Against Abortion

I have little sense of the prevailing views of BCC readers regarding either the morality of abortion or the desirability of government action to make abortions illegal, more difficult to obtain, and so forth. I can, however, imagine the picture that at least some readers must possess regarding the typical BCC writer’s views on these subjects. Being wildly liberal in all ways, as is widely known — are you even allowed to read BCC if you haven’t donated to a Ralph Nader presidential campaign at some point in your life — we are imagined to believe something like the following. Abortion is to be understood solely as an issue of women’s control over their own bodies. An embryo or a fetus are not alive and so deserve no consideration. Because abortion is really morally neutral, the government should not have any role in deciding who can have an abortion and under what circumstances.

I certainly would not presume to speak for other BCC authors; it is obviously possible that one or more of them would accept the rough package of stereotypically “pro-choice” ideas sketched in the previous paragraph. Yet it seems to me that the position in question, as well as the stereotypical “pro-life” position imagined in opposition, are superficial and unhelpful.

American political rhetoric has frequently defined abortion debates around the question of when a fetus becomes “alive,” i.e., when it attains the status of a “human being.” The quotes in the previous sentence highlight what I see as the central problem with this framing of the discussion. What does “alive” mean, and what does “human being” mean? These definitions do not involve some kind of neutral scientific issue. Instead, choosing a definition implies, and perhaps presupposes, a moral stance regarding abortion and other such issues. To argue that abortion is wrong because it involves killing a living human being is to make an assertion that will really be persuasive primarily to those who already believe that abortion is wrong. Similarly, claiming that abortion is okay because a fetus isn’t alive and therefore cannot really be killed is a circular argument that essentially entails accepting a pro-choice worldview as the precondition for assent. When we find such logical cycles, we may feel confident that we are adrift on a sea of unmitigated ideology. I dislike such seas, much preferring the more circumscribed and mappable lakes of scriptural interpretation, theology, and ethics.

In fact, much exegetical effort from multiple political perspectives notwithstanding, our canonical texts say very little about whether a fetus is alive, a human being, and so forth. Such concepts are really a secular imposition; they are simply not the way our textual tradition approaches such concerns. Instead, they are a product of the sentimentalized and ideologized contemporary American debate on the theme.

However, the scriptures do speak to the question of abortion, resolving the ethical issues in a powerful way by an appeal to a fundamentally different set of values than those usually invoked in our tired cycles of debate. Consider what I find to be the best version of the most relevant tradition from the teachings of Jesus, in Mark 10:13-16 (as opposed to parallel, but probably edited and in some ways softened, accounts in Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17).

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

The literary and social context of this narrative is essential to the understanding of it that, in my view, resolves issues surrounding abortion. First, the literary context. Virtually the entire body of chapter 10 of Mark is a collection of narratives in which Jesus subverts social hierarchies and rejects established power structures. In the first narrative segment of the chapter, verses 1-12, Jesus addresses divorce, rejecting the at the time traditional patriarchal right of the husband to divorce his wife and expel her from the household. After the account of the children quoted above, we find the famous story in which Jesus tells the rich man to give all his possessions to the poor and join the itinerant ministry to earn salvation — an account that aligns blessedness with poverty and social marginality rather than with wealth and privilege, a sure challenge to existing structures of power. The last major relevant narrative in the chapter is the story of John and James asking to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands in the coming glory. Note especially the saying with which Jesus closes the discussion:

You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10: 42-45)

It is unclear to me how the text’s overarching themes of reversal of hierarchy and subversion of contemporary mortal concepts of power could be made more explicit.

How can we bring this understanding of the text’s overall direction back to bear on the narrative of Jesus and the children? Here a bit of social context helps a great deal. John Dominic Crossan provides a useful account of the ideas at hand. (As with all other historical and exegetical claims, there are complexities and counter-interpretations available here; however, my reading on this passage suggests that Crossan’s account is not particularly unusual, even if it is especially vivid.) After quoting from an ancient Egyptian letter in which a husband, in the context of some tender words for his wife, casually instructs her to kill the baby with which she is pregnant if that baby turns out to be a girl, Crossan elaborates that:

[The letter] shows us with stark clarity what an infant meant in the Mediterranean. It was quite literally a nobody unless its father accepted it as a member of the family rather than exposing it in the gutter or rubbish dump to die of abandonment or to be taken up by another and reared as a slave… Notice those framing words [in Mark’s account of Jesus and the children]: touch, took in his arms, blessed, laid hands on. Those are the official bodily actions of a father designating a newly born infant for life rather than death, for accepting it into his family rather than casting it out with the garbage. (Crossan, 1994, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, pgs. 63-64. See also Crossan, 1991, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, pgs. 267-69.)

Crossan’s reading places the account of Jesus and the children squarely in the literary vein of the rest of the chapter. It is a text about rejecting contemporary allocations of power, disavowing privilege — in this case, the patriarch’s privilege to arbitrarily exclude children from the family — and placing oneself on an equal footing with the traditionally marginalized.

Here, with this egalitarian theology from Jesus in hand, we are prepared to return to the question of abortion. When an adult chooses to abort a fetus, can there be any question that an act of power has taken place? The fetus has no autonomy, no control or influence over any adult decision. By contrast, adults and particularly pregnant women have effectively unlimited power over the fetus. I do not mean by these statements that women should have such power because the fetus is part of their body; these claims are intended as descriptive rather than normative. If the woman chooses to eat well, that provides the fetus with an ample supply of nutrients. If not, then not. If the woman chooses to subject the fetus to drugs or medication, the fetus will be subjected; no choice or influence are available. Finally, if the woman decides to abort the fetus, then the fetus will be aborted. The power relations are clear and nearly as one-sided as can be imagined.

When such power relations exist, what does Jesus demand of the powerful individual? Self-sacrifice and self-subordination. Rather than exercise the power to abort the fetus, Jesus challenges us to abjure that power. He asks us to make ourselves the servant of the weaker party, to reverse the natural and socially-constructed power relations that give us control and the fetus pure subordination. Abortion is unethical, in this Markan light, not because it is murder; the question need not arise. We conclude instead that abortion is a wrong decision because it is a failure of egalitarianism. It is an act of privileging the relatively powerful adult over the absolutely powerless fetus. It is a failure to follow his model of accepting the powerless and marginalized child into our family.

Let us turn now to the related but separate question of whether we ought to favor state action to make abortion illegal, difficult to obtain, or something similar. I think the same criteria apply; in interactions between the relatively powerful and the relatively marginal, Jesus would have the powerful surrender their control and influence to the outcast. But in this interaction between the state and a pregnant woman who, for whatever reason, has chosen to seek an abortion, who has the power and who is the subordinate?

Even in a democracy, an individual woman clearly has less power than the government. Indeed, any individual always has less power than the government. The deciding factor here, in applying the ethics Jesus taught us, is to determine whether the exercise of government power over women’s decisions about abortion reinforces established hierarchies and tends to perpetuate the subordination of a traditionally subordinated group. Does this act reinforce and reinscribe the sins and power of earlier generations?

I think it does. Women, in our society and many others, have long been subordinated to men in large part through collective social control of their sexuality. The patterns are numerous and well known. They persist with us even up to the present. When two teenagers conceive a child, which of the two of them generally receives the majority of the social punishment, including shame, lost economic potential, and loss of peer-group support? America, along with many other countries, long had an ethic in which it was considered shameful for a woman to have lost her virginity before marriage, but the same rules have not always applied for men — and almost never to the same extent. If abortions are made illegal, will this not constitute yet another instance of society subordinating women by stigmatizing and controlling their reproduction?

What, then, is the better Christian alternative to mortal forms of power as a solution to the moral evil of abortion? It is, in the words of Joseph Smith’s 1839 prayer and revelation, the model of the priesthood: to try to influence people considering abortion by “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge…” (Doctrine and Covenants 121: 41-42). This is influence without hierarchy. It does not rely on coercion or control. The Christian model opens my heart to the light and knowledge of the person I seek to serve, just as I hope he or she will accept whatever light God has granted me.

In summary, I feel that the gospel of Jesus calls us to reduce and eventually eliminate abortion not by the exercise of state control over other people’s bodies but by the influence of our love and the Holy Spirit on their hearts. Such a vision is perhaps utopian. I accept the criticism; it is at least a fully Christian utopia.


  1. Steve Evans says:

    I fully agree with your final paragraph.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    …because I am sure you were on the edge of your seat about where I came down on this.

  3. Adam Greenwood says:

    My idea of the typical BCC blogger’s take would be (1) to explain that the ordinary pro-life and pro-choice positions are too simplistic and stark in light of the nuance, rich, and complex understanding of the issue held by the BCC blogger, (2) blah blah blah blah, (3) the pro-choice position.

  4. Adam, you don’t agree with Jay’s final paragraph? It would seem to me that even a vigorous pro-life viewpoint would agree that Christian influence on our hearts is an infinitely preferable method of eliminating abortion, compared to state authority.

  5. Steve,
    State authority is only bad when it ignores Christian influence. What kind of American are you anyway? Wait, nevermind…

  6. Adam Greenwood says:

    No, I don’t. I’m not a Christian anarchist or a Christian pacifist. I do not believe the Father and the Son require us to eschew force, rule, law, and authority in a fallen world.

  7. okey dokey then!

  8. A very thought-provoking post. I do hope the conversation doesn’t slip into polemics and ad-hominem attacks. There is room for very thoughtful discussion here. But the topic is fiery. Somebody will need to pilot the discourse.

  9. …someone with a big BANNING stick!

  10. Holy cow. That was good.

  11. This is going on my list of readings for my Bioethics class.

  12. I just want to second Margaret’s comment. I wish everyone, no matter what conclusion they reach, would consider the overall issue as carefully and thoughtfully as you did in this post, JNS.

    There really is a lot of room for very thoughtful discussion. I hope it doesn’t descend to polemic name-calling.

  13. I think this is an incredibly well-thought piece. It mirrors many of my own views on abortion, but articulates them better than I could have. Frankly, I strongly, abhore the concept of abortion (oh no, will that start flames?), but I think that the reasons given (the force of will of the powerful over the weak) are much more clear than the reasons of murder.

    From an ethical standpoint, its also a hard one to disavow. Even nonchristian ethical thinkers are going to have a hard time denying that the abuse of power is something to avoid, and that abortion represents the ultimate exercise of power.

    Frankly I think a LOT of sin represents the abuse of power over another. Murder can be seen this way in some regards. A murder is when a powerful individual enforces their will [death] on a weaker person.

    Is this, then, why God finds it so abhorrent–and why He may choose to abrogate that commandment when necessary? Because he knows what choices that person would make, and can allow them a chance to repent of things in the next life–but we lack that power. It’s a neat bit of speculation, but I like it.

  14. My idea of the typical pro-lifer’s take on this post would be (1) to tacitly acknowledge that the ordinary pro-life and pro-choice positions are too simplistic and stark in light of the nuance, rich, and complex understanding of the issue articulated in the post, (2) blah blah blah blah, (3) he doesn’t accept the pro-life position so I have no interest whatsoever in what he has to say.

  15. Adam Greenwood says:

    The typical pro-lifer sounds like a splendid gal. Tell her from me she’s the tops.

  16. Adam Greenwood says:

    The Napoleon Brandy. The Mahatma Ghandi.

  17. It strikes me that, if you replace “abortion” with “poverty” in the last paragraph of the post, you’ve just the uber-conservative case against government attempts to eradicate poverty.

  18. Steve,
    Invoke the Bush Doctrine and ban Adam pre-emptively.

  19. #17 — not in light of the rest of the post. JNS comes down the way he does in the last paragraph in part because state intervention violates the very ethical imperatives hw outlines as governing his opposition to abortion. For your analogy to work, you’d need to argue that attempts by the state to eradicate poverty are unethical because they represent “a failure of egalitarianism…an act of privileging the relatively powerful…the absolutely powerless…a failure to follow [Christ’s] model of accepting the powerless and marginalized….”

  20. Adam Greenwood says:

    Tough noogies, Ronan. I’m the Kim-Jong Il of the blogosphere.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    He’s so ronery.

  22. Adam Greenwood says:

    Nearly everyone is powerless relative to the state. Certainly I am.

  23. Could you clarify the concluding statement, about reducing and eliminating abortion? Do you also mean in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother? Because in those cases the church itself is obviously pro-choice. Maybe those instances are just assumed here, but I’m not always sure any more about what people mean when they say they’re against abortion.

  24. Right, Adam. So state interventions should, under the ethical model articulated here, be limited to subverting or erasing existing power structures and asymmetries, rather than reinforcing or exacerbating them. J’s argument is that state intervention, in the case of abortion regulation, does both — the first in the case of the foetus and the mother, the second in the case of women and men or women and the state.

  25. I agree that changing hearts is the best way to prevent abortion. But I think you’re doing some of that circular argumentation when you frame laws against abortion as “state control over other people’s bodies.” That works for people who see the fetus as part of a woman’s body, but not for those who see it as a wholly separate, albeit dependent, entity worthy of some legal protection. For those in the latter camp calling anti-abortion laws “state control over other people’s bodies” is kind of like calling anti-murder laws “state control over other people’s bodies.”

  26. Tom, regardless of whether you consider a foetus to be a part of the woman’s body, they are still intrinsically linked in a relationship of dependence, and it is logically and pragmatically impossible to prevent a woman from terminating an unwanted pregnancy without exercizing, in the process, control over her body.

  27. I will quibble about the power relation between the woman and the fetus being one-sided. The fetus will take the nutrients it needs from the mother’s blood almost independent of the mother’s ability to supply them. If nothing kills the fetus, then the fetus will just keep growing within the mother, crowding the mother’s organs and swelling her body. The levels of hormone signalling between mother and fetus indicate an uncooperative relationship, with each upping its hormone output to be heard over the other.

  28. Nor can you prevent a stabbing without, in the process, exercising control over a person’s body.

  29. John, those are good points — all of them true. But when the rubber meets the road, the asymmetries all favor the mother since she is capable of consciously and purposefully terminating the pregnancy with minimal (at least in this day and age) risk to her own health.

  30. Preventing someone from stabbing another person = forcing someone to carry a baby full term.

    Okay, got it now.

  31. JNS, the question of murder still arises because it is the basis that would justify intrusion of the state into the practice of abortion. Without it, one has to overcome the issue of enforcing one set of religious convictions on people who don’t share them. That is, one group of people might adopt your proposal for the better reason to reject abortion but then, without the murder justification, how can they legislate that motivation alone into the criminalization of abortion? To do so would subject people who do not share their religious beliefs to that motivation for rejecting abortion. Murder is a much more effective hook because everyone, regardless of religion, should view murder as a punishable crime. That is why I think that the murder argument is going to continue.

  32. Brad,
    More like: providing punishment for stabbing = providing punishment for destroying a fetus.

  33. Actually, I think Tom’s right. Not only do laws against stabbing people entail state control over people’s bodies, but they totally reinforce the position of social marginality and stigma that is such a horrible part of the day-to-day life of people-stabbers everywhere.

  34. The laws in question do not punish mother’s who abort. They prevent abortion, and its prevention forces them to carry an unwanted baby full term. All the prevention of stabbing does is prevent stabbing.

    It’s a stupid analogy, and you’ll stop embarrassing yourself if you just accept it and move on…

  35. The Ensign has an article about abortion this month.

  36. Brad, one reason that murder is punished is to prevent it from happening. I think that is where the murder comparison for abortion gets its currency.

  37. I am glad to see someone else discuss the issue in terms of relative power/powerlessness. I believe that one of the ways you measure a society is in how they treat the helpless and powerless. I also believe that part of the purpose of the State is to help even that balance of power. That is why the State prosecutes criminals–in most cases, the victims of those crimes cannot otherwise obtain restitution. In the continuum of relative power, children are at the very bottom.

    To mix metaphors, the strong are on one side of the scales, the weak on the other. The challenge is in how much weight the State puts on the side of the weak (the unborn child) before it overwhelms the weight the mother carries on this scale. That is why I see a large difference in abortion for the health of the mother, and abortion for the convenience of the mother. Abortion merely for convenience puts no weight on the child’s side of the scale, and absolute prohibition puts all the weight on that side, overwhelming the mother.

  38. JNS, let’s suppose for a moment that you achieve your utopia. I can see how many abortions would be decreased, but I wonder about very early stage (including “morning after”) abortions.

    For example, a married couple using birth control nevertheless has an unplanned pregnancy. They discover this within three weeks of conception. They do not believe that the embryo inside the wife is a human being (yet). How does your utopia reduce their desire to abort? For sake of argument: they have a stable marriage, two children, loving neighbors, etc. For this couple, any appeal to love, selflessness, adoption, etc. misses the point, because they simply do not believe that an abortion would be ending a life.

  39. Right, John. But still, there are no pending laws treating mothers who undergo abortions as criminals, and many pro-lifers defend vigorously against the charge that they wish to do so.

  40. Steve Evans says:

    Seagullite FTW!

  41. Brad, if I read your #24 right, the state must not reinforce unjust power relationships–even if that reinforcement is merely an unintended consequence of remedying another unjust power relationship. Is that your position?

  42. I’m saying that, according to the logic of the ethical parameters articulated in this post, the costs and benefits should be weighed against eachother. Does a policy that remedies one unjust power relationship reinforce or worsen another? Figuring out how to balance the two is a nuanced ethical task, the kind of thing that, I’m told, pro-lifers aren’t particularly interested in.

  43. JNS,

    Perhaps I’m obtuse on this subject, but as I read your argument, you aren’t providing a third way of analyzing the pro-choice/pro-life debate. Rather, you’ve adopted the essential framework of the pro-life side by concluding that an embryo is a person, albeit a powerless one. Doesn’t your analysis depend on that pre-made assumption?

    Jesus encouraged good treatment of little children, but he didn’t encourage good treatment of un-person-ated things.

    To get to where you are starting, don’t I have to already have concluded that an embryo is a person? If it is, then we’re back in the pro-choice/pro-life debate structure, aren’t we?

  44. JimD (#17) said:

    It strikes me that, if you replace “abortion” with “poverty” in the last paragraph of the post, you’ve just the uber-conservative case against government attempts to eradicate poverty.

    Fascinating observation. Ironically, it’s conservatives who stereotypically want government control over abortion (while advocting less regulation over most everything else). And liberals stereotypically want more government protection for the victims and the powerless, but not for the unborn children.

  45. That’s an excellent point, greenfrog. But I think J’s logic would still hold up if we simply considered a foetus to be a valuable and important form of life, even if not necessarily a person in the fullest sense. It is a powerless form of life that, once considered to be such, can hardly be separated from what we consider to be human life. They may not be equivalents in every sense, but the only position axiomatic to J’s argument, I think, is that the foetus is more than simply a cluster of lifeless cells, a parasitic organ, or just a part of the woman’s body.

  46. Dude, Brad, why the jerkyness? I’ve been polite.

    When you see fetuses as special entities worthy of protection, it doesn’t make sense to frame laws providing punishment for abortion as “state control over a person’s body.” It is true that providing punishment for abortion can technically be seen as controlling women’s bodies, but when you look at it as a fetal rights issue it doesn’t make sense to frame it that way any more than it makes sense to frame other laws providing punishment for acts that harm people as state control over people’s bodies.

    So my initial point was that in order for one to find a problem with abortion laws based on JNS’s reasoning you have to frame the abortion laws in a way that only “pro-choice” people accept; i.e. that it’s primarily a case of state control over women’s bodies. People whose primary concern is protecting fetuses against destruction won’t see the laws as about control of women’s bodies; they’ll see it as protecting fetuses against harm similar to how we all view anti-assault laws as providing protection against harm.

    I guess I can understand if you think that’s stupid. I don’t see how people can shout “Keep your laws out of my uterus!” with a straight face.

  47. @42: But, Brad, that’s not the logic that the post itself follows. The post merely illustrates the relative powerlessness of pregnant women vis a vis men, asserts that government restriction of abortion strengthens this relationship, and therefore (apparently) dismisses wholesale the idea of government regulation:

    reduce and eventually eliminate abortion not by the exercise of state control

    Adam’s comment #3 wasn’t terribly diplomatic, but I’m having a hard time seeing why it’s not accurate.

  48. in order for one to find a problem with abortion laws based on JNS’s reasoning you have to frame the abortion laws in a way that only “pro-choice” people accept; i.e. that it’s primarily a case of state control over women’s bodies.

    Wrong. J’s reasoning, as pointed out above, also presupposes that foetuses are human beings (or something remarkably like it) — i.e. framed in ways that only pro-choice people accept.

    If the comparison were between punishing people who stab others with doctors who performed abortions, even that would only hold if we ignore the fact that punishing aboriton doctors forces women to carry unwanted babies full term. Punishing other murderers has no similar ripple effect.

    People whose primary concern is protecting fetuses against destruction won’t see the laws as about control of women’s bodies; they’ll see it as protecting fetuses against harm similar to how we all view anti-assault laws as providing protection against harm.

    They’d be wrong though.

  49. Adam’s comment #3 wasn’t terribly diplomatic, but I’m having a hard time seeing why it’s not accurate.

    No less accurate than my comment #14.

  50. Steve Evans says:

    JimD, I think you’re missing the point if you think Jay’s post “dismisses wholesale the idea of government regulation.” Voicing a preference for addressing a problem without state regulation is not the same thing as dismissing regulation entirely. Your summary of the post is deeply inaccurate.

    RE: Adam’s comment being off, how about — because Adam refers to the “typical BCC blogger’s take”?

  51. Tom, my tone should be more civil. I have a nasty tendency to speak in a belittling way to people with whom I strongly disagree, and I apologize. Your tone, as you point out, has remained polite, and my belligerence is unjustified.

  52. JNS you simply take a round about way to describe in the end your belief in the pro-choice/pro-abortion position.

    After many abortion discussions in the bloggernaccle I will leave it at that.

  53. Steve Evans says:

    bbell, I appreciate your restraint!

  54. Adam Greenwood says:

    Steve E., your summary of JimD’s comment is deeply inaccurate. In context, he meant that JNS dismisses wholesale the idea of government regulation of abortion, which he pretty obviously does.

    There’s no way my comment can be off. No one would know better than me what my idea of the typical BCC blogger’s take is, right?

  55. Greenwood’s logic is incontrovertible, Steve.

  56. Steve Evans says:

    Good points all around AG. I hereby cede all BCC control to you, good luck to ye.

  57. Adam Greenwood says:

    Ick. I cede it back.

  58. @49 and 50: Point taken. I should have clarified that I was referring to Adam’s comment as it applied to my understanding of the original post, not to the “typical BCC blogger”.

    @50: You know JNS better than I do. In the absence of further clarification from the man himself, I’ll defer to your interpretation of his position.

  59. Adam Greenwood says:

    Is their any form of regulation or state action that doesn’t require a power imbalance? I mean, if the state isn’t more powerful than you in some sense, how exactly is it supposed to get you do anything? The end result is that you don’t support any legislation whatsoever.

    Or, alternatively, I guess you could adopt Brad’s model where you’re supposed to balance the power relationships. I’m not sure what the unit of power is–call it an erg–but if someone could tell me how many ergs are involved in telling a doctor you’ll strip his license if he performs an abortion, and how many ergs are involved in terminating the foetus, then we’re in business.

  60. Adam Greenwood says:

    Obviously we should favor parental and spousal non-consent laws. Abortion is only legal if your parents or your spouse don’t want you to do it.

  61. JimD, I think you’re both right. In the case of abortion, because state intervention to alleviate one form of unjust power relations is countered by the fact that it reinforces others. So, in spite of being theoretically open to some kinds of state intervention (i.e. ones that do the former but not the latter), JNS is advocating keeping the state out of the abortion prevention business.

  62. Or, alternatively, I guess you could adopt Brad’s model where you’re supposed to balance the power relationships. I’m not sure what the unit of power is–call it an erg–but if someone could tell me how many ergs are involved in telling a doctor you’ll strip his license if he performs an abortion, and how many ergs are involved in terminating the foetus, then we’re in business.

    I never claimed it wouldn’t be messy, but the question of abortion regulation under a political system that is built on the autonomous, rights-bearing individual and privileges that autonomy wherever possible, is messy by definition. Unless, that is, one prefers to see it in simplistic, b&w terms…

  63. In this, as in so many cases, the spirited partisans shout their arguments right past each other (I don’t mean this thread, this has been pretty civil).

    I don’t think the answer to reducing the number of abortions is in banning them outright. That was done before and it didn’t work very well – many women were killed because the illegal procedures were performed in unhygienic conditions by incompetents.

    I suggest that to reduce the number of abortions for convenience only is to develop a friendlier adoption system. There are so many people willing to give a home to a baby who never get the chance because carrying it to term would inconvenience the mother.

    My sister had a convenience abortion 30-some years ago and it scarred her deeply. But she’s also an alcoholic. That’s two strikes that I wish could have been avoided, but trying to legislate against them has been tried unsuccessfully before. I don’t think anybody believes that the prohibition actually worked.

  64. How many ergs for forcing a woman to carry an unwanted fetus full term?

  65. My legal reasoning, not being an esteemed (or un-esteemed) member of the bar, is simply the practical impossibility of enforcement to create a situation friendly to the Church’s stance. I’ve not yet read a proposal that would work, given the snail’s pace of our judicial system.

  66. bbell, why do you equate pro-choice with pro-abortion? Is that accurate except in the most extreme examples of people who are pro-choice? Or is it casting aspersions to equate those two as you have done?

    Knowing JNS, I know that he is not pro-abortion even if he is pro-choice. I can see and understand the difference. Can you?

  67. Brad, I think your #65 ignores the . . . uh . . . conduct that give rise to pregnancy in the first place. In the vast majority of “unwanted” pregnancies, the underlying conduct was consensual.

    The law assumes that a man who engages in similar conduct assumes the risk of a resultant pregnancy and, for the next eighteen years, will be liable for the natural consequences thereof. Why does the law not impute a similar responsibility to women?

  68. Oops. That should be #64.

  69. Adam Greenwood says:

    I’m sure, John F., that Orwell understood the difference between being a pacifist and being objectively pro-fascist.

  70. Last week in Sunday School we did stumble upon a verse that seems as close as we have to a statement on when life begins. In 3 Nephi, when the faithful are about to be put death if the sign of Christ’s birth doesn’t appear,Christ speaks to the prophet to reassure him that he comes into the world tomorrow. Christ is, of course, excpetional, and can’t be used as a proper model of human life, but at least in this verse, Christ is not fully embodied in his mother’s womb yet and indicates that his earth-life has yet to begin.

  71. Gerald Smith says:

    Good thoughts, but I have a question. If governmental coercion is bad when it comes to a woman’s right to abortion, why is it not bad in other areas? Is it bad for government to tax (forcibly taking money)? Is it bad for government to to forcibly draft an army to fight the invading hordes?
    I think you go a bit far in your view here. Jesus was talking about individuals’ roles in that chapter, not government. I think Jesus would have said for us to give Caesar his due.

    The issue you bring up still requires us to place a value on the fetus. Whether that value is “alive” or “$1000” or comparing it with little children surrounding Jesus (aren’t they alive?), we still have a comparison problem that gets back to the original issue.

    The Church’s stance is it isn’t murder, but it can be a sin. We are neither in the pro-choice nor pro-life arena, as the Church allows for abortions under certain restrictions. Are we having abortions due to mother’s health issues, or due to convenience issues? As it is, if the Church’s policy were followed on abortion, they would be reduced by almost 90%. IOW, almost 90% of abortions are a convenience to the mother issue. If we use Jesus’ supporting the weak as our way to decide, should we expect to see such a drastic cut in abortions to occur? What about those who are not Christian? Do we exempt them?
    Does D&C 121’s admonition to encourage rather than to shout, apply to governments as well? Do we limit government’s ability to defend us from criminals by taking away policemen’s weapons?

    Personally, I think the standard should be the viability of the fetus for survival outside the womb. And the standard should leave open the consideration of the mother’s needs and circumstances, such as health. But to leave all abortions open to choice doesn’t seem to make sense to me. We arrest people everyday for committing crimes against those we consider viable human beings – including those who barely have a brain stem. We need to decide if the difference between life and body materials is just a birth canal or something more.
    Personally, if it was me as the fetus, I’d hate to think that people were arguing over whether I should be viable or not, or of any value prior to being born. Intrinsic value must supercede extrinsic conveniences.

  72. Margaret Blair Young says:

    Natalie–I’ve heard that verse explained as “divine investiture”–meaning that someone spoke in Christ’s name. Not sure what to make of that.

    As for me, having had miscarriages and live births, I have seen the strong difference on the ultrasound between a beating heart and one which is not beating. Nonetheless, I’m not convinced that the spirit is in the body throughout gestation. The very spiritual midwife who delivered my oldest daughter said just before the birth, “I think it’s a girl. I can feel her spirit. It’s sweet and tinkley.” And after the birth of my grandson this past August, my daughter’s MOL mused about who might have escorted little Oliver to earth (given that Bruce and I had just been through the deaths of his sister and his mother). I do think there are angelic escorts at birth and at death. I once heard someone refer to an ob/gyn as a “veil worker.”

    What does this imply about my political positions? I want to honor life. I want abortions to be RARE. But I also hate what always happens on the bloggernacle when this subject comes up. I don’t know why certain subjects should somehow excuse us from common courtesy.

  73. Adam, with your un-Christlike and sarcastic comment # 69, which I have a difficult time understanding in the first place, are you arguing that one cannot be pro-choice but anti-abortion, even virulently so but with the assumption that one will eradicate the evil of abortion through preaching rather than through enacting laws against it?

  74. Adam Greenwood says:

    It speaks well of you that you don’t understand unChristlike and sarcastic comments, John F. I wouldn’t want to ruin that.

  75. I find it very strange that you are in fact being so un-Christlike. What weight does that give your arguments on a Mormon blog?

  76. and thus we see the wisdom of Sister Young.

  77. Brad (#45),

    I don’t think there’s any question in anyone’s mind, pro-whatever, that an embryo is alive. All agree that it is. The watershed question I understand to underlie the entire debate is whether that those living cells are a human being or not.

    I know of only three essential ways of responding to that query.

    (1) We can, by rhetorically devising the question, assume the conclusion. It seems to me that JNS does this, though he does so in terminology that seems to have offended the similar conclusions of those using similar rhetorical approaches (which is something of an accomplishment, by any measure).

    (2) It can be answered by scouring authoritative texts, as Elder Nelson’s Ensign article this month does. However, the scriptural text upon which he relies for his basic conclusion, the “anything like unto it” part of D&C 59:6, also seems to me to presuppose the answer. If abortion is like unto murder, then it’s the taking of a human life. If it isn’t the taking of a human life, then it isn’t “like unto” murder. So the logic of (2) collapses into the logical fallacy of (1).

    (3) The query can be answered by examining what the nature of human life is, and evaluating the extent to which an embryo at a particular stage of development corresponds to that nature.

    Only the latter approach does not beg the question by assuming the conclusion.

    The general disregard for such an approach is the part most interesting to me about the discussion. I’m reasonably confident that to one degree or another, facts do matter to all sides, even when proponents act as if they don’t.

    At any rate, I don’t think JNS’ articulation of the issue solves the basic problem of approaches (1) and (2) — by assuming a power differential, he assumes the person-ality of each “side.” The scriptural texts on which he relies are clearly addressing the power differentials between persons of different standing. The distinctions in Jesus’ actions are not those comparing the power differentials of different forms of life. He proved perfectly willing to destroy certain forms of life without regard to the power differential between Himself and them. (C.f., e.g., His cursing of a fig tree for purely didactic purposes.)

    So, while I admire JNS’s thoughtful reading of scriptural texts, in the end, I tend to think that Elder Nelson’s referenced text is, in fact, the most applicable one we have to this issue. I just believe that the way it’s being applied (by presupposing the conclusion) is missing the point, and that to apply it correctly, we should evaluate human life as best we can and then determine the extent to which an embryo corresponds or doesn’t.

  78. an emendation — my point (2) should not have suggested that the scriptural verse presupposes the conclusion. It most clearly does not, but rather sets forth a test that can be applied and answered factually, to the best of our technology. My point should have been that as I understood Elder Nelson’s point, he seems to make the same rhetorical approach as (1) by presupposing that abortion is, in fact, like unto murder.

    My (rhetorical) bad.

  79. A great, and mostly very civil discussion; thanks one and all. I’m just going to interject a few notes of clarification. I don’t think my position as sketched above relies on a fetus being “alive,” but rather on the idea that the fetus is an entity of some sort that is not wholly capable of being subsumed within the mother. If that is the case, then it is sensible to think about power relations between that entity and the mother. The rest follows from there.

    I certainly do not think that the fetus is entirely a part of the mother’s body, although the boundaries are clearly complex and ill-defined. At the same time, state action regarding abortion does impose substantial control over women’s bodies, compelling pregnant women to undergo a birth by force of arms rather than persuading through love and reason.

    On the question of whether the logic articulated here rules out all categories of state action, Brad has represented my views quite well. There is a sharp moral distinction to be made between state action that reinforces unjust hierarchy and state action that upends it. This is why laws requiring racial segregation in public accommodations in some parts of the U.S. before the Civil Rights era were morally unjustifiable, whereas subsequent laws using the same police powers to prohibit such racial segregation are unproblematic.

  80. Adam Greenwood says:

    John F.,
    It gives my arguments the same weight that you still beating your wife does.

  81. ?

  82. I’m with the Pope’s espousal of a “Culture of Life.” When I am confident that every unwanted child can have a safe, healthy, nurturing home–whether in the custody of carefully investigated adoptive parents, or in some sort of utopian high-end government orphanage that doesn’t currently exist–and that every mother, regardless of age or income, has access to top-notch pre- and post-natal health care, then I won’t be opposed to outlawing abortion.

    But in the meantime, in our rather broken healthcare and childcare regime, I’m not willing to oppose abortion legally. You can’t make the State big enough to tell a woman she can’t stop her pregnancy, but still keep it small enough to let her and her child suffer without help.

  83. Adam Greenwood says:

    JNS, you’re getting fuzzy. Are we talking about “unjust hierarchies” or “power differentials” or what?

    If its the former, I submit that your concept makes a hash of your post. I don’t see much point in evaluating all government action in terms of minimizing power differentials, but its a coherent concept and could apply to your post. ‘Unjust hierarchy’ can’t, since if there is some standard of justice by which we can evaluate an exercise of authority, then we can forget about whether abortion reinforces unjust hierarchies or not and just evaluate abortion in light of that standard of justice.

  84. Adam Greenwood says:


  85. Give it up as a lost cause, john f, or he’ll keep being “cute” until he drives you off your own blog the way he drove me off of T&S.

  86. I don’t see anything cute about his comment # 80.

  87. Hence the quotation marks.

  88. Adam, hold just a moment. My argument in the post is that Jesus consistently argues in favor of overturning established relations of subordination and domination among individuals in favor of a community of unity and equality. So power differential may not in itself be quite the right concept. Unjust hierarchy is being used as an approximation; an unjust hierarchy as I read the gospels is a hierarchy that is socially pervasive and long-standing. Use of power can thus be just when it reverses pervasive and long-standing inequalities — even though a use of power is itself an inequality and always runs the risk of perpetuating itself to the point of standing in need of upending in its own right.

  89. This analysis suffers from one mighty irredeemable flaw.

    You point out that using liberty as the primary value leads to the conclusion that the government should not forbid abortion even though we find it morally repugnant. Hardly surprising.

    This is actually the standard pro-choice argument, as pro-life people are quite aware, despite your condescending suggestion that we don’t really understand.

    You point out that the question of when life begins is not required to determine that abortion is immoral. This is true, but it does not then follow that when life begins is irrelevant to whether the government should intervene to prevent abortions.

    The long oppression or discrimination against a minority group is insufficient to justify or even mitigate murder. Likewise the real and existing double standard that burdens women with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy while letting men get off lightly is insufficient to justify abortion. Indeed, the fetus is a completely innocent party, if we care for justice should not our focus be on imposing greater costs on the father?

    The just role of government has long included using force to prevent the powerful from depriving the weak of their life, liberty, and property. It is generally accepted that those values are in order of importance.

    Additionally, your argument ignores the ability of when to exercise their choice through many other readily available means, including abstentinance, adoption, and contraception.

    Thus the restriction of abortion is not eliminating women’s choice about when and if they have children. It is only limiting the means by which they may exercise this choice.

    Indeed, a concern for choice is why I support an exemption for women who are victim’s of rape. In such an instance, abortion is in many ways the only method remaining that allow a woman to exercise control over her own body. But in the majority of abortion cases this is not true.

    Thus it is my feeling that it is the pro-life position that truly seeks to reconcile conflicting values in the most logical manner.

    We who are pro-life fully understand the pro-choice argument- it is the pro-choice position which is dependent on willful ignorance and deliberately overlooking issues such as when life begins.

  90. I don’t even see how he could think it is cute, that’s why I question even your quotation marks! I don’t believe that anything I asked him on this entire thread even remotely resembled an impermissible evidentiary question such as “Have you stopped beating your wife?”, which is what his comment implies. I suppose he’s disagreeing with the assertion that he is acting un-Christlike with that comment but it is hard to understand what he means.

  91. You point out that using liberty as the primary value leads to the conclusion that the government should not forbid abortion even though we find it morally repugnant. Hardly surprising.

    You need to (re)read this post. This is far from a standard, libertarian argument. The rest of your argument grants axiomatic status to the claim that abortion is murder and should be legally treated as such.

  92. Adam is in comment moderation until he can learn to behave.

  93. Steve Evans says:

    The just role of government has long included using force to prevent the powerful from depriving the weak of their life, liberty, and property. It is generally accepted that those values are in order of importance.

    Tell that to Patrick Henry.

  94. It learns to behave, or else it gets the hose!

  95. Steve,
    You don’t know what pain is, lady!!!!!!!!!!

  96. Steve Evans = Jame Gumb. I knew it. But really, an Adam Greenwood skin suit?

  97. I fully agree with the whole post. I would add other things we can do to influence mothers to treat their fetuses with respect and love: make birth control widely available and nearly free, open up our own families to adopt the children from pregnancies that would otherwise be terminated by the mothers, give succor, prenatal care, love, and material support to pregnant girls, make education about sex and pregnancy freely available to all. If we truly care about the unborn we can show it most by our care for their mothers.

  98. Great post, JNS.
    I don’t understand why men are the biggest voices in this discussion.
    I checked the Ensign (right next to me, actually).
    On the Contents page, there’s an angelic family (mother, father, newborn) all dressed in white. The caption reads, “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless.”
    So, JNS, I guess they read your rough draft. :)
    It frustrates me, to think that they should have included a picture to match the second part of your argument.
    A scared 15 yo girl, with an abusive boyfriend and a mother who works 3 jobs.
    It really is so complicated, and I hope that there can be fair and balanced discourse of this issue.
    I wonder if some people on this thread who are most adamantly pro-life, are so because of their own personal losses.
    Like Margaret, I have miscarried a pregnancy. At the recommendation of my doctor I had a D and C procedure. I remember sitting in he waiting room, very emotional, and being absolutely horrified that any woman would go through the same procedure on a fetus whose heart was still beating. I wanted that baby, but couldn’t have it. The fact that other women didn’t was very foreign to me.
    Since then, I’ve realized that so many women are not able to care for children, so my perspective has changed slightly. I don’t think they’re good, but I don’t think it’s my decision to make. But, surely personal experience, losing a child, miscarrying, affects us all in our opinions on abortion.

  99. Jessawhy, you and Seagullite have mentioned this new Ensign. Mysterious.

  100. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan, it’s my way of becoming beautiful! Don’t judge me. Don’t you dare judge me.

  101. JNS: somewhere in the fray I missed whether you responded to my question in #38 and the related question by greenfrog in #43.

  102. Jessawhy,
    Steve’s mild snark notwithstanding, that is a very helpful and provocative comment.

  103. Jessawhy, I haven’t yet seen the Ensign article. In fact, I’ve been preparing this post for a couple of weeks; I rarely write timely material and didn’t do it deliberately this time, either.

    I’m implicated by your comment about men being the biggest voices in discussions about abortion. I will gladly yield the floor.

  104. Brian, I did answer the #43 question in my #79. Regarding your question on very early terminations of pregnancies, I find the issues to be substantially murky. Is it perhaps enough to let that set of details wait?

  105. Steve Evans says:

    Jessawhy — yes, Brad is right. Your comment is a good one, just ignore my snarks.

  106. Latter-day Guy says:

    In spite of this riveting discussion, I am surprised that no one has yet noted the (more important) division that can be observed here––and Brad and Adam find themselves on the same side in this one:

    What is up with adopting the British spelling of “foetus”? Do you guys also refer to people who abuse children as “paedophiles”? I mean, it’s excusable from Ronan, but seriously…

  107. Adam Greenwood says:

    I call them ‘paeds’. Yo have a proeblem with that?

  108. 20:

    I’m the Kim-Jong Il of the blogosphere.

    If that were true, you’d be too busy reassembling the centerpiece of your foreign policy/recovering from a stroke to crash this party.

  109. @ Steve: The obvious implication of my statement is that life, liberty, and property are listed in proper priority for government protection. Therefor giving guidance on the extent to which government intervention can be tolerated (since all government intervention is evil). Preventing the killing of the innocent are strong grounds for the most severe government interventions. (This is why murders might get the death penalty but kidnappers do not).

    Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death” in context, is a statement that all three of these values are inseparable, cannot be held singularly, and that he was willing to risk his life to maintain his liberty. Abortion is an inversion in that defending liberty requires a respect for life that is repudiated by the pro-choice position.

    @ Brad: This is the standard liberal liberty argument, just dressed up in standard social justice mumbo jumbo, combined with advanced scriptural analysis to make it appear new and exciting. Yes, Yes, there are few interesting thoughts that come out of thinking about things this way, but it is using interesting and intriguing ornaments to the argument to distract from a weak foundation. (It’s like putting lipstick on a pig, to use a colloquialism.)

    Additionally the connection of abortion to murder is perfectly clear. Even if we accept the premise that a fetus is not living: A fetus becomes a baby which is living, ergo aborting a fetus prevents life. Snide references (in the comments) to the potential life in sperm and eggs are nonsensical. An action is required to unite sperm and egg and thereby create a fetus. However, with a fetus the opposite is true, inaction will likely lead to a fetus becoming a baby. Abortion is an action which prevents life pure and simple. It’s the difference between commission and omission, and the law has always recognized that in general, acts of commission are more serious and open to restriction.

    Additionally I do not accept the premise that a fetus is not living. I am not so sure exactly when a fetus becomes alive, but I am pretty sure it happens somewhere between conception and birth. I am also convinced that when I feel the baby kicking against the mother’s belly that he is certainly not not alive. If that’s not enough then look at what is left after an abortion- it’s a body, and no amount of semantic reasoning is going to make me forget that.

    In consideration of this I don’t think it is unreasonable at all to correlate abortion with murder. After all, I don’t think environmentalists (or the government for that matter) are going to be moved by an argument that crushing Bald Eagle eggs is A-OK while killing actual Bald Eagles is forbidden.

    In fact it is the pro-choice position that flagrantly disregards these clear intuitions and evidences, instead claiming that pro-life forces have too “prove” that fetuses are alive. (And then whine about emotional manipulation when such evidences are presented).

    I view such sophistry as the moral equivalent of those who claimed slavery was acceptable because slaves were not people but only property. Or indeed of those who argued that “Negroes are sub-human” and demanded evidence that they are not.

    Just as many non-slave owners turned their heads away and did nothing to oppose slavery because they didn’t have to look at it, so today people are looking the other way and refuse to defend the innocent because they don’t want to get into an argument that they know will be unpleasant.

    It’s moral cowardice, and I see it all the time in other places too.

    A bully picks on the weaker kid, and nobody does nothing to protect him. Not even the adults.

    A man beats a woman outside my apartment. Nobody else does a thing, only I do. I call the police and then grab a golf club and go down there to stop it- and then people (ie the police) accuse me of “escalating the situation”. As if a woman being beaten by a man twice her size (and twice my size for that matter) is just a “situation” that we should avoid “escalating”.

    Do we have duty to protect the weak or not? Even to the use of force? If we do, then abortion is unacceptable, and must be prevented.

    The moral dissonance inherent in the pro-choice response to abortion is astounding to me.

  110. Steve Evans says:

    In consideration of this I don’t think it is unreasonable at all to correlate abortion with murder. After all, I don’t think environmentalists (or the government for that matter) are going to be moved by an argument that crushing Bald Eagle eggs is A-OK while killing actual Bald Eagles is forbidden.

    The second humans start becoming endangered (and can fly), sign me up.

  111. Cicero, if you really cannot distinguish between a position that abortion is morally wrong and a position that abortion should be criminalized by the state, then you are not living up to your name.

  112. life, liberty, and property are listed in proper priority for government protection…. I call the police and then grab a golf club and go down there to stop it- and then people (ie the police) accuse me of “escalating the situation”.

    Well, do you want the state to intervene and protect a life you might have hastily and inconsiderately taken or not?

  113. I didn’t read most of the comments.

    But, it seems there are two “power” relationships here. There’s the state “forcing” a woman to carry a child to term, and a woman choosing to destroy her fetus.

    If looked at in terms of relative helplessness, the pregnant woman has infinitely more power to affect events (in her relations with society) than the fetus, whose life is completely in its mother’s control. So, if Christianity is about overturning the powerful, it would seem that the totally helpless fetus should receive the greater portion of our solicitude.

    I can’t imagine any thoughtful person disagreeing with the last paragraph of the original post–but I see no reason that that ideal should dictate our current policy–especially given the disparity in the power relationships described above.

    As to the old shibboleth about pre-marital sex, I lived in those bad old days, and I don’t remember any suggestion in the society I lived in that young men could freely “sow their wild oats” and that a pregnant girl was a “fallen woman.” But the woman inevitably faces the more difficult road. Hester Prynne didn’t need that A to show the world what she had been doing in secret. On the other hand, there was nothing about Dimmesdale that would have become open, unless he confessed or Hester ratted him out. If you could randomly assign out-of-wedlock pregnancies to be carried either by the man or the woman, maybe the scales of shame would be more evenly balanced. Until then, we’ll probably have to await the shouting from the rooftops.

  114. @ Steve: Glad to know you view the unborn lives of endangered animals as more valuable then the equivalent for humans.

    @ Peter: Coward

  115. Excuse me?

  116. Steve Evans says:

    Cicero, I’m putting you in the holding tank until you can cool off a little.

  117. Eric Russell says:

    JNS, what do you think about the following statement?

    “I feel that the gospel of Jesus calls us to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty not by the exercise of state control over other people’s bank accounts but by the influence of our love and the Holy Spirit on their hearts.”

    It seems like both the left and the right favor particular libertarian-minded issues while completely rejecting others, and I sometimes have a hard time deciphering the underlying logic to either side.

  118. Ok, I haven’t read any comments, but this was an excellent post and the exegesis on Mark 10 was very interesting. I frankly find it misapplied and although I agree with the ideal expressed at the end, we do not live in an ideal world, and while many do believe in their heart of hearts in the Johnny Lingo Doctrine, I think we need some practical bail outs legislatively speaking, along the way.

    As I see it, You are correct in that Jesus is saying it is the role of those with or in power to sacrifice themselves and serve those beneath them.

    And while they do subordinate themselves to those beneath them in one sense, they still have the power and the responsibility. Ultimately, do we not need to also apply the Golden Rule of treating others as we’d have done unto us? Is it in the better interest of the other for us to allow them and aid them in the abortion of the baby?

    When you talk about the mother subordinating to the baby, who has no power can do nothing for itself, should the mother also subordinate herself to parasites? Should she subordinate herself to rocks? Is the Baby a person that can have a relationship where subordination is even an issue?

    I will long remember the lesson you are teaching from Mark 10, at anyrate, even If I do not agree with your application.

    For me personally, I think the Mormon issue is not of life itself beginning at any point, but a question of potentiality and responsibility. I would never choose in favor of an abortion based on the potential of an eternal spirit gaining life and my responsibility to give a good life to those in my stewardship. Yet it is a complicated difficult issue, and I acknowledge and respect that there are bound to be disagreements as to what all the data points are and mean.

    Basically, I believe we are dealing with to conflicting ideals which ground two conflicting perspectives, and what is needed is some practical real solutions that take into account all the issues.

  119. Eric, not sure about JNS, but I can get behind that statement. I believe that Christ’s challenge is to establish a society where we act ethically and good to others not out of state compulsion but out of love. Again that doesn’t preclude laws or regulation as interim measures, but the overall challenge to us is the same.

  120. Steve, if Brad’s # 61 is an accurate sum-up of JNS’ position, then practically (but not theoretically) speaking Eric’s statement does seem to preclude law and regulation.

  121. Steve Evans says:

    JimD, you could be right, which is why I said “not sure about JNS.” He can speak for himself. But as one who got behind the original statement, I also get behind Eric’s.

  122. Matt W (118)
    I agree with your comment. So much of abortion debates are just people talking past each other.
    My bishop pulled me into his office on Sunday to discuss AZ’s prop 102, marriage = 1 man + 1 woman.
    It was an interesting discussion, and we got into politics in general and he said something about people who were “pro-abortion.”
    I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who is “pro-abortion.” Don’t most of us agree that it’s pretty terrible? Does “safe, legal, and rare” mean that we’re in favor of it, like in favor of free ice cream?
    We need to give the moderates on this issue more credit. We can understand both sides and work toward a policy solution.
    So, JNS et al.
    What would your policy solution be? Or, perhaps as you’ve recommended the state stay out of this, would you like to see the church change it’s policy/discourse (or photos in the Ensign :) ?

    Thanks for the interesting discussion.
    I, too, will remember your take on Mark 10 as I think about Christ turning power structures upside down. (although, I did feel very powerless while my Bishop was talking to me about his views on gay marriage.)

  123. Eric, I agree completely. Egalitarianism in all domains should flow freely and without compulsion. I don’t favor legislating Zion into existence. Steve is also right that we can talk about interim measures in the meanwhile. I think my position is not contradictory in this, although a projection of stereotypes onto me might be. I think state action can certainly be moral when it does not reinforce established, pervasive societal inequalities. Unless you think there is an established, pervasive societal inequality in which the poor abuse, exploit, and subordinate the rich, then the economic argument you offer is simply irrelevant.

  124. Jessawhy, I’d love to hear your policy ideas on this! For my part, I think the solution probably has to be largely societal. If we as a society were to make contraception more readily available, dramatically reduce the incidence of poverty, greatly expand childcare resources for single mothers, I think that would probably reduce abortion rates a lot — my guess is more than making abortion a crime. From there, it’s a matter of individual persuasion and conversion, I think. It’s not going to be an overnight change, in any case.

  125. a random John says:

    The Book of Mormon certainly supports the conclusion of contained in the last paragraph. Alma 31:5:

    And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.

  126. Latter-day Guy says:

    107, do you also spell draft as “draught”? And, no, I don’t have a problem with it really, but the extra letters seem wasteful. Imagine all the ink/bandwidth you could save––every drop in the ocean raises the water level. :)

  127. Adam Greenwood says:

    Mny tres ct dwn so I culd uz xtra pixl

  128. Adam Greenwood says:

    I use draught for drinking, draft for conscription and drafting.

  129. If abortion is murder, then what is miscarriage? If it’s a miscarriage that a woman could have potentially prevented, or that she induced through her own behavior — is that negligent homicide?

    If I accidentally run someone over with my car, the state may prosecute me and put me in jail.

    If a mother accidentally induces a miscarriage — too much activity, medicine, whatever else — should she be prosecuted?

    If we’re really granting full legal personhood to the fetus, should it be able to sue the mother in tort for abuse?

    And on the other hand (as noted in comments above), shouldn’t the mother have a self-defense right against the full person who is appropriating her body?

    Full personhood for a fetus just doesn’t seem to work, legally.

  130. StillConfused says:

    1.I am generally not a fan of abortion. Personally I find it creepy. But I read the section in Freakonomics about the relationship between abortion and crime and now my viewpoint on abortion has softened. I don’t like abortion; but I don’t like crime more. It is a strange way to look at things I will admit. Yet that is how I feel.

    2. WIth respect to free or cheap birth control. The cheapest and most effective birth control doesn’t require government regulation or handouts. Abstinence. Works every time it is tried.

  131. It’s also worth pointing out (though this discussion might be in its last throes) that the ethical logics outlined by JNS here do not preclude state interventions to prevent abortion per se, only those interventions that perpetuate or exacerbate existing power structures that marginalize the status and position of (pregnant) women. Interventionist approaches that avoid this are all on the table.

  132. Steve Evans says:

    Actually StillConfused, abstinence has the highest failure rate of any form of birth control, even when combined with other forms. Each time a child is conceived abstinence has failed.

  133. Eric Russell says:

    So if men were the ones who bore pregnancy (and all else where the same), then it would be right to legislate against abortion? Is that right?

    Who’s to determine what constitutes legitimate hierarchical relationships when we move into other matters of state intervention? Seems like a scary rabbit hole to jump into. Some folks can get a lot of mileage out of “hierarchical power structures that marginalize others.”

  134. JNS, to what extent would you agree with the position I outlined in my #41?

    Kaimi, I don’t know if I would say it “doesn’t work”. I think it would be more accurate to suggest that giving full legal “personhood” to a fetus would force many of us to re-think the way we go about our everyday lives, and the consequences of our actions. Adopting an abortion-as-murder paradigm** wouldn’t be the first time that Americans had been compelled to change–or at least, to a certain degree, to suppress the expression of–a foundational assumption.

    **I’m speaking hypothetically. I’m not convinced that abortion is tantamount to murder.

  135. Actually, Eric, JNS’ reasoning would explain the conundrum I presented in comment #57.

  136. That’s correct, JimD (134). Fetal personhood would support an “abortion is murder” conclusion, but it would require a major reassessment in a lot of other areas of law. Based on the way other laws work now, it would not be a good fit with existing law.

    You’re right that there’s no reason that society couldn’t make that sea change, if people decided to do it.

  137. Eric Russell says:

    Jim, I just noticed I missed your comment #17 (and the subsequent discussion apparently.) Didn’t mean to rework what had already been started.

    And either you mistyped the comment number above, or a buttload of comments have been deleted in this thread already. Either are just as likely, I suppose.

  138. StillConfused: The Freakonomics Correlation actually bothers me. It’s like saying crappy people have abortions, which is good, because they don’t raise crappy children, which means they are destroying their crappy culture by their own selfishness. That too me is more distrubing than a high crime rate.

  139. The Freakonomics Correlation bothers me to; it is beginning to sound like an excuse for preventative capital punishment.

  140. Another thing that would limit unplanned and unwanted pregnancies would be if women, particularly poor women, had more control over their own bodies with respect to sex. One out of three women are raped at some point in their lives, from what I’ve read. It’s also true that there are many young girls living in terrible circumstances (with addicts for parents, for example) whose control over their own bodies is sharply limited by their circumstances. In other words, the choices they have about their living situation can make living in a sexual relationship with a boyfriend who treats them reasonably well a much better life choice than staying with abusive parents, or a weak mother with abusive boyfriends, etc. Their choice may be between being beaten and raped while living in one situation, or living in a sexual relationship they really don’t want. Power is choice. Money is power. Poverty limits people’s choices severely.

    Society doesn’t really offer many good alternatives to young women living in poverty. Not everyone is blessed with a loving family. The pro-life rhetoric that I have encountered doesn’t seem to address the reality of these women’s lives.

    Planned Parenthood does great work preventing unwanted pregnancies, and therefore abortions, among poor women in this country and the world, by providing low-cost or free birth control.

  141. #130,
    Still Confused.
    The Freakonomics section on abortion was contested based on errors in the coding of the data.
    So, fwiw, there’s not a consensus by any means on the idea that aborted children would have been criminals, as author purports.

  142. JNS,

    Wouldn’t all your arguments about heirarchy and power and dominance still apply if we replaced “fetus” with “tapeworm”?

    Of course, we all have reasons for believing a fetus is more valuable than a tapeworm — but I don’t see that you have provided any new ones. Have you?

  143. #141:

    ” there’s not a consensus by any means on the idea that aborted children would have been criminals, as author purports.”

    Having read the book, they do not argue that. They argue that countries that allow for abortion do not have the population problems that often result in crime problems. There is a difference.

    I am teaching that chapter next week, I will have to take a closer look. As I recall, it was pretty straight forward. Of course, I have a problem getting excited about the issue in general.

  144. Steve Evans says:

    Timer, that takes the cake for the dumbest comment I have seen all day.

  145. THat’s because Steve skips Kaimi’s comments.

  146. As I understand it, that correlation between abortion and decreased crime also doesn’t take into account the changing strength of the economy.

    JNS–thank you for this–I agree with and am glad to hear your argument.

  147. I just need a second to vent.
    I got an email from a friend with a Catholic video about abortion (I’d heard about it somewhere else).
    It compares issues like high gas prices and global warming to abortion, saying that abortion is the important issue, compared to the others. It also shows happy families and cute healthy babies to support the message.
    I just don’t think those images are the applicable ones! It’s not the happy families who are having abortions, and certainly every girl who decides against an abortion isn’t going to place the baby for adoption, or necessarily have that happy family. It just seems so manipulative to me.

  148. Um, thanks, Matt.

    What exactly have I done to you to inspire that kind of comment?

  149. Steve Evans says:

    I think Matt is kidding. But it was pretty funny!

  150. JNS, 104: “Is it perhaps enough to let that set of details wait?”

    No. (pretty please?)

    First, I’m not trying to argue any point here, just to understand yours. Second, I feel like I’m being really obnoxious.

    Anyway, I’m trying to understand how abortion would be eliminated in your utopia if there are some people who believe that a fetus is not a person. As you say, #79,

    …but rather on the idea that the fetus is an entity of some sort that is not wholly capable of being subsumed within the mother. If that is the case…

    The idea of your utopia is interesting because it does away with much of the usual “sideshow” in abortion debate (“Oh yeah, well what about rape?!” and so on) and forces us to consider (i.e., define?) what is actually being aborted.

    Let me put it another way: today there are many women who use an IUD who would never use mifepristone, even though on some level the two are equivalent. Your utopia centers the debate at that level.

    I can see where your interest with this thread lies elsewhere, and I’m cool with that.

  151. BrianJ–

    The IUD and mifepristone do not work the same.

    While it used to be believed that IUD prevented implantation, it has since been discovered that sperm do not even make it to the fallopian tubes in women using IUD’s. The reason why is unknown. Hence an egg is never fertilized.

    Also, it it my understanding that even in the case of mifepristone exactly how it is working is unclear. The educated guess is again that implantation does not occur, but it may prevent ovulation.

  152. Oops! I mixed up mifepristone with levongesterol. As you know, mifiprestone is an aborficant. An IUD is not.

  153. mmiles: I never made the claim that they work the same. Let’s play Russian Roulette: While copper IUDs (as well as progestin-releasing) seem to work primarily by reducing fertilization, there is a very small chance that fertilization will occur—in which case contraception occurs by preventing implantation or directly affecting the health/integrity of the fertilized egg. (And you were right the first time about Mifepristone, which also seems to work as an emergency contraceptive primarily by preventing ovulation.)

    If you think the hCG studies are conclusive enough, then replace “IUD” with “rhythm method” in my #150 and my question is the same.

  154. Thomas Parkin says:

    Nice post, JNS. re: abortion. I feel a little guilty that something so clearly urgent bores me – not only now after 50 bajillion more or less identical ‘conversations.’ Thanks for at least throwing it a curve ball.

    Just an aside. I disagree that Jesus reorders hierarchies into equalities. I think he reorders hierarchies into new hierarchies based on ‘Celestial principles.’ (Which we barely guess at, probably.) Roughly that the higher serve to lift the lower. But I don’t think you can get rid of hierarchies without obliterating identity.

    I grok the equating of the power relationship of mother/fetus to government/mother. But I wonder if there isn’t a relationship of government/fetus. In fact, that’s sort of the crux of it. I would think that as good lefties, we would agree that there is a relationship and that the government, as the most powerful entity in society, has an obligation to its least powerful agents.

    Clearly, the best thing is to win the moral day by persuasion rather than coercion. It will be hard to persuade against abortion without arguing for the vital worth of the fetus, however, and that, in and of itself strengthens the pro-life position. At what position does a thing become sufficiently humanly valuable that society – and hence government – have a say in the matter. As a man of the left, I think that bar is reasonably low.


  155. Token Average Member says:

    In family history work, we only seal children who were born alive to their parents. Miscarried or stillborn children do not get sealed, presumably because they will have another chance at a body later on. That would indicate to me that we do not regard a foetus as a person until it is born alive and that the sin involved in abortion is unrighteous dominion rather than murder. Thanks for this post, JNS; it is an important subject.

  156. Just like we should reduce the number of other murders by long-suffering and persuasion, rather than by action.

  157. Mr. McCarthy,
    As there is no indication that current attempts to limit murder via punishment/death actually prevents murder, that might not be a bad idea.

    That said, I don’t accept the murder = abortion equation anyway, especially since the church doesn’t.

  158. Let me briefly summarize the central problem with the argument that abortion ought to be illegal because it’s a form of murder: it isn’t an argument at all. Rather, it’s a perfect logical circle. Let’s set aside the important question, for the moment, of whether abortion involves an act of killing. What is the difference between murder and other kinds of killing acts? Clearly, a central component of the difference is that murder is illegal killing. In fact, the OED’s first definition for murder is: “The deliberate and unlawful killing of a human being.” Well, I certainly agree with the argument that unlawful killing ought to be unlawful! Calling abortion murder thus presupposes not only (a) that abortion is killing, and (b) that a fetus is a human being, but also (c) that abortion ought to be illegal. What a compelling argument! Surely all who disagree that abortion ought to be illegal will be persuaded.

    Likewise, “life” and “human being” are terms that lack shared or neutral definitions. Science can’t tell you when life begins, because the beginning of life is a long transitional process — and it isn’t a scientific question when in that process the entity called the fetus has crossed over into the domain of deserving full human rights. That’s a purely moral and political question, and so appeal to this issue likewise will only persuade the already persuaded. The standard ideological debates on abortion always presuppose the desired conclusion. That’s why the arguments are so frustrating.

  159. Surely, JNS, you cannot expect all the non-lawyers out there to appreciate the subtle distinctions between homicide (which, in Twain’s formulation, can be felonious, excusable, justifiable, or praiseworthy) and murder, which as you point out is by definition felonious.

    Of course, Twain went on to point out that all those distinctions don’t matter much to the person killed–he’s still just as dead whatever the category of homicide.

    It’s clear that the “Abortion is murder” folks aren’t making an argument. They’re stating their conclusion. So it doesn’t make any sense to parse the statement expecting to find in it the argument.

  160. JNS,

    I think that the circle you identify in #158 is not as hard to escape from as you portray it. The definition of “life” is not really at issue. All agree that when an abortion occurs, living tissue dies. The same is true when I skin my knee. So the question is what the definition of “life” is — the question is the definition of human being.

    Though you state that such a question is purely moral, it really isn’t. Without any particularly moral or political reasoning, we distinguish between living humans and living non-human animals. It’s trickier when we get to distinguishing between human beings and non-human beings, but we do make such distinctions when we evaluate whether and when to terminate life-maintenance activities for those with severely limited-to-no brain function.

    In such circumstances, one of the important lines we draw is at consciousness/awareness. The tools we use to measure such things are limited, but improving. Of course, applying those tools may teach us that some of the lines we’ve previously drawn are illegitimate and need to be redrawn, but it seems to me that we should welcome such a discovery, as it will allow us to act more skilfully and more compassionately in fulfilling our intentions.

    I don’t think that such rational efforts at discerning whether and how abortion might be like unto and not like unto murder are necessarily doomed to fail. I think the ideological arguments cover this terrain at present because the tools are rough and imprecise. As people develop greater facility and technology for perceiving consciousness/awareness, I expect they’ll apply it to fetuses and embryos and we’ll be closer to a factual discussion than we are at present.

  161. last sentence of first paragraph of 160 should have included a “not” that seems to have escaped my attention

  162. Another thing to consider is that standard arguments making “viability” the benchmark for legal life are getting closer and closer to a ban on abortion in some cases – given the improved technology of our age. With the ever dropping time of viability, sometimes that moment occurs before or very shortly after a woman becomes aware that she is pregnant – especially for those with irregular periods.

    Iow, relying on technology to make the decision a scientific one is pushing that scientific decision closer and closer to conception. Therefore, those who want to argue against that movement need to do so through non-scientific arguments like the one presented here. Technology really is making this discussion even more a religious/philosophical debate by eliminating much of the middle ground that served as the foundation of compromise in the past.

  163. Thanks, Steve Evans, 144, for the flattering superlative… but there was a serious point that you (more dumbness, I guess) did not recognize or address.

    The point of JNS’s post, as I understand it, is to escape the logical trap of making arguments that only make sense to people with a shared sense of the value of a fetus (“The fetus has the same value as a human child —therefore abortion is murder” vs. “The fetus has relatively little intrinsic value — therefore banning abortion is unrighteous dominion”) by arguing that one REASON to give deference to the fetus is the Christian principle of favoring the powerless.

    He writes

    “Abortion is unethical, in this Markan light, not because it is murder; the question need not arise. We conclude instead that abortion is a wrong decision because it is a failure of egalitarianism. It is an act of privileging the relatively powerful adult over the absolutely powerless fetus.”

    The point that I am making is that this argument –like all the other “circular” pro-life arguments JNS complains about — relies on an a priori assumption that the fetus is valuable as a human life. It doesn’t give a new argument for the valuable-human-life-ness of the fetus, and it will only be persuasive to those who already consider the fetus to be a valuable human life.

  164. If you’re getting tired of this whole discussion, there’s an interesting thread over at The Volokh Conspiracy about sheep and the sex offender registry.

  165. Timer, your tapeworm argument and the earlier claim about rocks simply fail. My position relies on the idea that society has a long-standing, deeply institutionalized relationship in which women have all the power over their fetus and indeed subsequently over the child. Is there a long-standing socially institutionalized power relationship regarding rocks and tapeworms? Since the answer is no, the logic simply doesn’t apply.

  166. greenfrog, I think your argument is also doomed to fail. As our tools for measuring consciousness have improved, they have begun to force us to realize that non-human living creatures are also conscious. A consciousness argument would make your hamburger murder, as well as an abortion.

  167. Hamburgers are abortions? Really, JNS, that’s going too far! :)

  168. JNS/166 — as I remarked in 160, we should be grateful when our ability to perceive such details causes us to re-draw the lines we’d previously relied upon, because the re-drawing enables us to implement our (good, hopefully) intentions with greater accuracy. The reason I’m a vegetarian is precisely because I came to conclude that you are probably correct about what our insights into consciousness will show us with respect to at least certain animals. (I still eat clam chowder every now and again, as I’m not strongly persuaded that clams are meaningfully sentient, though I could be wrong.)

    Might those discoveries take a considerable period of time to settle into cultural awareness? Yes. But I think that there’s clear evidence that they already are doing so, albeit more slowly than the abortion debates have done. Hence the heightened protections for animals whose consciousness is most readily recognized — great apes, cetaceans, etc.

  169. (I’m chuckling at the far-fetched-ness of my predictions in 168 — imagine Adam Greenwood whale-riding for Greenpeace.)

  170. greenfrog, I definitely respect the consistency involved in a vegetarian lifestyle. If I were bolder and better able to manage my hypoglycemia without eating animal proteins, I would follow suit. However, my sense is that for many, the current research trends which suggest consciousness in animals will undermine the utility of a consciousness dividing point for moral consideration. For better or for worse, the intellectual genealogy of that consideration derives from the idea that consciousness is special because it is what distinguishes humans — the highest life form in Western thought for a very long time — from other creatures. If that distinguishing line fades, then many will conclude that consciousness may not be the relevant criterion. In any case, competing criteria are widely in use. For present purposes, a particularly salient one is viability; can the fetus survive if removed from the mother? This is a murky line and one that constantly shifts with technology, but it has been widely considered. The comments above also suggest that many rely on whether the fetus has a heartbeat. Countless other options are available, with each option pointing to a different moment. Science cannot tell us which definition to adopt.

  171. Adam Greenwood says:

    “Is there a longstanding socially institutionalized power relationship regarding rocks and tapeworms.”

    Public health measures have been around for a while, are institutionalized in various ways, have a lot of money spent on them, and are supported by law and custom.

    Mineral rights have existed as part of our legal heritage since time immemorial. Mining has also been around since time immemorial. The laws governing the ownership of rocks once removed from the ground are also clear. Mining and mineral rights are a big business and have been for a long time. The state actively regulates, manages, and encourages mineral exploitation, and has done so for ages.

    The same is true of crops, cattle, oysters, air (we breathe the stuff without consent), disease bacteria, cheese and yogurt cultures, etc.

    You can’t get away from Greenfrog’s point. You have to explain why the fetus foetus has some special value. I think you also ultimately have to make distinctions about when the exercise of power is harmful or wrong in some way (is it really unjust or oppresive to granite to quarry it?) which gets you back to the justice questions that you say you’re trying to avoid.

  172. Adam Greenwood says:

    Rather, Timer’s point.

  173. JNS, that is a good point. Since society has a long-standing, deeply institutionalized relationship with the fetus, treating the fetus like a human being with which it can have a relationship, I rescend my former ad hoc statement, and go back to the concept of whether this fetus relationship which all of society is strong enough to be grounds for defining that fetus as part of the human being group? I think for some it does, and others maybe not as much. Thus for some, an abortion is a violation of the right to life, which our constitution holds as an inviolate right. Of course, others see it more as a right to liberty, which is also an inviolate right. It is a difficult middle ground where these too rights contradict one another. I think we are safe ground all agreeing that right to life(and by this a mean life in the human being sense) trumps right to liberty in more clearly defined cases of life. However, I can see where there is some flexibility on this issue. Not everyone thinks the same. The Church must teach and push for the ideal while the government presses for the real and practical.

    The Question is how do we get the real to ever live up to the ideal. You suggest by the influence of our love and the Holy Ghost. I concur. So what is the loving smart thing to do? What will bring the Holy Ghost the most?

    In one comment you mentioned eliminating poverty: How do we do that? I mean, I think there are units of society which have been trying to eliminate poverty for thousands of years, and yet there are still poor among us. We hear of at least as many failures as successes.

    This last paragraph is a threadjack. Maybe some other time we can discuss it.

    And sorry Kaimi, just poking fun.

  174. One more thought: Doesn’t the animal/hamburger argument fall flat in light of the “long-standing, deeply institutionalized relationship with the fetus”

  175. BrianJ,
    No, actually if fertilization occurs, so does implantation. It is rare, but it happens.

  176. mmiles: I’m really not interested in debating the science behind contraception. You’ve apparently read the primary literature and so have I. If you know of some that I am unaware of, please give me the references. Until then, I’ve stated how I understand things.

  177. Adam,
    A few posts ago, I made an argument for human uniqueness. I would say go their for a discussion of the differences between people and animals. In the meantime, let’s just assume that humans and animals, minerals, and so forth are sufficiently different that belaboring the point is not useful.

  178. What’s the deal with writing “foetus”? What’s wrong with “fetus”? Maybe if it doesn’t have an “o” then it’s not fully human….

  179. LiberalSlayer says:

    Thomas Parkin:
    It is well that you point out that Jesus formed a new heirarchies (instead of equalities). That is the message that the Lord was trying to teach Abraham in Abraham 3, there’s no such thing as equality, only unity. And the definition of the higher is that they work to lift the lower. Unfortuneately, the viewpoint of enforced equality is the current trend in the liberal circles, even when it runs against nature, and against scripture (viz a viz Abr. 3).

  180. LiberalSlayer says:

    John C.
    I’ll assume that you are simply unaware of this statistical study that DOES show that the death penalty deters further crime, saving between 3 and 18 lives. The data was collected by someone against the death penalty, but who was honest enough not to hide it just because he disagreed with it.
    While the interpretation of the data is not undisputed, it would be dishonest to not acknowledge this data, and how it counters your (assertion lacking evidence).

    It would also be well to point out that when the Brethren have said with regards to abortion.
    The Brethren have never said abortion is murder.
    The Brethren have never said abortion is NOT murder.
    When talking about abortion, the brethren almost ALWAYS point out that the Lord has condemned murder and anything like unto it, just like the Lord condemned adultery and anything like unto it. If the pro-choicers here don’t think abortion is like unto murder, it seems like that’s where the debate needs to center.

  181. Steve Evans says:

    “brethren almost ALWAYS point out that the Lord has condemned murder and anything like unto it”

    Can you point me to an example of using “anything like unto it” in the the context of murder? If the brethren almost ALWAYS point that out, it should be easy for you.

  182. Sorry bout that, Matt. I guess I’ve been in a few too many blog dust-ups lately, or maybe I’m just getting cranky in my old age.

    It was a pretty good joke. :)

  183. I imagine JNS comment 158 playing out like the crazy guy who swallows the poison on Princess Bride.
    “You will clearly not choose the wine in front of you!”
    talking in circles louder and louder till he falls over. dead.

    (it made me laugh when I thought about it)

  184. Inconceivable, Jessawhy.

  185. Kaimi, you keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  186. Jessawhy, Maybe that’s what we’ve all become: online Sicilians. Yikes!

  187. Adam Greenwood says:

    John C.,
    Of course. That’s Timer’s point–JNS is begging the question.

  188. How many women do any of you know personally who have undergone an abortion? Anyone?

    I get frustrated when I read comment after comment from the men folk. I wonder why more women do not speak out? Are women afraid of being judged?

    I am one woman who will not hang my head in shame. I know the Lord has forgiven me. I know the Lord does not condemn me.

    Go to this website to learn more about the impact of abortion on women:

    “It’s normal to grieve a pregnancy loss, including the loss of a child by abortion. It can form a hole in one’s heart, a hole so deep that sometimes it seems nothing can fill the emptiness.”

    Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn thee.”

  189. Aaron Brown says:

    Kalola, the line between the Pro-Life and the Pro-Choice does not track the line between those who believe in forgiveness (for abortion, or anything) and those who don’t.


  190. I do. Know a woman who had an abortion. I wrote about it here.

  191. AB ~ Am I to understand from your comment that there are those who believe women who have undergone an abortion should not be forgiven?

  192. Gee, golly willikers, LS. I sure appreciate your pointing that out. Thank goodness sophisticated statistics allow us to foresee the future and the motivation of potential murderers. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before the pre-crime unit is established.

  193. When talking about abortion, the brethren almost ALWAYS point out that the Lord has condemned murder and anything like unto it, just like the Lord condemned adultery and anything like unto it. If the pro-choicers here don’t think abortion is like unto murder, it seems like that’s where the debate needs to center.

    No, that would be where the debate needed to center if it was a debate about whether or not elective abortion is wrong. As difficult as it is for some pro-lifers to pull their heads out of the sand and see, being pro-choice does not necessarily mean believing that abortion is okay, just that, regardless about how you feel about its moral or ethical okay-ness, it should not be criminalized.

    (Cue Greenwood comment declaring the distinction between being against criminalizing Catholicism and objectively pro-infant-baptism to be Orwellian).

  194. #191 – Somewhere out there, yes. I know some now and knew quite a few in AL. They weren’t Mormon. It certainly is not Mormon doctrine.

  195. #193

    Not everything that is unlawful is criminal, so implying that one is either pro-choice or pro-criminalization of some or all abortions is to suggest a false dichotomy.

    And, I don’t think that suggesting that one side of the debate pull its collective head out of the sand is helpful, particularly when the “I personally oppose it but don’t think it’s my place to join with others with similar moral beliefs and make (any) abortion unlawful” pro-choicers seem to have their collective heads firmly in the sand as to the practical pro-abortion effect of the last 35 years of life under Roe v. Wade.

  196. Mark B. et. al.,

    What do you suggest we do regarding abortion? Outlaw entirely? Set up abortion courts to determine the legitimacy of need? Allow individual states to determine their own approach to abortion? Something else that my uncreative mind hasn’t come up with?

    What is the better outcome that you see in the repeal of Roe?

  197. some pro-lifers, Mark (actually, I’m willing to limit it to just Greenwood and Liberalslayer).

  198. Adam Greenwood says:

    Not Orwellian. Orwellite. And as we all know, there are no ‘ites’ among the Saints. Therefore being pro-choice is against the gospel. QED, hambone.

  199. Curiously enough, the government stance on abortion does not seem to affect the number of abortions in any given country; it does affect the number of women who die during the procedure, however. It does appear, in fact, that more liberal abortion laws produce fewer abortions, looking at countries like the Netherlands and Scandinavia. So, abortion is paradoxical. Want fewer? Support it.

  200. janeannechovy says:

    djinn, you must have read the same article in Ms Magazine that I did. I don’t think it’s coincidental, though, that most of the countries with liberal abortion laws (and lower rates of unsafe abortions) also have strong, stable economies. It can also be seen in analyzing US abortion statistics that the abortion rate has more to do with the health of the economy than with the state of laws prohibiting or limiting abortion. Hence, abortion rates during the Clinton administration went down, as the economy was roaring along.

    I, too, am dismayed at the number and vehemence of the men commenting on this thread. I also agree with a comment by greenfrog (way up there–I mostly just skimmed the last half or more of the comments) that JNS is kind of playing by the rules of the anti-abortion side by focusing on the morality of abortion. The problem with this approach is that no one, NO ONE, believes that abortion is good. Even in the absence of religion-based or other morality, abortion is bad because it is inefficient and wasteful of maternal resources. Women who choose abortion don’t do so because they don’t value life; they do it because they see it as their best alternative under the circumstances. That is why punitive approaches to reducing abortion rates don’t work–they don’t address the desperation.

    As Jessawhy pointed out when she quoted Bill Clinton, pro-choicers want to reduce abortions too. They just want to do it using methods that WORK: comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education, low- or no-cost access to effective birth control, etc. All that aside, the most effective way to reduce abortion rates in this country is to heal our economy.

  201. Neal Kramer says:

    I’m late and always uncomfortable with this topic.

    The passage in the D&C, which Steve wondered about, is 59:6, Thou shalt not . . . not kill, nor do anything like unto it.”

    Elder Packer used the concept when discussing abortion. I, being the language freak I am, tend to see the point of using the words as to imply that while abortion is not necessarily death as we have conventionally understood it, it is similar to killing.

    As the pro-life movement, especially the Catholics, has come to see conception as the moment of God’s creation of life, abortion has come to be seen as the taking of innocent life.

    Elder Nelson’s use of the metaphor of war against the defenseless begins to suggest that some LDS may believe that the spirit enters the body at the moment of conception.

    But LDS theology of pre-mortal life, conception, birth, life, death, resurrection, and eternal life does not seem to me to allow us to say that abortion is any more than like unto killing. It is therefore not the same as killing.

    This, however, does not mean that the Lord has not prohibited its broad and general practice.

    None of this helps with the idea that when building a state/society, people have the responsibility to themselves to craft laws and regulations that provide an environment in which life can flourish and the good can be pursued. Should the people, who make up a state, intervene on behalf of the defenseless unborn? If so, what form would the intervention take? How do idealism and pragmatism converge so as to build a hopeful and happy society? It must also be forcefully stated that defenseless women on whom pregnancy has been forced by biological necessity or anything else that denies choice must be a profound part of this argument. Conventional views about pregnancy as punishment for sin no longer belong in the world of moral thinking this very modern debate has created.

    We have not thought hard enough and well enough to know the answers to the questions these evolving views of life, choice, responsibility, and death have raised. But the way we answer questions like these will tell us a lot about what we think a good life is.

  202. I did not read the article in MS, rather I’ve poured over boring statistical reports; and, not surprisingly, I both agree and disagree with comment 200. As far as I can tell, the time in the US that had the highest abortion rate was during the great depression, something like one in four women had them, in spite of the risk involved. When I look at the data, what jumps out at me is the amount of female empowerment in a society; when abortions are outlawed, so, often are contraceptives; or at the least, contraceptives are much more difficult to get; (We’re seeing the beginning of this here in the US and right here at BCC with the question of when “personhood” begins; at conception would outlaw many of the cheaper and more easily available birth control types) plus, the social consequences for an unwed birth weigh much more heavily on the mother. It’s a three-fer.

    The Bible, you know, doesn’t bother mentioning, except positively, the actual route women took in ancient times for unwanted births. Remember Moses? He was abandoned. Think about it for a minute. Was abandonment ever, uh, disallowed?

  203. Moses was placed in a situation to be found in order to keep him from being killed. What a terrible example of womanhood that mother was. She shouldn’t have “abandoned” him; she should have let him be killed.


  204. janeannechovy says:

    Another late comment from me, I’m afraid. Hi to those who subscribed to the feed for these comments. :)

    I highly recommend the book Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. It’s been published with a couple different subtitles–mine has “Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection.” It’s a cross-species, cross-cultural look at the pressures, evolutionary and otherwise, brought to bear on mothering. She doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable issues–like, that infanticide is still rather too (for western tastes) widely practiced in parts of the developing world.

  205. Adam Greenwood says:


  206. Well played, sir.