Quick Notes

Q. What is the church’s official position on intact dilation and extraction, also known as partial-birth abortion?

A. The church has no specific policy regarding partial-birth abortion. The official First Presidency statement on abortion does not contain any language differentiating between particular procedures. Nor does the more recent newsroom statement (which basically reiterates the original statement). (And in fact, the Newsroom statement, issued around the time that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was in the news, contains the further note that “the Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”)

The church policy on abortion limits abortion in general to a narrow set of cases. However, as far as I can determine, once a church member meets the requirements for abortion in general, there is no church policy or doctrine that would prevent that church member from using intact dilation and extraction as the method.

Q. What is the church’s policy on health exceptions for the mother?

A. Threats to a mother’s health are explicitly recognized as a valid ground for abortion, in both the First Presidency statement and in the newsroom reiteration.

*

The full text of The First Presidency statement is as follows:

The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.

The full text of the Newsroom reiteration is as follows:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:

• Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or

• A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or

• A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.

Comments

  1. Sounds exactly like the Democratic platform on abortion: rare, safe, and legal. Rare (as an exception only after prayer), Safe (competent medical counsel), and Legal (when health is in danger).

  2. No. I want an official position so I don’t have to think. If you won’t give me an official Church position, I’ll make up my own. (Also I want an official Church position stating that packaged mozzarella isn’t actually mozzarella, although that’s probably self-evident, so I take it back.) So there!

  3. The thing I find frustrating about the PBA ban is that as far as I know the procedure itself is outlawed- not just as a way to end a pregnancy, but also as a non-abortive treatment.

    For example there was a woman in my ward who lost a baby just a few weeks before her due date. The cord wrapped around the baby’s neck and it died. She found this out at a routine checkup so the baby was already dead, and might have been for several days.

    She had to go through a full (induced) labor and delivery. If something had gone wrong she would have had to have a c-section.

    I can understand that there are women who would want to have a complete body to hold, dress, and bury and would be willing to go through full-on labor to have that. I might even be one of those women. That said, this particular procedure is among the safest ways to remove an already dead late term baby, safer than induced delivery.

  4. ditto comment #1. But I’ve run into a lot of LDS friends who firmly believe the church is totally, completely, 100% pro-life. When you dig into the details, the position is much more aligned with pro-choicers.

  5. “Safe, legal and rare” is a nice rhetorical trick but is not the Democratic platform and not what they practice.

    The platform of the Democratic party states that it wants abortion to not only be a constitutional right but paid for by the government and free from “any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” And they practice that with opposing any and all proposed restrictions no matter how reasonable they may be.

    As I posted, Mormons are the 2nd most likely religious group to oppose abortions. And I believe that reflects the correct position of the Church: opposing most abortions but not in all circumstances.

    Kaimi raises an interesting point though that while the Church has been very involved politically in opposing gay marriage, it has not done likewise in opposing abortion. Perhaps its more nuanced stand, which I believe is not “pro-choice” by today’s standards, makes it harder to oppose specific legislation.

  6. It seems to me that given the realities of Roe v Wade any limited regulation is probably in line with Church views. It’s when the more extreme views such as those held by Palin get out there that I think Mormon views tend to become more at odds. (Although as Adam at T&S demonstrates, there are Mormons who share Palin’s views)

  7. To add, I suspect even Mormon Obama supporters are likely uncomfortable with his strong pro-choice views and some of the figures he’s appointed to high position.

  8. David Sundwall, who is the “they” that you refer to in your first sentence? Certainly some (many?) Democrats support the availability of safe, legal, and rare abortion (including many Mormon Democrats). I’m also curious about your choice of the word “practice”? What does that mean, exactly? That Democrats participate in unsafe, illegal, and frequent abortions?

  9. I classify the Church’s stance as a pro-chioce position within a strong pro-life stance. It’s the basic view of probably at least 70% of the American public (yeah, that came out of the proverbial hind opening): abortion should not be the default choice, but it should be an option in individual circumstances.

    It’s sad that the political battles get fought at the extremes, but legislating exceptions in a manner that would be workable would be so difficlut that it’s no wonder to me that the Church stays out of the political battles on this issue. This is one case where “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” is the best option, imo – which is the Church’s stance in a nutshell.

  10. Wow, Kaimi, you actually know an official Church position on this issue! Could you please remind me again what the official Church position was on Prop. 8 and why you opposed the Church’s position but now support it when it is convenient for you?

  11. Could you please remind me again what the official Church position was on Prop. 8 and why you opposed the Church’s position but now support it when it is convenient for you?

    Um … don’t we all do that?

  12. Christopher,

    I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer. I was responding to the first comment which I thought was trying to equate the Church’s position on abortion as the same as the position of the Democratic party.

    I was referring to the official position of the DNC and Democratic politicians. I realize there are exceptions, but any abortion-related policy that gets anywhere among Democrat leadership is to fund abortions and to oppose “any and all” restrictions.

    By “practice” I mean Democratic policy positions and their attempts to implement them.

    I will grant you it is disingenuous to broadly claim that all people who describe themselves as Democrats are all-out pro-abortion.

    But I equally believe it is disingenuous to describe the Church’s position as “pro-choice” as it is commonly understood and especially in the manner promoted by the Democratic party as an organization.

    I hope that helps.

  13. Fair enough. Thanks for the clarification.

  14. It seems to me that the Church deliberately refrains from endorsing any position with regard to the _legality_ of abortion. Therefore, one can be Mormon and pro-choice or Mormon and pro-life, as those terms are broadly understood. The most extreme pro-life views– i.e., those that believe abortion should be illegal even when the mother’s health is endangered or in cases of rape or incest– do not seem very compatible with the Church, since LDS leadership explicitly says that abortion is sometimes the morally right decision in those cases.

    I don’t think it’s fair to describe anyone (ok, nearly anyone) as “all-out pro-abortion.” There’s a difference between believing firmly that abortion should be legal and believing that having an abortion is always morally ok. I mean, most people think adultery is wrong but that doesn’t mean they think you should go to jail for it.

    But anyway, like I said, the Church, for whatever reason, takes a pretty clear (though not black and white) stand on the morality of abortion in various cases, but pointedly declines not to comment on its legality.

  15. Here’s another way to put it: every possible response to an unwanted pregnancy that is allowed by the Church’s position is legal according to the Democratic Party platform. The same cannot be said about the Republican Party platform. The 2008 platform states opposition to all abortions under all circumstances, without exceptions even for rape, incest, or the life or health of the mother.

    In other words, there are many circumstances in which a woman could seek an abortion for which she could get Mormon ecclesiastical approval but not Republican Party approval.

    Also, David, I think you’re still being either disingenuous or uninformed when you say “any abortion-related policy that gets anywhere among Democrat leadership is to fund abortions and to oppose ‘any and all’ restrictions.” Have you forgotten that the highest-ranking democrat in the entire government, up until six days ago, is a Mormon who voted YES on the partial birth abortion ban, YES on parental notification, and YES on the ban against taking minors across state lines for abortions?

  16. “Quick Notes.” It sounded so harmless. sigh. I predict # of comments >= 100.

  17. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

    The “pay for” prohibition seems to be on a collision course with the Democratic party platform:

    The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay

    Translation: Tax-payer funded abortion. In other words, they want you to pay for elective abortions performed for personal or social convenience.

    If your goal is to have an abortion policy that actually matches the church’s position – exceptions and all – then you should favor the Republican party on the abortion issue. Because that change will never happen unless Roe v Wade is overturned and the Democrats “strongly and unequivocally” support Roe v Wade.

    This is also why Senator Reid is unreliable on abortion, he voted against both Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts – the type of Supreme Court Justices we need if we ever want to see Roe v Wade overturned and elective abortions outlawed.

    As an interesting side-note – related to Senator Reid and the original post – here is what he had to say following the Supreme Court decision that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban was constitutional:

    Senator Reid opposes abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the life of a mother is at risk. Consistent with this position, Senator Reid supported the Partial Birth Abortion Ban and supports the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday.

  18. Yeah, Kaimi, you sucker-punched us with the title.

  19. Jeremy –

    As I said above, I realize there are exceptions, as with Sen. Reid. But there’s no way he would be allowed to vote for those measures if there was any chance his vote would make the difference. Both parties allow their constituents to “stray,” when feasible, to please their constituencies.

    My point was that the Democratic party as a whole is solidly opposed to those modest proposals. Isn’t it striking that the concept of parental notification is so controversial that opposing it has to be the rule rather than the exception?

    Moreover, looking at the GOP 2008 platform (scroll down), I see no evidence to your claim that it calls for “opposition to all abortions under all circumstances.” Where do you see that? Instead, it calls for protections of the unborn and restrictions on abortion that seem to me to balance the views of those who are opposed to most abortions, such as what the Church counsels.

    Regardless of platforms and looking at current politics, I haven’t heard of a single limit on abortion that the Democratic Party can support whereas the Republican Party of today proposes piecemeal restrictions and modest protections with which I seriously doubt the Church would have a problem.

  20. Neither party, in its extreme application, preaches the Church’s stance on abortion. Most citizens in each party support the general message of the Church’s stance.

    Conclusion: Politics sucks and often is not representative of the people – but rather caters to the vocal extremes.

    So, can we stop the “good members will agree with this party or that party” when it comes to abortion? Its just isn’t that simple – although the “allow people to decide” extreme is closer to the Church’s stance than the “outlaw all” extreme. However, in the end, neither side officially preaches the same thing as the Church.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff B., that comment was beneath you.

  22. David,

    You’re being very generous in your assessment of the GOP platform. The statement “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” seems to me to leave no room for the exceptions (rape, incest, life/health of the mother) that you seem to suggest are accommodated by the platform.

    Furthermore, there was much discussion during the presidential campaign of McCain’s differences with the GOP platform on this very issue, because he supported the exceptions (rape, incest, life of the mother) that were omitted. To quote the NYT from Aug. 30:

    Connie Mackey, a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, said: “[The exception for rape, incest, or life or health of the mother] is out of the platform. We were told early on that the platform is going to be pro-life and that any differences the senator [McCain] has with it are his own.

    And I still find it amusing that you treat Reid as some bizarre fringe figure, when he’s in fact the leader of the party in the Senate. Not to mention Murtha, Casey, Nelson, Conrad…

  23. RvW was built around a case of a woman who claimed to be raped and wished to have an abortion. Before RvW, in Texas and many other states an abortion for any reason besides saving the life of the woman was punishable with prison time. RvW enables the Church’s position, without RvW the Church’s moral/religious position on abortion would not be legally possible.

    If the unborn fetus were to be legally made a person with a fundamental right to life, then abortions for rape/incest would deny that very fundamental claim. If an unborn fetus has a fundamental/necessary right to life, how would its conception by rape or incest in any way negate that right?

    Furthermore, I believe the Democratic platform recognizes (as did RvW) that the question (or answer) to when a human person begins is ultimately a religious question/answer that cannot be answered scientifically. Because our constitution prohibits the establishment of religion, it cannot establish a particular religious belief as being legally above other religious (or non-religious) beliefs. I think the Church recognizes this and for this reason does not engage in the political/legal debates on abortion as RvW provides room for the Church’s religious/moral guidelines.

    Now if the far-right had their way and the rights of abortion were stripped away (prohibiting those for rape and incest), then it will be very interesting to see what role the Church chooses to play in the discussion.

  24. Jeremy,

    I’ll concede to you on that reading of that platform. I think there is some wiggle room as it is not as explicit as you put it. But I believe it’s at least shooting for an ideal (as politically unrealistic as it may be) that is more in line with what the Church’s counsels about respect for life than being carte blanch on abortion.

    We can debate individual politicians or the wording of party platforms, but when considering political reality: which party organization supports modest restrictions and which party opposes any and all attempts to curtail the most extreme abortion practices?

    The president and like-minded others talk a lot about limiting abortions but only seem to encourage more funding and oppose any practical limitations.

  25. which party opposes any and all attempts to curtail the most extreme abortion practices?

    In my view the most extreme of abortion practices involve a back room and a coat hanger. I believe the democratic platform does far more to prevent those while the Republican platform will tend to increase them.

    The president and like-minded others talk a lot about limiting abortions but only seem to encourage more funding and oppose any practical limitations.

    Are legal prohibitions the only way to limit abortions?

  26. wow… i need to learn to do this better…

    which party opposes any and all attempts to curtail the most extreme abortion practices?

    In my view the most extreme of abortion practices involve a back room and a coat hanger. I believe the democratic platform does far more to prevent those while the Republican platform will tend to increase them.

    The president and like-minded others talk a lot about limiting abortions but only seem to encourage more funding and oppose any practical limitations.

    Are legal prohibitions the only way to limit abortions?

  27. Other ways to seriously limit abortions that Republicans are against:
    Decent sex education in schools. A better job there would have a serious impact on unwanted pregnancies. Also, easy access to condoms, etc.
    The Republicans aren’t entirely blameless here.

  28. Steve, you’re probably right, upon reconsideration. It’s interesting to me how people will invoke the Church’s position on issues when the Church appears to agree with them but ignore the Church position on other issues when it appears to disagree with them, but Christopher is probably right that we all do that, including myself occasionally.

    On the issue of abortion, I generally agree with David H. Sundwall’s position on this particular thread.

  29. If Tim can show any evidence that “decent” sex education in schools actually reduces unplanned pregnancies, I’d be happy to see it.

    Most of the arguments on both sides of this issue are skewed beyond recognition by the blot on our constitutional jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade. Get rid of that, and state legislatures could get down to the business of drawing lines and making compromises that would better fit most Americans’ views on this matter.

    Coat hangers in back rooms and abortion anytime, anyplace, paid for by your taxes, are both straw men, erected in the shadow of Roe, and we’ll be stuck with them (and with disingenuous posts about abortion on BCC) until Roe joins Dred Scott and Lochner and Plessy v. Ferguson in the dustbin of Supreme Court errors.

  30. It took me less than 30 seconds to find this study: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2004293974_sexed20m.html
    I’ve also had the good fortune to live in parts of the world where sex education and pregnancy prevention is taught very well, both at home and at school. Teenage pregnancy rates in many Western European countries, for example, are quite low.
    Roe v. Wade has at least 4 more years (and probably a lot more) before we can get rid of it. So if we really wan’t to be serious about getting rid of abortions, we need to teach teenagers about how to prevent getting pregnant. And abstinence-only programs aren’t nearly as effective as comprehensive sex-ed.

  31. Last Lemming says:

    But there’s no way he would be allowed to vote for those measures if there was any chance his vote would make the difference. Both parties allow their constituents to “stray,” when feasible, to please their constituencies.

    Since Harry Reid is in the happy position of being the one who grants dispensations to “stray” to Democratic senators, it seems highly likely that he would grant himself one.

  32. For some reason my last post hasn’t shown up in the last 30 minutes, so here’s the requested link again:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2004293974_sexed20m.html

    Evidence that decent education reduces unplanned pregnancies.

    Personally, all the evidence I needed I saw while serving a mission in Western Europe. The teenage pregnancy rate is very low.

  33. Peter LLC says:

    Translation: Tax-payer funded abortion.

    If only we were able to pay taxes in kind, none of these fungibility issues would raise their ugly heads.

  34. I agree with Mark B. about the problem and solution.

  35. Mark B. said:

    If Tim can show any evidence that “decent” sex education in schools actually reduces unplanned pregnancies, I’d be happy to see it.

    Unfortunately, my name is not Tim. However, I did find this article that met the other part of your request.

    Money quotes:

    The researchers found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or to get someone pregnant than those who received no sex education.

    The findings, published in the April issue of theJournal of Adolescent Health, support comprehensive sex education, Kohler concluded.

    “There was no evidence to suggest that abstinence-only education decreased the likelihood of ever having sex or getting pregnant,” she said in a prepared statement.

    This study offers “further compelling evidence” about the value of comprehensive sex education and the “ineffectiveness” of the abstinence-only approach, said Don Operario, a sex education expert and professor at Oxford University in England.

    In other words, didn’t work for Bristol and Levi because it doesn’t work, period.

  36. The LDS church is opposed to 97% of abortions which are for BC and gives some leeway in the 3% which consists of rape, health, incest situations.

    This is a moderate pro-life position.

  37. Sam B., I’m also hoping the Church takes a specific stand on mozzarella cheese. I mean, should we have to wonder about packaged mozzarella?!?!?

  38. Thanks for backing me up, Jeremy.

  39. This thread is not about the Church’s, yours, mine, or anyone else’s position on whether elective abortions should be legal. This is about PBA. It is a procedure, meant to reduce invasiveness for late term (i.e. past the point of viability) abortions, that is STILL LEGAL. Before passage of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, it was legal in cases of rape, incest, or when the life or health of the mother was threatened by the pregnancy. The PBABA removed “health” as a legitimate reason for using this procedure.

    But even then, an abortion is still a legal option.

    Just a far more invasive and brutal form of aboriton, where instead of delivering all of the baby except the head (the removal of which would necessitate further cervical dilation) and instantaneously removing the brain and collapsing the skull (as in “PBA”) large scissor-like pincers are inserted into the uterus through the cervix and the fetus is dismembered and removed one piece at a time.

    PBA is still legal, but not to protect the health of a mother. Abortion (a more barbaric form, both for the mother and the baby) is still available at any stage of gestation even to protect the mother’s health.

    The Church’s position, as Kaimi has pointed out here, is that abortion can be a morally reasonable option in cases of rape, incest, or where the life or health of the mother is threatened (or when a competent medical professional declares that the child would not survive much beyond birth, as, for example, in the case of anancephalic babies). The Church’s position makes no reference to gestational period or viability. If a pregnant Mormon came to realize that her pregnancy posed a threat to her health and she prayerfully and in consultation with her Bishop chose to terminate the pregnancy, having a PBA would violate the current law, but not the policy of the Church (except only insofar as the Church frowns on lawbreaking). Period.

  40. Must. Not. Get. Involved…!

  41. Rebecca, you really must not. :)

  42. Narrator: In my view the most extreme of abortion practices involve a back room and a coat hanger. I believe the democratic platform does far more to prevent those while the Republican platform will tend to increase them.

    So for consistency sake are you also for the complete legalization of all drugs?

  43. Brad, you took the words right out of my mouth. I was dead-set against PBA until I learned that the procedure was a less “barbaric” means to terminating a pregnancy.

  44. #42: I’m a bit obtuse. Can you please explain the logic behind your question?

    The legalization of abortion would drastically reduce the occurrence of dangerous self-performed abortion attempts. If legal, affordable, and private abortions are available, there would be no need for the latter. Are you trying to say that if crack were legalized there would be a similar reduction in addictions and overdoses?

  45. I concur with Rebeca J.

  46. Roe v. Wade has at least 4 more years (and probably a lot more) before we can get rid of it.

    Maybe 40 years. I don’t see Roberts as being that activist of a judge.

    And it certainly has no chance of happening as long as the GOP, to paraphrase Sen. McConnell, is dwindling into a regional party.

  47. Having a daughter whose blood chemistry during her second pregnancy changed and she began throwing blood clots (one traveling from her left lower leg through her heart into her left arm, resulting in a severe reduction of blood flow into that arm, she being advised by the high risk OB-GYN that if they did not terminate the pregnancy, her life would be threatened and she could wind up being one of his patients that had a clot result in coma and no brain activity, she having a 6 year old son who wanted his mom very much to be well, I am thankful not only for the Church’s position regarding such situations but the fact that the procedure would be performed without risk of legal prosecution of the medical staff who performed the procedure.
    What is angering to me are the Church members, “friends” of my daughter, who told my daughter they could no longer be a friend because of what she did. Yet, that was a decision reached not only after multiple consultations with the medical staff but her husband and her in personal prayer…
    The long and end of it for me….one has no real clue understanding this type of situation until they are in it. One can stand on their soap boxes and talk about the pro’s and con’s of the Church’s position, let alone the law of the land, and it is empty verbage from someone whose loved one has never been threatened with death or coma because they were told by Church members the lord would protect them….
    If that were really true, then the Church’s position on abortion would be the same as certain of those groups in the Pro-Life movement, no abortion.

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