture wasn’t the only clumsy move here; apparently, not very many Evangelicals actually believe this.

  151. After getting through this whole discussion (finally!) I find that in my old age I am tired of all the old arguments for and against, pro-life and pro-choice. There really hasn’t been any new discussion on abortion in thirty years. And unfortunately, IMO, nothing new in 147 comments here.

    Rich hits the nail on the head (#111); if you’re opposed to abortion you should be working hard to prevent it. This includes, not only the money aspect he mentions, but making sure our children have real and effective sex-ed, at home and at school (since school is often the only place it is taught), not “abstinence only” BS. We should also be working tirelessly to improve the social safety net provided by the state and by private institutions that prevent women with unwanted pregnancies, and the children born from these pregnancies, from being homeless and poverty stricken indefinitely.

    I think that the simple fact that this discussion continues, 30y after Roe v. Wade, should make us also work harder to make Plan B widely and easily obtainable.

    What say ye, is preventing a blastocyst from implanting in the uterus murder? Jami’s definition of murder certainly wouldn’t apply here, would it? Is a blastocyst human? Is it alive? Can it be murder if you don’t even know if it exists? Should mormons feel obliged to believe that life begins at conception, and therefore all acts to prevent a successful pregnancy be morally wrong?

  152. John – I think dropping the Calvinism is a good idea here; the argument works better without it, both on its own merits and because of somewhat supporting role that orthodox Calvinism has always played in the modern American evangelical movement.

  153. For me, a blastocyst is alive and human, but preventing its existence is totally OK. After all I’m throwing these ova of mine away every month, guilt-free.

    Once again, for me, if it’s there and I know it’s there and I kill it (stop its life) on purpose, that’s murder. Remember though, I apply that term in a wacko way. All purposeful killing of humans is murder, but there are plenty of justifiable reasons to kill someone on purpose.

  154. re # 151, Should mormons feel obliged to believe that life begins at conception, and therefore all acts to prevent a successful pregnancy be morally wrong?

    This question of when life begins from a Mormon perspective is interesting. As noted in the comments above, how does the LDS view of the pre-existence affect this question?

    Also, it might be worth considering whether 3 Nephi 1:12-14 provides any guidance:

    12 And it came to pass that [Samuel the Lamanite] cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
    13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
    14 Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.

    Can it be inferred from the fact that Christ spoke to Samuel the Lamanite the night before he was born of Mary that a spirit does not enter a fetus until birth? I doubt it since presumably Jesus can do anything, including speak to Samuel the Lamanite even though his Spirit is already inhabiting the fetus in Mary’s womb, I suppose. But it is worth considering.

  155. John F., I agree that we shouldn’t use 3 Nephi 1:12-14 to resolve when life begins. It’s in large part a question of what a text is written for. This text clearly wasn’t written with current bioethics debates in mind. It’s a miracle story, not a theology of life. As such, it might be a mistake to hold forth on moral implications of small details of the story. The narrative isn’t given in the first person (note, tangentially, that the relevant party is Nephi, not Samuel), so it’s hard for us to know whether it’s even intended as accurate history or whether it’s intended as a relation of a folkloric retelling of a miracle. So the revelation here is given in a hearsay mode, and as such it’s hard to know how seriously we’re supposed to take them. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the story seriously on its own terms — we should — but that we shouldn’t take the story too seriously beyond its own terms. Trying to answer questions about abortion are clearly going beyond the story’s express narrative purpose. As such, I think it’s overreaching.

  156. John F. – I actually had those verses in mind when I was writing my comments, but then chose to leave them out.

    JNS – The BOM narrative says repeatedly that it was written for our day, and with our times in mind. If we can’t use 3 Nephi 1:12-14 with the current bioethics debate in mind then what parts of the BOM should we use to settle things for our day? Clearly the part about all being equal before God didn’t apply to slavery in the 1800′s, or blacks and the priesthood in the 20th century. Maybe Alma’s advice to Corianton really was to him and him alone, and that taking up with a harlot is ok in our days? Certainly the anti-nephi-lehis’ decision to lay down their arms and fight no more doesn’t apply to us; I’m in the military and mormons, in general, are very hawkish politically.

    And if we can’t discuss the scriptures without “going beyond the story’s express narrative purpose”, I’m afraid the bloggernacle will collapse under its own weight. :)

  157. Kari, a good example of the need to read the story in light of its express purpose is Alma 7:10, where Alma says that Christ “shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem”.

    We don’t read this to mean the biblical accounts of Christ being born in Bethlehem are untrue, and that’s because the context shows his purpose was not to correct a belief that he was born in Bethlehem. He wasn’t talking about Jerusalem vs Bethlehem at all.

    It’s clear from the context that Alma’s intent was only to say that Christ would be born far awy, in the old world where Lehi had lived.

    We shouldn’t force the scriptures into issues they didn’t intend.

  158. Kari, it’s a tricky issue, isn’t it? And yet using 3 Nephi 1:12-14 to speak about modern bioethics debates relies on assuming that the text in question is infallible in the details — since, if the details aren’t just right, the text has no implications. Can we find ways of reading the scriptures that make them relevant in modern times but aren’t guilty of an unjustified fundamentalist assumption that the text is infallible? I think we certainly can. What we need to do is read for morals and general principles, not details to be used as debaters’ points. Then we apply those morals and principles to our own relatively distinctive situations. This is going to be a process in which not everyone will agree with particular applications, but that’s probably okay, isn’t it? Compelling unanimity isn’t really a goal I want to sign up for; when we have unanimity, I want it to flow naturally from the conversion of all to God’s truth.

    On your other examples, I think readings that don’t rely on an assumption of infallibility still get us where you want to go. The texts that stress the equality of all before God are directly intended to teach a moral lesson of the evils of hierarchy. We seem justified in applying that moral lesson to any hierarchy, including but certainly not limited to the racial hierarchies you mention. Alma’s advice to Corianton was mostly about destroying people’s conversions — but, again, the intended moral lesson surely applies broadly. So also with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, although the lesson there is muddled by the equal and opposite story of their children.

    The point, I guess, is that we need to read the scriptures as texts, understanding that they may not be accurate or useful when we try to push them to speak on issues on which they are silent. Abortion law, it seems to me, is just such an issue.

  159. Matt and JNS -

    I appreciate your points, and agree. That’s why I responded the way I did. I was trying to make the point that very frequently we get caught up in using the scriptures to justify our beliefs and actions, by picking and choosing what we want to emphasize, because we want to justify our beliefs and actions. It’s one of my many frustrations, not just with the LDS church, but religion in general. In my opinion (maybe I’m trying to feel justified in my thoughts) I think that the scriptures are for “morals and general principles” and NOTHING more. They are not history. They are not maps. They are stories, some factual, some not, that help us learn to live moral lives and be better people.

    David James Duncan refers to the christian scriptures, hindu teachings, Koran, et. al. as “wisdom literature” which I think is a fantastic way to think of these things. We can learn wisdom to guide (not dictate) our decisions from these writings. But only if we can get past that natural “unjustified fundamentalist assumption that the text is infallible.” And it is why many reasonable people can disagree on specific points, like the legality and morality of abortion or when life begins; they have applied those general principles differently in their lives.

  160. re # 155, JNS, I agree with you on the use of this scriptural passage here. Also, of course you are right that it was Nephi and not Samuel the Lamanite — it was Samuel’s prophecy of the sign that precipitated Nephi’s crying mightily to the Lord.

  161. I’m generally opposed to placing inflexible legalistic notions upon this issue. Example – abortion = murder. I don’t really believe that. I oppose abortion on other grounds.

    But I would disagree Adam that the differences between us and our allies are unimportant. The best example is stem cell research. I think that here, you’ll find a bit of a rift between the LDS Church generally and the pro-life camp. And the theology does seem to matter here. Mormons really don’t seem as wedded to notions of “murder” in this area as they are to plain ole accountability and respect for the procreative process. In the area of abortion, this may not cause any real conflicts. But it probably will in areas of stem cell research and especially birth control (since the stem cell issue may well be rendered obsolete by scientific advance).

  162. Adam Greenwood says:

    But Seth R., that’s an area where theological differences could lead to actual differences in political preferences. Might point is that its thd differences in politics that should say whether you can work with someone politically, not the differences in theology.

  163. I’ve enjoyed reading the dialogue here and it really sheds light on why so many of my LDS friends are Democrats when the Church is on the whole much more pro-family than the public face of the Democratic party seems to be.

    I remember many of the kids in my MIA group working on the campaign of Assemblyman Allister McAlister in California. A Democrat, Mr. McAlister was probably more like the modern day Social Conservative (minus the take on abortion as it was not an issue at the time). I worked on both of his campaigns, even though I was a “Young Republican”. He was popular in our Ward and we were more than happy to be his GOTV foot soldiers.

    It seems to me the only point of departure between Evangelicals within the GOP coalition and LDS faithful is in the constructive view of the abortion issue most Evangelicals hold. As an Evangelical now, I don’t think it’s totally rooted in Calvanism — Evangelicals live somewhere within a spectrum between Calvanism and Armenianism (I’m in the middle of Grace :-> ). The constructive view of a fundamental right to life is rooted more in the secular concept of Natural Law as understood by our founders, and thus the question of when life begins is not as much about Calvanism as it is about the secular morality that eventually made Roe v. Wade possible.

    I lean in the direction of life beginning at conception, but I do not believe someone who has a different view is automatically pro-choice. The question of whether the child shoud be killed because she was not the choice of her mother shouldn’t be so hard to work out. From the “outside” looking in (Roe hadn’t happened until after I became an Evangelical), I view the Church’s positon as fundamentally pro-choice, since a “woman’s health” can be described on too many levels. Within the boundaries of the church, however, I think it’s likely a faithful LDS woman would have enough spiritual guidance to make a sound choice — and that that choice would weigh in the favor of the unborn child more often than not.

    It also helps clarify how Mitt Romney can be what most in his party would consider pro-Choice even as he campaigns as a pro-Life candidate. A broad view of the “health” of the mother is an open door to a broad interpretation of what that particular exception to the pro-life view might be.

    I’m still curious about what drives Governor Romney’s pro-gay marriage position, as I can’t imagine any teaching of the church would endorse such a position. While the Church views our political life as an individual thing, it does seek — as any other group has a right to do — to influence members in Congress as the outreach this week to LDS congresspeople on the immigration issue shows.

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