The Unborn

The appointment of conservative justice Bret Kavanaugh has emboldened some states to take a run at challenging Roe v. Wade by putting forward legislation to outlaw abortion that is a deliberate overreach to force the issue in front of the Supreme Court.[1] From my own conversations with fellow ward members, one reason many LDS voters chose to elect Trump in 2016 is that they, like many social conservatives, vehemently oppose abortion and would like to see the overturn of Roe v. Wade.[2] However, LDS theology is not nearly as anti-abortion as many other conservative religions. Like many other platforms, this is one where both parties’ views are potentially consistent with the church’s stance.

From the Church Handbook of Instructions:



The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience. Members must not submit to, perform, arrange for, pay for, consent to, or encourage an abortion. The only possible exceptions are when:
  1. 1. Pregnancy resulted from forcible rape or incest.
  2. 2. A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy.
  3. 3. A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

Even these exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons responsible have consulted with their bishops and received divine confirmation through prayer.

Church members who submit to, perform, arrange for, pay for, consent to, or encourage an abortion may be subject to Church discipline.

As far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.

I remember the only time this issue came up on my mission. We met a woman who asked us to come teach her. She was distraught because as a Catholic, abortion was considered a mortal sin, and she was seeking absolution. According to Catholicism, there is forgiveness in confession. I suspect she wanted to hear from another minister whether it was a mortal sin or not, and that she wanted us to absolve her. She may have also felt more comfortable talking to women. As Mormon missionaries, we could not recommend her for baptism without the mission president interviewing her, and in retrospect, I don’t think she was looking to change religions. At the time, I was far too young and naive to really understand her motives. She was nearly hysterical when she spoke with us, and fear of her husband was a big part of that, as well as fear that she had committed an unpardonable sin. As a Catholic, she was taught that the fetus has a soul, and in a church that believes in original sin, that meant to her that her unbaptized fetus would be consigned to limbo upon death. Catholic abortion policies are based on protecting the unborn.

Some historical arguments about abortion include:

  • The rights of fathers. To deeply patriarchal cultures, allowing a woman to relieve herself of the burden of motherhood was a direct threat to the “rights” men had to impregnate a woman. Abortion was usually considered a form of witchcraft, particularly since an abortion was often procured by drinking a concoction of poisonous herbs. This dangerous practice could result in killing the mother if not done right. Illegal abortions have usually put the mother’s life at risk, but then again, so has childbirth. For a compelling explanation of why 100% of unwanted pregnancies are the result of male irresponsibility (and yet result in consequences felt almost solely by women), read this.
  • The rights of women. Most who favor allowing abortions do so based on the argument that women should not be compelled to carry or raise a child that they either don’t want or don’t feel they can support. This includes pregnancy caused by rape or incest, in which case the woman did not consent to the sexual act that created the life. LDS policy (see above) also states that abortion is permissible in these circumstances. Likewise, the health of the mother is considered in allowing abortions as some pregnancies carry a high risk of the loss of the mother’s life or directly threaten the life of the mother. Again, this is a valid reason per LDS policy.
  • Quality of life. This covers a range of concerns, including birth defects that would render the child’s life painful or onerous to support, requiring artificial means. At the most liberal end, quality of life would also include elective abortions due to poverty or other lack of economic or emotional support. Studies in the book Freakonomics describe the decline in crime that occurred in inner cities 20 years after Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the US, correlating that when abortion is illegal, unwanted pregnancies to poverty-stricken mothers often create a vicious circle of crime. Children grow up with too little money and support, often in dire circumstances with minimal care and sometimes neglect or even abuse. Is it better for them not to be born?

Which brings us to the real question when religions weigh in on abortion: the theology of the soul. When does the soul enter the body? When does a fetus go from a living thing to a living person? [3] And what happens to the souls of the unborn?

In Abraham 3, scripture that is unique to the LDS tradition, we learn in v. 18 that spirits are eternal:

if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum,[4] or eternal.

Mormon theology is murky on when the spirit enters the body. Other religions are on record with stronger opinions. The Book of Mormon provides some possible insight in 3 Nephi 1: 13:

13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

If this is the pattern for all humans, the spirit enters the body soon before birth. If this is so, it means that abortions are killing a body but not dispossessing the spirit. It doesn’t necessarily follow that abortion cannot be a sin, or that it’s morally positive, but it does de-escalate the comparison to murder that many non-LDS opponents of abortion use; for Mormons to call abortion murder is theological hyperbole because we don’t share a set doctrine that the spirit resides in the body in utero. Theologically, at least, our stance on abortion is more neutral and less fraught than that of other conservative religions.

This doctrinal gray area may provide some comfort, but it also brings up new questions:

  • When are spirits assigned to specific bodies? If those bodies are not born, do they just get assigned to a different one?
  • Do our spirits look like our bodies? If not, what do they look like?
  • Is spirit to body assigning random or is there something specific about the bodies and situations to which we are assigned?
  • Is it worse to be born to a bad circumstance that might make us more likely to have either genetic predisposition to sin or to live in circumstances that lack support and will be more likely to lead to unhappiness or sin? Or does God handicap our score at the judgment bar to allow for these differences of circumstance?

Legislating morality

What moral choices do we need to legislate and what choices do we allow individuals to choose, even though many religious people would not personally participate? Liberals tend to focus on individuals making the choices that directly affect their lives, and conservatives tend to focus on the law preventing immoral actions, perhaps operating on a belief that without legislation, people will act in immoral ways that are selfish and will not exhibit sound moral reasoning. Since abortion has always existed, pro-choice voters promote abortion being safe, legal, and rare, emphasizing preventing unwanted pregnancy rather than relying on post-conception choices. Given the poor track record of religious groups when it comes to promoting contraception and sex education, there seems to be more going on than an effort to reduce unwanted births. Churches that see procreation as a duty and moral imperative, for example, will have a negative view of anything that reduces the birth rate, regardless the circumstances of those births.

In a church like ours that has become increasingly conservative over time, we often lose sight of the nuances that set us apart from other conservative faiths. A few years ago, a Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward was trying to drum up some easy enthusiastic answers and asked what the church’s stance on abortion was. A sister who was a previous Relief Society President in our ward raised her hand and said “It should only be done prayerfully and in rare circumstances.” The teacher was frustrated with this answer. He tried again, “But are we for it or against it?” Another sister raised her hand, “It’s up to the individuals in counseling with their bishop and doctor.” He began to be very agitated. He tried a third time, but just could not get the rousing pro-life battle cry he was seeking. I’m sure results would vary in another ward, but these sisters were in fact more consistent with church policy than he was.

Jumping back to Catholicism which does officially oppose divorce and birth control and is a pro-replenishing the earth religion, an article in Time revealed that even their stance on abortion has more nuance than is usually acknowledged.

The Catechism contains only six paragraphs on abortion, including: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”

The Catholic church has long taught that abortion is a sin, but the reasons have changed over time. The early prohibition of abortion was based on a belief that only people who engage in forbidden sexual activity would attempt abortion. Many church officials and anti choice Catholics now focus on the argument that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. This view, however, is based on faulty science from the 17th century, when scientists looked at fertilized eggs through primitive microscopes and imagined that they saw fully formed animal fetuses.

The church hierarchy has since rejected the notion that a fetus is a fully formed person. In its most recent statement, the 1974 Declaration on Procured Abortion, the Vatican acknowledged that it does not know when the fetus becomes a person: “There is not a unanimous tradition on this point and authors are as yet in disagreement.” Neither St. Augustine nor St. Thomas Aquinas, two of the most important Catholic theologians, considered the fetus in the early stages of pregnancy to be a person.

There are a few other nuances to how theology is set in Catholicism that are of interest to this argument (also from the article in Time):

  1. Catholicism doesn’t declare that laws that govern a country must comply with Catholic doctrine, even if Catholicism is the predominant religion in that country. Catholics support many public policies that honor the freedoms of non-Catholics.
  2. The notion of papal infallibility still allows for question, and there is a long-standing tradition of scholarly discussion on Catholic doctrine. Theologians are encouraged to think and write about Catholic doctrine in challenging ways.
  3. The concept of reception (similar to the law of common consent in our early church history) means that Catholic people must accept a church law in order for it to be considered in effect, and the Catechism states that “a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience,” even when it conflicts with Catholic teachings.

Although both Catholics and Mormons have common ground on abortion, our own policies support making abortion legal, safe, and rare. What is considered out of bounds is for a member in good standing to encourage or participate in an elective abortion that is motivated by “personal or social convenience.” And even then, policy only states that such a church member “may be subject to church discipline.” That stance does not require that abortion be illegal, merely that it be taken very seriously. And if we take human reproduction seriously, we will take contraception and sex education seriously.

  • In your experience, do church members share this nuanced understanding of abortion or are they more forceful than the actual policy?
  • Do you think Roe v. Wade will one day be overturned in the US? Would that be a good or bad thing in your opinion?
  • What do you think motivates abortion regulation by churches: protecting the unborn, controlling reproductive choices, discouraging consequence avoidance, or something else?
  • In your opinion, is it worse for a fetus to be aborted (and possibly born elsewhere) or for an unwanted pregnancy to result in an unwanted child?


[1] Consider the horrifying prospect of the state launching an investigation into miscarriages to ensure they weren’t actually “home abortions.”

[2] Given that the likelihood that Trump has personally paid for abortions is high (unless he simply refused to pay for them), this seems ironic to me.

[3] I’m thinking around the age where they start wearing deodorant and brushing their teeth regularly.

[4] Nice made up word, snicker. Well, apparently it does come from Genesis, according to “Joseph Smith’s Use of Hebrew” by Louis C. Zucker: “One word remains: gnolaum (3:18) – “Yet these two spirits. . . shall have no beginning. . . no end, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.” This, again, is an exact Seixas transliteration; however, the Hebrew word is not an adjective but a noun, which in the plural may act as an adverb. The phrase “an everlasting covenant” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:9) is taken from Genesis 17:13, where gnolaum, in the English idiom “everlasting,” is, in the Hebrew idiom, a noun, “eternity.” Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but there sure aren’t a lot of sources out there on this one.


  1. “Another concern applies to pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. This tragedy is compounded because an innocent woman’s freedom of choice was denied. In these circumstances, abortion is sometimes considered advisable to preserve the physical and mental health of the mother.”

    – Russell M. Nelson, “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless,” October 2008

    So where’s the church’s public statement opposing abortion laws on religious freedom grounds where they are written to criminalize the rape and incest exception – and the duty for a woman to have freedom of choice and a prayerful responsibility to make that decision with divine guidance, free from outside intervention – enshrined in the doctrines taught by church leadership at the highest levels?

    (I suspect the church’s religious freedom activism is really only about LGBT discrimination, and its position on a woman’s prayerful and divinely-guided choice as to abortion under certain circumstances, although taught by both Nelson and Oaks from the pulpit, is insincere.)

  2. it's a series of tubes says:

    Mormon theology is murky on when the spirit enters the body. Other religions are on record with stronger opinions. The Book of Mormon provides some possible insight in 3 Nephi 1: 13:

    13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

    If this is the pattern for all humans, the spirit enters the body soon before birth.

    I think you may be extrapolating far beyond what this scripture can reasonably support. The prior verse merely states that Nephi heard “the voice of the Lord”. Many prophets have recorded similar experiences throughout the scriptures; none of those experiences could serve to establish where the Lord’s spirit body was actually located at the corresponding time.

    Additionally, if your conclusion is followed, it can lead to many absurd results:
    -pregnant person X is murdered and the baby is cut from her womb, well ahead of the due date (see recent headlines). Once removed from the mother, the baby is clearly a person. Does the spirit/body integration process get an emergency kickstart in that instance? If so, when? When the murderer finalizes their plans? When the knife enters the woman?
    -What about a woman who has an unscheduled C-section?

    There’s nothing magical about passing through the birth canal, or being surgically extracted from the womb, to initiate or cause spirit/body integration. Some babies are born past 40 weeks. Others are born in the later 20s, and survive thanks to modern medicine.

    The best we can say regarding when the spirit enters the body is “we don’t know”. And because we don’t know, we should tread very, very lightly.

  3. Without wanting to get into all the other ideas presented here (for the moment), I do want to say that I don’t find 3 Nephi 1:13 to be helpful for answering the question of when a spirit enters a body. There are too many questions about the mechanics of all of this that muddy the waters. (e.g., can Jesus speak from inside a womb? Can he leave a message for the Holy Ghost or the Father to deliver later? If the Son can speak for the Father, can the Father or Holy Ghost simply speak for the Son? If the Christ’s embodiment would preclude speaking via revelation to others, does that mean “the Lord” no longer gave revelation to Nephites during his mortal sojourn in Palestine? Did devout Jews praying to “the Lord” in AD 30 not get their prayers answered?). It’s especially tricky to attempt to infer an idea from a verse that isn’t really about that idea.

    In any event, my own personal sense of logic argues against the notion that a spirit does not enter as body until just before birth. My child was born on a particular day, and her body had a spirit. Of course, she could just as well have been born a week or so earlier, and she would still have had a spirit. She could have been born months premature, and she would have still had a spirit (the earliest surviving premature birth was at 21 weeks, 5 days—that child had a spirit). In fact, my wife—God forbid—could have been murdered and our child pulled without warning from her womb, and that child would still have been a living soul. I guess it’s possible that God knows exactly the moment each child is going to be born, and therefore, no matter the timing or process, God only inserts each spirit just before its birth, but I just don’t get that sense. Babies do quite a bit of stuff in utero that seems awfully alive (i.e., having a spirit), including learning, remembering, and recognizing their mother’s voice.

    Just my two cents on this one particular point.

  4. it's a series of tubes says:

    So where’s the church’s public statement opposing abortion laws on religious freedom grounds where they are written to criminalize the rape and incest exception

    Those laws aren’t intended to be enforced; in fact, they specifically include implementation delays. They’re intended to provoke a constitutional challenge and secure Supreme Court review.

  5. Eric Hansen says:

    In your experience, do church members share this nuanced understanding of abortion or are they more forceful than the actual policy?
    Most members I interact with share a more nuanced understanding of abortion than what is portrayed in the media. My wife is one exception that does not believe in the rape exception espoused in Church policy. I believe I can make a principled argument for that exception, but I’m not settled on the matter by any means.

    Do you think Roe v. Wade will one day be overturned in the US? Would that be a good or bad thing in your opinion?
    Maybe. Returning the issue to the states would definitely be a good thing, though the moral code set forth in our founding documents do provide justification for a federal approach to abortion specifically.

    What do you think motivates abortion regulation by churches: protecting the unborn, controlling reproductive choices, discouraging consequence avoidance, or something else?
    I believe abortion regulation from churches is primarily motivated by a respect for the sanctity of human life that is created in God’s image. I think there is a secondary motivation in respecting God’s will for us and ensuring we take the opportunity to learn and grow from life’s experiences, good and bad.

    In your opinion, is it worse for a fetus to be aborted (and possibly born elsewhere) or for an unwanted pregnancy to result in an unwanted child?
    It is worse for a fetus to be selectively aborted. It is worse for the parents to miss out on the blessing of that child. It is worse for the child that did not have a chance to live a full life as God intended. It is worse for the succumbing to Satan’s temptation to rationalize and justify more and more disrespect for life and morals established by God.

  6. it’s a series of tubes: well, she only suggests that that verse offers “possible insight.” I’ve often thought of that verse when the topic of “when does the spirit enter the body?” comes up. To me it feels even more absurd to believe that the Lord’s spirit had already entered the mortal fetus inside Mary and he was somehow still able to speak with Nephi. And to your other point: there are a lot of theological ideas that can be taken to absurd results! I think her main point is the same as yours: we don’t know, so we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. But that verse is certainly intriguing!

  7. I do not find even minimally credible the notion that the church is opposed on religious freedom grounds to abortion statutes that lack exceptions for rape and incest, just as it is opposed on those same grounds to civil rights statutes that lack exceptions allowing for discrimination based on religious conviction, but that the church refrains from publicizing its opposition because it believes the strategic intent of the former statutes is that they not be enforced.

  8. Angela C says:

    tubes: “There’s nothing magical about passing through the birth canal, or being surgically extracted from the womb, to initiate or cause spirit/body integration” Why not? I’m not suggesting it’s “magical” beyond the idea that the spirit or consciousness or whatever you wish to call it is itself “magical.” Humans possess it, and theoretically other animals do not. That in itself is magical. There is a big difference in the independence of a creature from when it lives inside of another person and when it no longer does. (Yes, infants are still dependent, but physically separate from the mother). Ultimately, since we don’t know when the spirit enters, whenever it does enter is “magical” in that sense of what a unique occurrence it is. There is something to the body taking a breath that matters in LDS theology as well. Stillborn children are not sealed to parents.

    Greg: “my own personal sense of logic argues against the notion that a spirit does not enter as body until just before birth. My child was born on a particular day, and her body had a spirit. Of course, she could just as well have been born a week or so earlier, and she would still have had a spirit.” Try this argument with the other type of birth: death. The spirit leaves the body at death, regardless of when death occurs, whether through a protracted illness or something totally unexpected (and perhaps untimely) like a car accident, curtailing one’s natural life expectancy.

  9. Just FYI, in Handbook 2 21.3.10 (Stillborn children) it states:

    “It is a fact that a child has life before birth. However, there is no direct revelation on when the spirit enters the body.”

  10. Angela C says:

    Eric Hansen: “It is worse for a fetus to be selectively aborted.” In what way is it worse for the fetus if only that particular body is made unavailable and therefore the spirit goes elsewhere (presumably to a better home)?
    “It is worse for the parents to miss out on the blessing of that child.” That’s an anti-abortion fantasy in which middle class stable nuclear families are the primary people being discussed. That’s not the situation with most abortions.
    “It is worse for the child that did not have a chance to live a full life as God intended.” Again, that presupposes that the spirit was killed, not just the uninhabited fetus (body). Would God’s plan be so easily thwarted or would that spirit then go to a viable body?
    “It is worse for the succumbing to Satan’s temptation to rationalize and justify more and more disrespect for life and morals established by God.” Certainly, but creating unwanted pregnancies is an equal disrespect then. Are you equally distraught by that? If so, do you advocate birth control and sex education?

  11. Also FYI, on a closely related matter, the Church has no position on embryonic stem cell research.

  12. Sunday school class misunderstood the policy. The policy is that abortion is wrong except in the enumerated circumstances. However, even in the enumerated circumstances, and abortion is not automatically right. So to simply jump to the idea that an abortion is acceptable in the eyes of the church as long as it is done with prayer is flat out wrong.

    The religious and theological questions surrounding abortion are fascinating and important. However, they should not dictate policy. The question of personhood is a difficult philosophical question, and it is one that policy should only step into after serious thought. However, what we know scientifically is that upon conception, there is a unique human organism alive within the mother. And abortion causes the death of that human organism. With that scientifically correct understanding, it seems almost Unthinkable to support any policy that would allow anyone to abort at anytime for any reason. On top of that, Roe versus Wade is one of the most legally indefensible decisions in the history of the court. There is no constitutional language to support a right to an abortion.

    And can we quit with the anti-choice language? It is as unnecessarily inflammatory as anti-life is. This post seemed to do such a good job of intelligently and carefully analyzing this issue right up until that moment.

  13. My own change of opinion about abortion started right after I graduated BYU. At the time I sort of half believed that even in cases of rape and invest the baby should be placed for adoption (I’m also adopted and was glad I wasn’t aborted). I also only half believed that serious enough pregnancy complications existed that would ever merit abortion. I was young, naive, and inexperienced.

    Within the span of 6 months two good friends had non viable pregnancies. One was a trisomy disorder that was virtually always fatal to the baby and the other was a fetus with no lungs – always fatal to baby. The OBGYN for both was an LDS Bishop and one of the young mothers was active LDS also right out of BYU. The LDS Bishop OBGYN suggested abortion instead of letting the babies be born to a painful 5 minutes of life as well as to lessen the risks and health impacts on the mothers. One mother opted for abortion and one opted for an difficult pregnancy knowing it would end in an emotionally devastating birth.

    On the other hand I remember reading a matter of fact New York Times article about a young mother who had twins in her womb. She could only support one baby, not two, so she was looking for a doctor who would abort one of the babies but not hurt the other.

    I still have mixed and complicated feelings about abortion but it occurs to me that ultimately we have to trust women to make the best decision for themselves. I’m influenced by my liberal daughter who points out that it’s her freaking body. My stance probably can be summed up as “abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.”

  14. Economic considerations for abortion literally make me sick. I do not make Nazi comparisons lately, but if we talk about the economic drain of human beings on society, and let that dictate whether we can cause death in order to achieve economic goals, we lose our humanity.

  15. Olde Skool says:

    I am thinking about Carolyn’s recent post on Linguistic Curiosity. Having observed Mormons in discussion about abortion for some years–yes, in person, but especially in the anonymity and distance of online–I wonder whether this is one issue where (paraphrasing Carolyn) hearing the pain and experiences and perspectives and the life experiences lurking beneath the words will never result in compassion and understanding. I hope that is not the case, but I fear it is, and I fear that abortion will continue to be used (perniciously, by politicians etc) for precisely this reason as a wedge between persons who might otherwise come to mutual respect.

  16. Angela C: “Try this argument with the other type of birth: death. The spirit leaves the body at death, regardless of when death occurs, whether through a protracted illness or something totally unexpected (and perhaps untimely) like a car accident, curtailing one’s natural life expectancy.”

    All I’m saying is that we don’t have a clear notion of the exact point that a spirit enters a body, though my observation leads me to surmise that it happens at some point well ahead of birth.

    I guess I’m unsure what the comparison to death would yield, though setting it up as strictly equivalent to birth sort of begs the question. Death is defined, theologically, as the spirit leaving the body; birth, however, is not defined as a spirit entering the body.

    And it just seems likely to me, based on the evidence I can observe, that a child is basically the same being before or after birth—a few minutes (or hours or days) and about a foot south just don’t seem to really alter the basic nature of the baby, as far as I can see.

    Death, on the other, usually seems to come fairly abruptly. But sometimes even then I have questions: when actually does a spirit leave? Brain death? Cardiac arrest? Respiratory arrest? What about those whose bodies otherwise continue functioning on life support? When exactly is the moment a spirit leaves?

    Overall, my point is that we don’t know a lot of things. And like Tubes says, since we don’t know when a spirit enters a fetus, we ought to be extremely careful.

    (If we’d like a comparison to death, we have stringent protocols in place to avoid treating a patient as dead—discontinuing treatment, harvesting organs, or removal to the morgue—unless we are quite certain that death has occurred. This suggests that an equal caution be exercised with regard to a developing fetus—that in the absence of certainty of when a spirit enters a body, when it becomes a living person, we ought to proceed *as if* it were a living person.)

  17. Sebastian Grober says:

    The two worst decisions of the Supreme Court are similar in nature; Dred Scot denied the humanity of blacks, and Roe denies the humanity of the unborn.

    I would be happy to celebrate the overturning of Roe, but I’m very skeptical that Roberts and Kavanaugh will actually side with Justice Thomas. These two moderate conservatives are more likely to chip away and allow restrictions through the “undue burden” clause in PP v Casey.

    A personal note about parenthood, my Uncle always thought he didn’t want any children but when his wife decided to stop taking birth control he stepped up to the plate and became a wonderful, devoted, and loving father to his eventually four children.

  18. Well, the gospel according to me: I see that as soon as a fetus is viable, independent of his mother ( at least a 50/50 chance of survival outside the womb), I would consider that a person, and then it is depriving a person of life, which is murder. So I absolutely have iasues with late term abortions. My OBGYN friend says in 35 yrs, there has never been a case where a late term abortion is necessary for medical reasons. Its nearly always safer to just birth the baby, who has a good chance of survival.

    I, myself, would not even abort earlier, except for medical reasons. Or maybe rape. That said, I am pro choice, pro cheap/free contraception, pro education, whatever we need to do to prevent unwanted conception in the 1st place. I dont think I need to impose my sense of morality on anyone else, esp for such a difficult issue.

  19. FWIW, Brigham Young taught that the spirit enters the body at the time of the quickening (when a mother can start feeling the body move around). But who knows really.

    I believe we should err on the side of the mother and her doctor, consulting with spouse (if there is one) and spiritual leader (if she would like to). Beyond that, it ain’t up to us. It is, indeed, her body and her health. One ought not be forced to risk life or health to benefit another.

  20. I am an Episcopalian, but enjoy following this and other blogs to learn from other traditions. Thank you for this thorough and thoughtful treatment of a very difficult topic.

  21. Why does this “her body, her choice” logic get employed without apparent justification? We generally believe people ought to have autonomy in their families and homes, and yet we don’t justify child abuse with “their home, their choice”.

  22. This was a well written post. My personal feeling is that you cannot grant absolute personhood to a fetus without withdrawing it from the mother. When the life of the fetus automatically takes precedence, women die. The case that haunts me is a mother in Ireland who had an incomplete miscarriage. The fetus was non-viable but doctors would not abort because the legal risks were too high. She died, needlessly (her name was Savita Halappanavar).

    To me the question is – would I rather preserve the ability of women to make decisions I personally disagree with and risk that some women will needlessly die? Or would I rather grant that freedom, with its cost of unborn lives, and save the lives of desperate or medically at risk women?

    Looking at the cost of both sides, I believe in the right to have an abortion, though I personally disagree with the choice in many circumstances.

  23. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I fear that “Time” magazine is not a reliable, far less an authoritative, source on what the Catholic Church teaches or why it teaches it.

    Induced abortion was very common in the Greco-Roman world long before the time of Christ. So was debate about its legitimacy, which is why an undertaking not to prescribe abortifacients was included in the oath for physicians of Hippocrates (died c. 370 BC). The early Christian Church document known as the Didache — which could be thought of as the first Christian catechism — explicitly denounced the practice of abortion as sinful. That document was probably written in the later part of the first century AD, almost certainly within the lifespan of Christians who were alive when Jesus was on earth. (Interestingly, for those like emeritus-Pope Benedict XVI who contend that the rape and sexual assault of children was a function of the Sexual Revolution, the same passage of the Didache says: “You shall not corrupt boys” [Did. 2.2]). Similar prohibitions appear in much early Christian writing, notably the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 100 AD) and many of the works of the Church Fathers (e.g. Clement of Alexandria in the second century AD, or Tertullian in the third).

    Various Christian scholars, including St Augustine and St Jerome, expressed uncertainty as to when the soul entered the body. It was not unusual to associate this with “quickening”; that is, when the movement of the fetus could be felt by the mother. But that does not mean that they, or any other early Christian authority, regarded abortion at any stage as morally licit. It was always condemned by the Church, though for different reasons (some considered it homicide; some a frustration of the Divine plan of creation; and some means by which illicit sex could be facilitated or concealed).

    It is not at all true that ” the Catechism states that ‘a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience,’ even when it conflicts with Catholic teachings.” It is astonishing that Angela C should have made such a claim, which I can only suppose was derived from some such source as “Time” magazine rather than the CCC itself. If she will consult section 1792 of the Catechism, she will see that “rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching” along with “assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience” are given as examples of the source of “errors of judgment in moral conduct.” A criterion of membership of the Catholic Church is acceptance of its authority to teach definitively on matters of faith and morals; this is what separates us from Protestant Christians, who admit no such authority.

    I defer to people here about what the LDS Church teaches about induced abortion. As a Catholic, I’m unlikely to be able to contribute anything useful to that discussion. But — other than those rare cases in which the survival of the fetus is impossible in any event (e.g. ectopic pregnancy), Catholicism has never held or accepted, at any time in its history, that the practice of elective abortion is licit.

  24. Mark B. says:

    Putting aside all your other questions, it would be a huge step forward in our national politics if Roe v. Wade were banished to the black hole in Harry Blackmun’s mind from which it sprang. Why on earth should presidential politics turn on hopes that a candidate will name to the least democratic institution in the country someone who might just decide to overrule Roe?

    Kill it, and then let the people work out the nuances of when and in what circumstances abortion is permitted.

  25. I find the language that the handbook uses is interesting. It first lists when abortion is probably okay, and then it makes a jump to saying that when it’s wrong is when it’s done for convenience. I think the word convenience enforces the idea that the women getting abortions are young professionals, who got too casual with their boyfriend and they don’t want a baby ruining their free-wheeling lifestyle. And that they find being pregnant, and getting an abortion to be no big deal.
    I know that was my understanding circa middle school, but it’s gotten more complicated as I’ve gotten older. I doubt that there is a single woman who took the decision to get an abortion lightly. There’s so much grey area to me between rape and convenience. I’m glad that the subject of abortion doesn’t come up frequently in church settings.
    I find anyone who wants to ban abortion, but refuses to support birth control to be a hypocrite. If you honestly think abortions are bad, then you should support preventative measures.
    Given how most actions a newborn takes are reflexive, the spirit might even enter the body a few minutes or hours after birth.
    In this last General Conference, someone mentioned protecting the unborn. It kind of caught me off guard. I can’t remember a previous time that abortion had come up in General Conference. I hope it will remain infrequent

  26. Anon LDS Mom says:

    I’ve known 2 women who were raped and became pregnant as a result (and shared with me their story, as there are probably many more with the same story). One kept the child and raised it, later marrying a man who adopted her child as his own. The other gave up the child for adoption. Both women were members of the Church.

    I’ve known two women who have had abortions (and shared it with me). One woman’s pregnancy was the result of consensual, unprotected sex with her boyfriend but when she became pregnant, she definitely didn’t want to raise a child and chose to have an early abortion.She was not a member. The other woman already had 2 children and the pregnancy was killing her. She had only a few more weeks before she would die. This woman was a member of the Church. She counseled very carefully with several doctors, her husband, her parents, her bishop, and her stake president. She did choose to have an abortion at 20 weeks to save her own life and it was the absolute hardest, most heart-breaking decision she’s ever had to make.

    My best friend had a daughter who was born with a fatal defect (not caught before birth). The daughter lived a painful 4.5 months in the hospital before the doctors realized she was terminal. The last week of her life my friend said she felt like her daughter’s spirit was both here and on the other side of the veil.

    A very close relative had a pregnancy where the baby had some very serious, and most likely fatal, defects. The doctors encouraged a late term abortion because there was legitimate concern about viability outside the womb. She prayed and prayed, consulted with her bishop, SP, family, and husband and ultimately decided to continue with the pregnancy. My nephew was born with very few defects and, after a few minor surgeries, is a completely normal child now.

    From all of these things and from my own personal feelings about pregnancy and birth (and I’m fairly self-qualified to make some decisions seeing as I’ve had 5 children), my opinion about abortion is LET WOMEN MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICE ABOUT THEIR BODY. All of these women made informed choices. I may not have agreed with some of their choices, but not a single one of them made their choice without deep, profound pondering and seeking counsel from trusted care providers, family, and religious leaders (in the case where they were religious).

    Do I want babies to live? Yes. Do I believe we should protect the sanctity of life and the purpose of bringing His spirits down here to experience mortality? Absolutely. But I also believe that our first gift from Him was agency. We are capable. We are responsible. We are smart. We are strong. We are sensitive. We should have autonomy over our own body.

    Of course, I realize that these abortions bans are less about the actual state law and much more about the Supreme Court battle, but that doesn’t ease my concerns. It only inflates my concerns, since I have 4 daughters. Will they be allowed to have control over their own body? I hope so. I pray so. Men shouldn’t make rules about women’s bodies. We can do that, and we will do so with careful thought, with regard for differing circumstances, and with respect for both the unborn AND the mother.

  27. Wow, anon. Thank you.

  28. “In your opinion, is it worse for a fetus to be aborted (and possibly born elsewhere) or for an unwanted pregnancy to result in an unwanted child?”

    What exactly is our belief as to what happens to children who die before the age of accountability? I was taught as a youth that they go straight to the CK, but I haven’t heard that in a long time.

  29. nameless says:

    I was a planned child, but born into a family with terrible parents, and my life has been pretty rough. I’m now in a happier place and I enjoy life, but I still often think that it wouldn’t be so bad to be erased and just never have existed. I can’t say whether other people in similar situations feel like I do, but I think that LDS theology actually reinforces the idea that it might be better for somebody to not grow up at all than to live in an environment that limits their potential or warps their spiritual and mental development (see ReTx’s comment above).

    Anyway, regardless of one’s stance on whether a fetus has a spirit, the new laws seem unnecessarily anti-woman. I believe there are better policies to reduce abortion that would result in less insecurity and misery for everyone involved (especially women and children), and yet those policies are not being pursued. That makes it seem like these laws are ultimately about misogyny, which is disturbing and depressing.

  30. Rockwell says:

    With respect to the handbook policy, one aspect that is often ignored is the question of who gets to decide if a pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. So often, women are not believed or are afraid or unwilling to describe there experience as non-consensual. Incest, in particular, may never be revealed as the victim may be unwilling or prevented from naming the other person.

    As for Roe v. Wade, it has already been beaten to a bloody pulp. I’m going to do some amateur internet lawyering here, and if any of the real lawyers want to set me straight they can feel free.

    Roe v. Wade originally protected the right of choice until the third trimester. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme court reinterpreted the Roe decision, ruling that states cannot put undue burden on an abortion of a fetus, but only if it is not yet viable, which was to be about 22-23 weeks, much earlier than the third trimester.

    I believe that former Justice O’Conner disliked this decision very much because the “viability” line is not going to be constant. In fact, while it is beyond our capability now, it is conceivable that eventually an artificial womb could allow viability outside of the mother soon after conception. If this happens, Roe v. Wade will have been made obsolete by technology. In other words, if women are to maintain a right to choose, they are going to need a new court case that redefines the terms of their rights.

    I find that this is one of the most difficult topics to discuss with people. Among my friends who a members, mostly men, it is unacceptable to discuss a pro-choice position. They make straw-men of the moderate and liberal positions. I can understand this to a degree: if one believes that abortion truly is equivalent to murder, it is hard to find common ground with someone who believes otherwise.

    On another note, I have often wondered at the ethical dilemma an LDS Obstetrician may face. I imagine that any OB can decline to perform a procedure on religious grounds, but that doesn’t address the question. Are there cases where an LDS OB would feel ethically compelled to perform an abortion that is not permitted by the Handbook? I do not know.

  31. Rockwell says:


    I couldn’t use your link but doing a Google search I found the newsroom statement of having no position on stem cell research.

    One of the most puzzling (to me) and most ignored (and perhaps unknown) policies of the church is that couples should not do in vitro fertilization. This was in Handbook 1, not readily available to members. I have never had access to handbook 1, but I’m confident it was there right near instructions to not have sterilization procedures. No in vitro fertilization means no embryonic stem cells. So while they may have claimed to not have a policy against embryonic stem cell research, they kind of did, and probably still do.

    If anyone has access to handbook 1, I’d like to have this confirmed or denied.

  32. never forget says:

    Google handbook 1. There are plenty of links out there to it.

  33. Our ward Relief Society had a lesson about abortion about 7 or 8 years ago. It obviously was not from a Church-wide curriculum; I do not know who requested it, or why; it was taught by the wife of our then-bishop (and General Authority Emeritus), a woman who was not usually a Relief Society teacher. It was very much a “there is never an excuse for abortion under any circumstances” lesson, but I don’t remember many details taught by the class leader.

    What I do remember is that it became one of those lessons that ran off the rails, taking on a sort of mob mentality with each speaker attempting to out-do the previous one. “I knew a woman who became pregnant under these circumstances, and she kept the baby, and isn’t that wonderful?” “Well *I* knew a woman who became pregnant under these other, much worse circumstances, and SHE kept the baby, and isn’t that wonderful?”

    The stories reached a fever pitch when one class member claimed to have known a woman who was raped by her ex-husband, “but she kept the baby because her ex-husband was such a good man, and isn’t that wonderful?!”

    That’s the point where I checked out from any further abortion discussion in a Church setting. If this woman — the wife of an apostle! — could claim that a rapist was “such a good man,” I knew there was little hope for reason or wisdom or guidance within the lay structure of the Church, and barring an explicit revelation formally presented and sustained, this was one of those areas where I had to rely on my own guidance from the Spirit to reach my own conclusions and take my own political or social positions.

    P.S. Note that Handbook 1 uses the term “forcible rape” as if there were a non-forcible variety. That speaks volumes.

  34. Ardis,

    There is in fact a kind of rape other than “forcible rape”; it’s called “statutory rape”.

  35. Statutory rape is rape because the child isn’t competent to give consent. Absence of consent = force, by definition.

    Go away, Dsc.

  36. Ardis,

    That’s how the terms are commonly used. I support statutory rape laws, as I agree that children cannot fully consent to sex. But it’s worth distinguishing between violent conduct and conduct that would be perfectly legal in the next state over because different states draw the line at different ages.

    The distinction between “forcible rape” and “statutory rape” is a common one, and the Church’s use reflects a desire to maintain a policy that doesn’t depend on varying state laws. It doesn’t reflect any nefarious intent or ignorance in the part of the Church.

    The fact that you tell someone to go away when faced with disagreement, on the other hand, does “speak volumes”.

  37. EnglishTeacher says:

    Handbook says very little about in vitro: mostly don’t do it by donating genetic material to sperm banks, don’t be artificially inseminated, surrogacy discouraged. My husband and I completed a 2 embryo transfer yesterday of our own little magical mixture of life after months of preparation. Every church source I found on this says, in essence, that it’s between husband and wife and the Lord to determine how many kids they have—just preserve life as best as possible. We forewent genetic testing for our embryos because those with abnormalities would be discarded. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been viable. It could mean embryos with Downs Syndrome and Cerebral
    Palsy and other disorders would have been disposed of, and since I’m the one who went out of my way to create them and try to give them life with IVF, it didn’t feel right to just discard if the genetics came back less than perfect. Genetic testing also felt vaguely eugenic. So I chose not to know, told my doctor to put the best looking ones in there, and that we’d store any remaining embryos for future use. The remaining 3 may or may not make it to cryopreservation, but I feel at peace with the decision. I’ve observed and respected the preservation of life to the best of my abilities and now I pray 2 little blastocysts latch onto my womb’s lining and grow into children I’ve been trying to have for over 3 years.

  38. I take exception to the view that only with the elevation of Judge Kavanaugh to the SC did these states pass very restrictive laws on abortions. There is a huge precursor to the Georgia and Alabama laws. That is the infanticide laws from New York and the any time abortion law in Virginia.
    It seems that the NY or VA law or both will be headed to the federal appeals courts, at minimum. The pro-life states want some vehicles to get their position heard in the high federal courts also. If there are several states allowing late term abortion without any real restrictions, and no corresponding laws trying to limit abortion, then the SC and federal appeals courts will be much less likely to further restrict abortion, and more likely to allow the late term abortion laws to stand.

    I also agree with Mark B above. Getting rid of Roe v. Wade would be a step forward for the national political discourse. This would also eliminate the entire federal component of abortion and let states deal with it. We would see the infanticide laws in NY and the abortion restrictions of AL at the same time.

  39. Rockwell says:

    Thanks you English Teacher (and others) for responding regarding in vitro. I wish you luck. I also hope that I did not imply that I disapprove of your path, or the efforts of others regarding fertility procedures of any kind.

  40. I tell you to go away, Dsc, not because of disagreement but because you’re part of the problem. You split hairs so finely that words and arguments have no meaning.

    In the case of “forcible rape,” there is a very long history IN THE CHURCH of not trusting women’s accounts of rape. Did she scream loudly enough? Did she fight him? Did she die before surrendering? I was in high school (we’re not talking 19th century here) when the First Presidency made its statement that a woman was guilty of unchastity if she didn’t resist her attacker “with all her strength and energy.” I’ve read minutes of church trials where local leaders questioned women in excruciating detail to determine whether she was guilty of adultery and should be excommunicated, or whether she had called loudly enough or fought back adequately and therefore was an innocent victim.

    This is a problem, and does “speak volumes” about the outdated presumptions of those who write these policies, in large part because it presumes that rape is only rape when it involves force, or — in your even stronger term — violence. Force can take the form of coercion or verbal threat rather than physical violence; a woman may freeze in fear and not call out or respond with “strength and energy.” It’s still rape. A child who is not competent to give consent but who is coerced through sweet talk or romantic notions by a boy barely older than she is — statutory rape — is still the victim of rape even though she doesn’t fight back. It’s still force. It’s still rape.

    In the context of the current discussion on abortion, this matters: If statutory rape is one category and “forcible” rape is another, the Handbook doesn’t allow an abortion exception for the victim of statutory rape, no matter the circumstances, no matter the age difference, no matter whether the situation would be called statutory rape in every jurisdiction in the world. Your distinction is false and harmful. You are part of the problem. Go away.

  41. Whether the fetus is alive is irrelevant.
    It depends on the mother’s body to live. You cannot compel someone to play host for the life of another. We don’t even force corpses to donate their organs against their will. Under these laws, a woman will have more rights to her body dead than alive!

  42. Ardis,

    I’m not splitting hairs; I’m making the same distinction that the FBI makes. If you can’t have an adult conversation about the differences between two things that are clearly qualitatively different, then you are part of the problem. You’re not contributing to finding solutions or persuading anybody to your position.

    The Church’s policy treats a 17-year-old whose 18-year-old boyfriend gets her pregnant in Arizona differently than the victim of a violent attack. I don’t see how that’s somehow unreasonable. Whereas a 12-year-old who gets pregnant, would be at risk for severe psychological harm and therefore fall within the exception.

    Let me know when you’re ready to have an adult conversation.

  43. Susan,

    Your argument rests on its conclusion (you’re “begging the question”). At any rate, bodily autonomy is not absolute. Most states have laws mandating vaccination. And parents have legal obligations to their children that differ from others. Plus except in cases of rape, it was the parents’ voluntary conduct that created the situation. You can argue that you value bodily autonomy more than those factors, but you can’t pretend there’s an equivalency between pregnancy and organ donation.

  44. Jared Livesey says:

    Do we do “all things whatsoever [we] would that men should do unto [us]” when we abort a child?

  45. Angela C says:

    Jared Livesey: Do we do “all things whatosoever [we] would that men should do unto [us]” when we force a woman of little means or support or desire to provide a home for an unwanted fetus for 9 months, undergoing the process of birth that is jeopardizes her life? Do we do “all things whatosoever [we] would that men should do unto [us]” when we investigate miscarriages as if they were potential abortions? Do we do “all things whatosoever [we] would that men should do unto [us]” when we put women on trial to prove they were raped rather than letting them make the choices that are appropriate to their situation?

  46. Jennifer says:

    Ardis, normally I enjoy your opinions, but not here. Forcible rape and statutory rape are legal terminology. There is a difference. And people whose opinions differ from yours should not be excluded from the conversation. If you wish to go away, do so, but do not try to silence others.

  47. Okay, Jennifer, if your comment is relevant at all, this is its absurd and evil result: A man rapes an adult woman with violence and her abortion could be an exception to the policy under 24.1.1. A man coerces a child — rapes her, but with candy and flowers rather than a knife or a gun — and her abortion cannot be countenanced by the Church because there was no violence.

    When your premises lead to such an absurd conclusion, you should recognize that you’ve missed the entire point.

    I have nothing more to say to you or Dsc and will not respond again.

  48. Michael H. says:

    Thanks for a thoughtful post, Angela C.

    “In your experience, do church members share this nuanced understanding of abortion or are they more forceful than the actual policy?”

    I get the sense that the understanding of church members—from anonymous rank-and-filers like me all the way up to the president of the church—is largely shaped by partisan-political affiliation and the passions that were cultivated in the homes in which we were raised. Maybe here and there some church member adheres strictly to the words in the Handbook, with no personal embellishment, but I think that person would be extremely rare. With virtually all of us, doctrine and policy, on the one hand, and politics and personal biases on the other, are mixed up like salt and sugar to such an extent that we can’t discern the differences.

  49. Michael H. says:

    “Do you think Roe v. Wade will one day be overturned in the US? Would that be a good or bad thing in your opinion?”

    I don’t think it will, but I didn’t think a personal like Trump could possibly become president, so what do I know? I think it would be a horrible thing. In the US, a particular strain of religion (that particular strain being far from representative of the majority) imposing its values on a nonvoluntary population is tyranny of the very sort our founders denounced and rebelled against, and contradicts DC 134, where we’re warned against “infring[ing] upon the rights and liberties of others” (v4). We hold “sacred the freedom of conscience” (5), and “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government” (9).

  50. MIchael H. says:

    “What do you think motivates abortion regulation by churches: protecting the unborn, controlling reproductive choices, discouraging consequence avoidance, or something else?”

    There are lots of surface-level motivations: the sanctity of life (as long as we’re only applying that to fetuses), along with a Saturday’s Warrior view of the Plan of Salvation—specifically the nonscriptural notion that our genealogies are all intricately planned out in advance, and that each spirit only gets one pregnancy, one shot at a physical body. Deeper though, and perhaps subconsciously (in most cases, if we’re generous), and perhaps more systemically than personally, it’s to enforce the primacy of men and their control over women.

  51. Michael H. says:

    “In your opinion, is it worse for a fetus to be aborted (and possibly born elsewhere) or for an unwanted pregnancy to result in an unwanted child?”

    You always hear someone say, “My mother almost aborted me, and I’m so glad she didn’t.” I don’t want to minimize that. For that person, and anyone who benefits at all from that person’s life, it’s absolutely true that an unwanted child should take precedence. I also think that there have been many billions of lives that have been almost nonstop miserable, and their truth might be different, and different kinds of different. I do believe—and I can be every bit as nonscriptural as all those Saturday’s-Warrior-type believers—that spirits aren’t limited to one pregnancy. Again, I can’t cite a verse for it; it’s merely a general belief in perfectly just and perfectly loving parents in heaven. “That one didn’t work out? Well, then let’s send her over there instead.”

  52. If _you_ have never been pregnant, I don’t think you should have a say. Come to the table. Try to understand, sure. But if _your_ body has never been hijacked by the unborn, you are talking about things you have no way of understanding.

    Before _I_ was pregnant I _thought_ I understood. My mom had been pregnant. My friends too. My sister-in-laws. I was an informed, educated voter. I absolutely had an opinion.

    But my eyes were opened. Pregnancy opened my eyes to realities I’d been able to gloss over because up to that point I’d lived a life of priviledge. Never having to share your body continuously with another life form is a privilege.

    Until it has been _you_ wondering how _you_ are going to make it to work the next day when _you_’ve spent the night vomiting in the toilet despite the Zofran that your doctor gave _you_, _you_ don’t get to weigh in on abortion. You don’t get to weigh in on the hows, whys and whens it is or isn’t okay. Because you’re approaching the choice from your safe hold of priviledge.

    Why don’t men focus their money and energy into figuring out how they can carry a fetus to term with their bodies? Why doesn’t government spend more money on supporting and building a safety net for pregnant women and mothers? Why is everyone okay letting people who have no first-hand experience with pregnancy drive the bus?

  53. Regarding the equivalence of organ donation and pregnancy – you are not legally required to donate an organ to your child either. Or bone marrow. Or to run into a burning building if she is trapped inside. Your bodily autonomy in those instances takes legal (not moral) precedence over your responsibility to your offspring. I fail to see the distinction why it should be different with pregnancy.

  54. Abortion is wrong and not what God wants.

    If that’s all we can agree, let’s leave it at that. If you can’t agree reread the part quoted from the handbook and abortion being sin.

  55. Well, Ardis, I already addressed your concern given that the child-mother presumably risks severe psychological harm that would put the “health of the mother in serious jeopardy”, so there’s really not much else to say, is there?

    To address several comments here, I see the same recycled and weak arguments that pro-choicers often employ. Yes, pregnancy is a serious burden, but that doesn’t justify killing, especially when the parents’ choices created that circumstance. Is it fair to saddle a father who may not be financially ready with 18 years of child support liability? I would argue that it absolutely is. Pregnancy is harder than child support, but is it so hard that it justifies killing?

    Can we look at an infant, who is entirely dependent on others for survival, doesn’t have a fully developed sense of self, or many of the other markers of personhood, and decide that the infant’s circumstances make life not worth living? That the infant would be too much of a burden on society?

    Arguing that only women (or women who have ever been pregnant) are situated to make decisions regarding abortion is absurd. We don’t restrict participation in policy-making to those most directly involved. Should only victims of crime get to write our criminal code? Can only parents write our laws on child abuse?

    With respect to parents not having to donate an organ for their child, so what? That’s a policy decision. There is a good argument that a parent should have to donate blood, bone marrow, etc. if doing so does not present a substantial risk of permanent bodily harm to the parent and no other person is capable of donating to save the child’s life. It’s the latter point that makes organ donation fundamentally different, since rarely is a parent the only one able to give. I would support such a law, and would even support requiring the father to do so before the mother, regardless of current relationship to the child.

  56. Sorry to add another reply, but I hit return too soon. Organ donation and pregnancy are further distinguishable in that a child rarely needs an organ donation because of a parent’s choices. If a parent somehow could have, through reasonable measures, prevented the child from needing the blood/marrow/organ transplant in the first place, then you’d have a closer analogy to pregnancy.

  57. DSC,
    I’m mostly disturbed by your line of reasoning regarding “My choice, my house.” First of all, because it is mostly what is used. The reason most domestic abuse goes unchecked is because neighbors are unwilling to involve themselves in another household’s doings. Of course, the reason that we find domestic abuse abhorrent is, in part, because we respect the notion of bodily autonomy. Just because you are in charge of the household in a patriarchal society, that shouldn’t give you the right (or the obligation) to harm others in the household.

    But there are clear differences that you dismiss to your detriment with the comparison that you make. The domestic abuser is not risking their health to abuse the partner or child. The domestic abuser has not been forced into abuse by circumstances beyond their control. No-one argues that an abuser abusing their household might be the best outcome for all concerned. The analogy simply doesn’t work.

    Finally, while I’m skeptical of the notion that only women should be involved in abortion policy making, I do believe that their voices should be privileged as they are directly affected by abortion policy in a manner that men are not. Allowing the group in power to make decisions on behalf of a different group that doesn’t share that power tends to work out poorly in practice, no matter what ought to happen in the abstract.

    El Oso and Mark B.,
    Regarding getting rid of Roe v. Wade and letting the states work it out, what you see is what you will get. If you are happy with the laws in Georgia and Alabama, including provisions making it illegal to seek (or help someone seek) an abortion in another state, then you’ll be happy with the aftermath of a country without Roe.

  58. John C.

    Your first paragraph is, of course, spot on. Regarding your other comments:

    “The domestic abuser is not risking their health to abuse the partner or child.” I think you misspoke here, since the nexus between risk and abuse would be analogous to risk and abortion, not risk and pregnancy. Assuming you meant the latter, in the case of abusive parents, they are in fact burdened by risks and costs associated with parenthood. While not totally analogous to pregnancy, the fact that one takes on risk and costs does not exclude the law from regulating the activity.

    “The domestic abuser has not been forced into abuse by circumstances beyond their control.” And the vast majority of pregnancies are not beyond the mother’s control.

    “No-one argues that an abuser abusing their household might be the best outcome for all concerned.” So why do we do so for abortion? Replace abuse with “euthanize”, and we still have a circumstance where no one seems to question at least some amount of government oversight.

    “I do believe that their voices should be privileged as they are directly affected by abortion policy in a manner that men are not” This point would be more powerful if women and men had vastly different views of abortion policy. They do not. Across the decades, support and opposition to abortion has been roughly equal among both sexes.

  59. GEOFF -AUS says:

    There is an assumption by some above that making abortion illegal will stop it. Might the question not be how to best reduce the number of abortions to a minimum?
    I do not know how authoritive this article is but it makes sense to me that a society where abortion is legal is more likely to provide sex education and birth control.
    So if making abortion illegal increases the number of abortions, or even if it is close, and creates a hostile environment for women, that should be taken into account surely?

  60. A Fellow Traveler Along the Path says:

    This discussion has mostly ignored the question of the unwanted children and what their lives are like.

    I spent 13 years working with and getting to know kids who were unwanted by their parents. Many were told explicitly, “You ruined my life.” Some were shown how unwanted they were by the physical/emotional/sexual abuse their parents visited on them. Many but not all of them were removed from their parents and placed in foster care, where they were frequently abused some more by people who were supposed to care about them. (Yes, I know there are loving foster parents out there. What I saw was that foster care is, at best, uncaring.).

    These kids were _NOT_ “happy to be alive” and very few became “happy they were alive” as they got older.

    The anecdotal stories that are told about unwanted children that eventually become happy are widely circulated because of their rarity. Few people want to admit they were unwanted. Fewer still would want to admit they were miserable. You have to take the time to listen to them, build a relationship, and gain their trust. And, for the most part, they behave in reprehensible ways that continually push you away in word and deed.

    It is my shame that had I not been in a position where we were forced into close contact for long periods of time, I wouldn’t have made the effort to learn about and understand these kids.

    As these kids got older, I watched the cycles of poverty, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, bad behavior, and crime they came from play out through their lives. They, too, would experience unwanted pregnancies, and start the cycle over.

    “Is it better to be born and live an unwanted child?” I can answer pretty definitively, based on my work with many of them. NO.

  61. Angela C says:

    DSC: “And the vast majority of pregnancies are not beyond the mother’s control.” That may be true for intentional pregnancies. It is not so true for unwanted pregnancies.

  62. This was a well-done post, and until the Ardis/Dsc exchange, I was thoroughly impressed by the comments.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the spirit gradually attaches to the body over time, not at a given moment. I don’t think there is a time (22 weeks, 24 weeks, whatever) that you can say a fetus becomes a person. I’m not even convinced that the spirit is completely attached at birth, or maybe even for several weeks afterwards. I’ve specifically had the feeling that one of my kids was not present while I was holding her, and I became worried she might become a SIDS baby. I know, it sounds nuts, but it felt very different than when she’d been sleeping before. A couple hours later, she was back. That feeling that we get that newborns are close to heaven might be more real than we’d guess. I would think that the further along a fetus’s development, the greater the cosmic anguish at its destruction. In other words, my view pretty much lines up with Greg’s.

  63. Angela C,

    I don’t think I understand your comment. Just because something is unwanted doesn’t make it outside of someone’s control. In other words, often people have control, but for whatever reason, don’t exercise that control.

  64. Fellow Traveler,

    I’m sympathetic to the plight of people in bad circumstances. But explain to me why that reasoning justifies abortion? Does it justify infanticide as a mercy killing? Why does the mother get to choose whether it would be better that the child not be born? Why not the father? Or the state?

  65. For what it is worth, I’ll step up and say I am one of the unwanted children who would have preferred to have been aborted. You’re right, no one likes to talk about this side of it. But we exist.

    My dad was married to someone else. My mom didn’t want me and sold me to the highest bidder.

    If a soul can go elsewhere, anywhere other than where I went would have been preferable, including nowhere at all.

  66. I find this particular argument so racist and horrifying: “Children grow up with too little money and support, often in dire circumstances with minimal care and sometimes neglect or even abuse. Is it better for them not to be born?”

  67. “In your opinion, is it worse for a fetus to be aborted (and possibly born elsewhere) or for an unwanted pregnancy to result in an unwanted child?”

    Very interesting issue. Is a child killed by her parent before age 8 better off than one raised in bad circumstances to adulthood?

  68. In Catholicism, abortion is forbidden even in cases of ectopic pregnancy. Cutting out the rupturing Fallopian tube where the embryo is implanted is acceptable because the purpose of the operation is preventing the rupture, not abortion. Using drugs to end the pregnancy without risk of surgical complications or infertility is forbidden and conservative Catholics refer to this option as murder. As far as I know, this is the only exception to the abortion rule in Catholicism and it is allowed by redefining the procedure as not really an abortion.

  69. A Fellow Traveler Along the Path says:

    Amy R: Thank you for your willingness to add to the discussion. I know how difficult this is to talk about, even to an unembodied blog.

    Dsc and jpv: I was not talking about growing up simply in “bad circumstances” or with “too little money.” A child can be loved and desperately wanted by families living in poverty or difficult circumstances. Parents can love and want their children and be abusive because they know no better until they take parenting classes and learn new methods. Otherwise Child Protective Services would not bother with family re-unification.

    “Bad circumstances” are very different from being completely unwanted by your parents. Your bond with your parents creates the foundational relationship of your life. Being unwanted poisons and twists who you are and who you will become out of all recognition. It poisons your very soul.

    If you believe abortion is murder and infanticide and that any life is preferable, there is nothing I can say that will change your mind. I am not even trying to.

    The OP asks about the lives of unwanted children. It seemed to me no one in the comments was addressing that. I know from experience how much my perspective and attitudes changed when I got to know more than just a few of them well enough for them to trust me.

  70. A Fellow Traveler Along the Path says:

    A quick hint for those of you who are honestly interested in getting to know unwanted children: stop telling them how they feel. Stop telling them how lucky they are to be alive, how fortunate they are they weren’t aborted, how much they have to live for, how they can overcome “difficult circumstances.” Simply be quiet and let them tell their stories, their way, in their own time.

  71. Kevin Barney says:

    I am going to address the elephant in the room that everyone else is ignoring. Re footnote 4, gnolaum is a Sephardic transliteration of the Hebrew word ‘olam, which is indeed a noun, “Long time, eternity.” But it can also be used in different locutions to have adjectival force, “everlasting, continuous, perpetual.” I hope this eases the controversy somewhat…

  72. I think we put ourselves on a very slippery slope when we try to determine whose life is worth living. Because I can think of a number of adults whose lives I judge to be not worth living. Not because of ill health or lack of family caring but because they have used their agency to destroy the peace or safety of others. I personally believe in the death penalty and would like to see it carried out for the company leaders who started the opioid crisis, for all adulterers no matter what their excuse, for all who sexually prey on children or the mentally deficient, and for all rapists. But God has neither given me the right to take these people’s lives nor has society chosen to enact such laws. So I have to come to terms with the unfairness of mortality and seek peace through Christ. I think many can find reasons to wish certain people had never been born, including our former spouses. Some of the people you worship with today will have family members who will celebrate when they receive news of that person’s death. As someone who danced down the sidewalk when I got word of my former husband’s death, I tell you, do not start down the path of deciding whose life was worth living. It leads to justifying terrible behavior and cruelty. It leads to the excesses of Nazism. If the illegitimate child your husband conceived should never have been born, then certainly you are justified in calling them a bastard and telling them they were not wanted. If you feel they had a choice as to where they were born in mortality, then certainly you should feel free to let them know their choice destroyed your eternal marriage. Why should they live in ignorance of the price their life cost another?. Shouldn’t you feel free to destroy their peace? Is it really our place to make these decisions? Or are we called to live better or leave certain decisions to God? Including who lives and who dies.

  73. pamelaweste says:

    “If the illegitimate child your husband conceived should never have been born, then certainly you are justified in calling them a bastard and telling them they were not wanted. If you feel they had a choice as to where they were born in mortality, then certainly you should feel free to let them know their choice destroyed your eternal marriage. Why should they live in ignorance of the price their life cost another?”

    I’m sorry for what you have gone through and the bitterness you feel, but you’ve gone a bit too far here, imo.

  74. pamelaweste says:

    Pam, I’m sorry for my hasty comment. I didn’t pay enough attention to you last lines.

  75. Taiwan Missionary says:

    I lived many years ago in China. There, I came to know a woman, whose husband was in the United States getting a graduate degree. She went and visited him for several months, leaving their six-year-old boy with his grandmother. While she was with her husband in the U.S., she got pregnant. She and her husband were thrilled. She returned to China, naively thinking that because the second child had been conceived in the U.S., the Chinese authorities would allow her to keep It. However, she was compelled by her work unit, her danwei 單位, to have an abortion. She was heart-broken.
    Societies that compel women to have abortions, as China did at that time, are evil.
    I also believe that societies that completely ban abortions are uncaring, absolutist and unforgiving in
    their approach to moral issues, and therefore become evil like the self-righteous Pharisees condemned by Christ in the N.T.
    On any level, an abortion is a tragedy. Sometimes, it is necessary. Who gets to decide when it is necessary? That is the rub. There has to be an allowance for balancing the free agency of people in difficult situations who might need abortions, with society also protecting the lives of the defenseless unborn (but good luck trying to find the proper balance!). No society will strike a perfect balance; I believe that we must err on the side of mercy for women in difficult situations, who contemplate abortions. When the rights of a society (and abortion is an assault against a healthy society) collide with a person’s right to make her own decisions, the rights of the individual must prevail. Better the safety valve be too wide than too narrow. I might not like the reasons behind the abortion, but if I arrogate to myself the right to decide whether there should be an abortion, then our society has traveled down a slippery slope to dictatorship.
    I think that the approach of many European countries, while certainly not ideal, is significantly better than the mess we have in the U.S.: in the first 20 weeks, abortion freely available; after 20 weeks’ access to abortion is much more difficult, and medical justification is needed. I do not like abortion, and I view with misgivings the motivations behind many abortions, but I like even less the spectacle of Alabama creating an anti-abortion law that is so draconian as to be truly horrible.
    My bottom line is that I profoundly distrust both pro-choice and pro-life zealots . I object to so-called convenience abortions (whatever that means), on religious and moral grounds, but when I try to become the one who decides who can and who cannot get an abortion, then I place myself in a very precarious moral position—I start down the road to a Pharisee-like evil; I want to play God. So often, people who trumpet their efforts on behalf of the unborn are blind to the negative effects of their oh-so-sure views of morality.
    The whole purpose of these opinion posts is, in my opinion, to courteously exchange differing opinions, with someone’s mind open to considering that he might actually be wrong, and that the other guy might actually have a valid point. By all means, use the opinion posts to attempt to persuade, but I find that I learn more from discussions with those who believe differently than I do, than by sticking myself in an echo-chamber. Trying to excommunicate different ideas from the opinion post, as Ardis attempted to do in her exchange with DSC, are not helpful.

    It is ridiculous to assert that abortion is a problem that can be cleanly and easily solved. Always allow it, even partial-birth abortions, and our society is damaged. Never allow it, and we have created a

  76. I realize that most people choosing abortion agonize over the decision. But I have known those who did not. In the early 80’s, I shared a lunch counter with a woman who was casually explaining to her friend why she had just had one. Her wedding was planned for six months in the future and she did not wish to move it up.
    So I question whether removing moral judgements that condemn certain choices, such as abortion, keeps people from recognizing the evil of their actions. Society’s disapproval still counts in the absence of good moral teachings in the home.
    And as for those who concerned about Alabama’s law, people are attempting to force the US Supreme Court to rule. Most of the current actions are in response to New York’s law change allowing abortion up to the moment of birth. Were you equally concerned about that new law?

  77. I worked as a nanny for a very wealthy family a few years ago. While I would never suggest that financial security cannot aid greatly in raising children, I want you to know I have never seen children so neglected as those children were, emotionally and spiritually. The parents took every opportunity to not spend time with them. The parents had a full-time nanny for the three year old, me working the after school hours with the 10 year old. And frequently staying over night with all three children so the parents could get away overnight. There was also a weekend babysitter since they left almost every Friday afternoon and returned either Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon. And when they went on their yearly family vacation, they hired a separate nanny so they would not need to spend time with the children.
    The point I wish to make is neither financial means nor their lack are reasons for an abortion. They are independent to providing a loving home.

  78. Violet, there are a lot of misconceptions about the New York bill. Reasonable people may still disagree with it, but it does not allow the abortion of a viable fetus up to the moment of birth. It does allow abortion in the case of fetal non-viability or threat to maternal health.

    Again, you don’t have to agree with it. But I would urge you to please take more care in your choice of words. Women who are ending pregnancies after 24 weeks are making excruciating decisions. It is not a black and white issue.

  79. Bernice says:

    Pam, I did tell my former husband’s children by his second wife the circumstances of their parent’s affair and the conception of the oldest, and that he had not wanted to marry their mother and only had because she was pregnant. I waited until they were grown, but when the woman started telling people they were his eternal family and I had never loved him, something in me snapped. I realized later I should have confronted the mother not the kids, but I guess I wanted her to have to take responsibility for her actions from people she actually cared about, to see the accusations and betrayal on their faces since she seemed incapable of really accepting the enormity of her sin.
    No excuse really and I have apologized to the kids for dragging them into the mess their parents created. People can push too far, especially self-absorbed twits. And I both sang and danced and mourned when I heard my former husband died. And finally the Church changed their policy on sealing cancellations and I got one. If they had changed it decades earlier when I needed it, so much would have been better.
    But making decisions that destroy people’s lives, either physically or emotionally, is a very slippery slope. You can justify any behavior if you try hard enough. There is always a reason, which is why commandments exist, to guide you in times of great stress. Abortion is a sin,. So is manipulating people through their children. I am guilty of the latter, but hope I have been forgiven. But I do wonder why that oldest child came to earth in the way she did. Did she have a choice? Did she not care about my marriage? Speculation about children getting a new body if they are aborted is as futile as my questioning.

  80. Marion, I acknowledged most women and their concern before having an abortion. But not all women agonize. And I mentioned one I met who did not. So I fail to see what language I should be watching.
    As for the New York law, a woman’s health includes her mental well being, thus allowing abortion of a viable fetus whose delivery would not be physically injurious to the mother, up until the time of birth. What possible excuse could there be for such a change in the New York law to allow such extremes?
    The Alabama law is a political ploy to force the Supreme Court to rule.

  81. One of my LDS friends was told at about the 5 month mark that her child would not live long after birth because the lungs were not developing. She choose to have the child anyway. The child livedabout 15 minutes. In meeting with her doctor after this, he informed her that if something like this happened again, he would insist she terminate the pregnancy. She changed doctors but was extremely disturbed that her doctor believed he had the right to pressure her in that way. And that is one of the reasons I hate legal abortion. It has changed the margins of the debate. Nurses have been told they had to participate in a medically necessary abortion only to discover it was elective. Medical students have been told they could not graduate unless they participated in one. Religious exemptions are ignored and pharmacists have had to fight for their right not to fill prescriptions for drugs that induce them. Nothing will do until everyone is in line, without a dissenting opinion being allowed.
    A decision that should have been kept on the state level was decided by the Supreme Court. Is it any wonder state legislatures are fighting back for the right of the people to decide locally what they consider murder when they see a chance to narrow the conditions under which abortion is allowed.

  82. If abortion was really rare and medically necessary, why do we see Down’s Syndrome children in Utah but oh so seldom in the San Francisco Bay area? Indeed, why had I not seen one the last 10 years I lived there?

  83. The reason why Roe is the law of the land federally is because without it you would be getting these laws we see in Georgia and Alabama. Don’t kid yourself. Those laws are intended to be enforced once Roe is (hypothetically) overturned. Including the provisions (in the Georgia law) to prevent Georgia residents from getting abortions in other states. you might call them a political ploy but they are a sign of what a non-Roe future looks like.

    Let’s also not speculate on the motives behind the populations of San Francisco vs. Utah. Or hypothetical women who are so calloused as to want to kill a baby 30 seconds before labor. That kind of speculation doesn’t help the conversation. You can share your anecdotes of the exception that proves or disproves the rule for you (have fun), but let’s keep our arguments in the realm of personal experience or the logically provable. Otherwise you could be saying any old asinine thing.

  84. John C

    “Including the provisions (in the Georgia law) to prevent Georgia residents from getting abortions in other states”

    Speaking of asinine, which section of the Georgia law says this? I can’t find it.

  85. Lawyers citing that possible outcome appear to be looking at the law’s provisions regarding conspiracy to commit abortion. It appears to broadly enough defined to include someone driving a woman out of state to get an abortion.

  86. lastlemming says:

    It seems that the NY or VA law or both will be headed to the federal appeals courts, at minimum.

    The Virginia “law” will never see an appeals court for the simple reason that it never made it out of committee.

  87. John C.

    I’ve read the Georgia laws in question, and although I’m not licensed to practice in Georgia, I’m comfortable enough with general statutory interpretation to confidently say that what you’re citing is hyperbolic fear mongering.

  88. The $64,000 Answer says:

    “In Catholicism, abortion is forbidden even in cases of ectopic pregnancy….Using drugs to end the pregnancy without risk of surgical complications or infertility is forbidden…”


    “Catholicism” has made no such ruling. (For the benefit of LDS Church members who may not be familiar with the process by which Catholic teaching is created and articulated, what Father Whomever may say on the internet is not authoritative Catholic doctrine, binding on all church members. In just the same way, and for the same reasons, any statements that happen to be made by Bishop XYZ of the Fishbite Falls, UT ward are not binding on all members of the LDS Church. The one has precisely the same status, or lack thereof, as the other.)

    It seems to me that a fair amount of confusion has been injected into this discussion by various contributors’ references to the Catholic Church. All it has done is muddied the waters by attributing to Catholicism propositions that it does not hold, and never has.

  89. DSC,
    Fair enough. May you have the right of it.

  90. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I so wish there was such a place as Fishbite Falls, UT. Can someone make that happen, please?

  91. Benjamin says:

    I deliberately choose not to start with any previous comment, but begin with the two following statements that I take to be axiomatic.

    1. The life of a living woman is inherently human.
    2. The life of a developing fetus is inherently human.

    Based on those two axioms, it seems reasonable to conclude that both the woman and the fetus are human lives that are worthy of certain protections and having their rights considered. The moral and legal challenge is that the rights and protections of one are in direct conflict with the rights and protections of the other.

    What Roe v. Wade did well (though, regrettably, did not make explicit in its language) was it navigated a _legal_ framework for navigating the conflict of the two entities. It was, in essence, that as long as the fetus is solely dependent on the mother for its survival, the mother’s rights and protections take precedence. When the fetus is reasonably capable of surviving without the sole support of the mother, its rights and protections get precedence. It was a decision that dealt solely with legal implications and, rightfully, divorced itself from the moral complexities that surround the issue.

    So while I believe adamantly that every abortion is a tragedy, I also submit the the safe, legal, and rare philosophy. Roe v. Wade should stand as a matter of legal principle (though it could benefit by being reframed around the conflict of rights between two individuals, something that courts are eminently prepared to handle). We should then teach whatever flavor of morality we believe is acceptable to the Lord, afford other religions the same, and let people make decisions and suffer any moral consequences the Lord does or doesn’t choose to impose.

  92. Michael H., this is hardly the most important point in this discussion, but I feel compelled to note that even in Saturday’s Warrior, Emily is sent to the Flinders family twice, after the first attempt ends in miscarriage.

  93. I have an extremely conservative LDS neighbor who constantly refers to abortion as “infanticide.” This has the effect of throwing a verbal hand grenade into the middle of any conversation on the subject. I’m sure she would be perfectly at peace with the new Alabama law. This is the problem I have with most conservatives: they tend to oversimplify all sorts of complex issues. Nuance is a word they do not comprehend. Anger, yes. And this is what Trump has tapped into.

  94. Jack Hughes says:

    “In your experience, do church members share this nuanced understanding of abortion or are they more forceful than the actual policy?”

    Generally, they do not. My right-leaning baby boomer parents (devoutly LDS) still believe the trope that all women who seek abortions are selfish and want the freedom to live sexually frivolous lives without consequences–that legal, accessible abortions enable such lifestyles. They can’t wrap their heads around the idea of crisis situations that warrant exceptions. I also see this attitude among the older members of my ward. Ironically, these are the same people who are trying to stop comprehensive sex education and prevent access to birth control. Not long ago I sat through a lesson on the Family Proclamation, during which the teacher decried all forms of artificial birth control.

    I think some of the older members haven’t gotten the memo about the Church adopting more nuanced positions about certain things in recent decades (abortion, birth control, LGBT issues, etc.) because the Church hasn’t done much to publicize the policies or encourage healthy discussion among the members. In some cases, they make extra effort to keep their positions quiet (e.g. by only publishing this information in handbooks that most members aren’t privy to).

  95. Bro. Jones says:

    I’m with Geoff-Aus: I’ve never been impressed with the lack of discussion on methods to reduce the numbers of abortions besides making the procedure outright illegal. If we can demonstrate that initiatives like proper sex education, access to birth control, or support for impoverished parents can reduce the incidence of abortion, then opponents of abortion ought to be willing to explore them. I’m not usually one to buy into the “hidden agenda!!1” talk but here I’m willing to entertain that some degree of cynical misogyny underlies pro-life legislation rather than a purely humanitarian concern for the unborn.

  96. I’m grateful to Angela and rest of you for discussing this at length–it’s refreshing to see a frank conversation about abortion between Mormons–no matter how discouraging and fatiguing it is see how difficult it is for presumably well-intentioned\good-hearted people to reach consensus. The issue utterly exhausts me. In theory, I like the idea of a women being able to make the determination about whether to terminate her pregnancy, since there are some (albeit rare) situations that are truly dangerous to life of the mother that perhaps would not be handled sensitively enough by anti-abortion legislation, but that only seems reasonable to me if the unborn were somehow simultaneously protected from non life-threatening and especially casual reasons for abortion. I absolutely believe we need to address the complex and serious factors that impact women and children related to pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing. I also believe some sort of standard is needed to determine when a proposed reason for an abortion simply isn’t good enough. The trouble is, highly-restricted abortion legislation fails to adequately protect mothers, while minimally-restricted legislation fails to adequately protect children. I’m not persuaded that reasons other than major physical health concerns are good enough ones for aborting, but I’m not anxious to enforce that exactly–what I really wish is that women wouldn’t consider (let alone follow through with) having one for other reasons. I have included some excerpts below detailing circumstances and reasons reported for abortions. If you have sources that refute them please share–I would be relieved if these stats were false.

    The Guttmacher Institute reports that “Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.”

    These findings are even more direct: “The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.”

    A research article from the US National Library of Medicine states that, “The largest of the US studies included in the review, by Finer and colleagues [9], utilized data from a structured survey conducted in 2004 with 1,209 abortion patients across the US, as well as open-ended, in-depth interviews conducted with 38 patients from four facilities, nearly half of whom were in their second trimester of pregnancy. Quantitative data from this study were compared to survey data collected from nationally representative samples in 1987 [11,12] and 2000 [13]. The most commonly reported reasons for abortion in 2004 (selected from a researcher-generated list of possible reasons with write-in options for other reasons) were largely similar to those found in the 1987 study [11]. The top three reason categories cited in both studies were: 1) “Having a baby would dramatically change my life” (i.e., interfere with education, employment and ability to take care of existing children and other dependents) (74% in 2004 and 78% in 1987), 2) “I can’t afford a baby now” (e.g., unmarried, student, can’t afford childcare or basic needs) (73% in 2004 and 69% in 1987), and 3) “I don’t want to be a single mother or am having relationship problems” (48% in 2004 and 52% in 1987). A sizeable proportion of women in 2004 and 1987 also reported having completed their childbearing (38% and 28%), not being ready for a/another child (32% and 36%), and not wanting people to know they had sex or became pregnant (25% and 33%).”

    According to the Witherspoon Institute, “Estimates vary, but in the United States, abortions of children whose Down syndrome is detected in the womb are in the range of about 67 percent. The lethal discrimination practiced against such persons has become a worldwide phenomenon. Iceland has trumpeted its success in eliminating people with Down syndrome from the island. Denmark, whose people heroically saved over 95 percent of the Jews living there during World War II, now boasts that 98 percent of unborn children with the condition are aborted. Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, England, and Belgium all have rates exceeding 90 percent.”

  97. John C
    between 67and 85% of Down’s Syndrome babies are now aborted in the United States. Per a medical research conducted in 2012. Is that provable enough for you?
    Or perhaps:
    “Despite the fact that a majority of children with Down syndrome are aborted in the United States, each year about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome survive pregnancy and are born here. In Europe, the situation is more dismal. In England, about 700 are born each year. In 2017, only four children whose Down syndrome was detected in the womb were permitted to be born in Denmark. There are virtually none in Iceland.”
    And please keep your labeling of people’s comments as asinine to yourself.

  98. George Will had this to say about Iceland’s elimination of Down’s Syndrome children:
    “European moral complacency is facilitating a genocide.
    Iceland must be pleased that it is close to success in its program of genocide…
    Now, before Iceland becomes snippy about the description of what it is doing, let us all try to think calmly about genocide, without getting judgmental about it. It is simply the deliberate, systematic attempt to erase a category of people. So, what one thinks about a genocide depends on what one thinks about the category involved. In Iceland’s case, the category is people with Down syndrome.”
    We are falling behind in our attempts to commit genocide in the United States. Should we be worried about our standing in the world?
    Abortion, safe, legal and rare. Hardly.

  99. I have always thought the phrase describing our desire to make abortion safe, legal and rare to be something we tell ourselves to salve our consciences. It is estimated that over 60 million abortions have been performed in the United States since the Roe vs Wade decision. It is laughable to describe that number as rare, medically necessary or the result of rape or incest.
    And for Black people the racist genocide is very real. About 19 million of the aborted babies were to be born to Black mothers. The rate of abortion for Black women is almost 3 times their percentage of the population, 36% of pregnancies vs.13% of the population. More than crime, accidents, cancer, heart disease or AIDS, abortion has taken more Black American lives than every other cause of death combined since 1973.

  100. LindaTools says:

    In Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address, he said this:
    “If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
    What price will God be exacting for the deaths of 60 million of his children here in America? Probably 60 million of the adults who allowed it by using language like pro-choice and fooling themselves that this wanton destruction of babies was ever acceptable.

  101. I also believe the legalization of abortion, while not perhaps designed to do so, has had a very racist reality. And Martin Luther King Jr. saw that when he said, “The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety…” How can the “Dream” survive if we murder the children? Every aborted baby is like a slave in the womb of his or her mother. The mother decides his or her fate.”
    The statistics speak for themselves, white doctors are killing Black and Hispanic babies at a rate higher than they are white babies. And for Blacks, it is destroying their future in America.

  102. Gina,
    The first study you cite notes that the number of abortions for Downs Syndrome appears (very tentatively) to be moving downward and that they didn’t have access to really good data after 2007. So that’s using data that is more than ten years old. And they came to the conclusion that, while rates of abortion varied greatly due to circumstances and demographics, women appeared to be aborting less frequently because support for parents of children with Down’s Syndrome was more readily available. Not that I support nor encourage the aborting of Down’s Syndrome children, but the evidence appears to be that abortions of them is trending downward.

    Your second source is hardly unbiased. So yes, making blanket statements about why people get abortions is, in fact, asinine. Don’t do that.

  103. A Fwllow Traveler on the Path says:

    The reason you don’t see many Down Syndrome kids in San Francisco is the same reason you don’t see many kids who actually live _in_ San Francisco (as opposed to kids visiting from the surrounding area and tourists. Lots of those.): Families can’t afford to live there. When families start having kids, they move. Maybe down the Peninsula or across the Bay to the Oakland area, but more and more they are forced to move an 60-80 miles away or more just so they can afford a place, with the daily commute (and associated expenses) that goes with it.

    For example, last week a house that was red-tagged as uninhabitable after a fire, complete with demolition permit, listed for US$2.6 million. Knowing the area history, it will sell for a whole lot over asking, for cash, with no contingencies, 10 day close. (Based on what happened with a similar house in Palo Alto, 30 minutes away.)

    Average rent for a one bedroom apartment in SF is US$3600, a two bedroom is US$4700 (up 10% from last year). Add first and last month’s rent plus deposit, it pretty much prices families out of The City.

    And that assumes you can even find one available. Add into that developers buying the few affordable apartment buildings left and demolishing them to build luxury condos that sell upwards of US$3 million, just finding a place becomes a trick.

    And that development is being replicated everywhere is a 80 mile radius of SF.

    I’ve heard many complain about sky rocketing costs of housing in the Jello Belt, but the only areas in the US that can really compare are New York City, Wahington D.C., and Hawaii. That is why you see few Down’s Syndrome kids in SF. Their families moved out of the area.

  104. Last Lemming says:

    women appeared to be aborting less frequently because support for parents of children with Down’s Syndrome was more readily available

    Far be it from me to defend aborting fetuses with Down’s Syndrome, but you haven’t even provided anecdotal evidence for your claim. Where I come from, any “support for parents of children with Down’s Syndrome” pretty much disappears once the kids turn 21. After that, you go on waiting lists and once you get services for your kid, you are locked in and can’t risk relocating without going back on the waiting list. We’ve been told that our son will go to the head of the Medicaid Waiver waiting list when he is in danger of becoming homeless and not before.

    Yes, we would do it all again. But let’s not sugarcoat things by claiming that its getting easier. I see no evidence of that.

  105. Angela, excellent post. When I saw the title, I thought this is such a difficult topic to tackle, but I am really impressed at how even-handed you are.

    Rockwell, I think you make *such* an important point a whole bunch of comments ago:

    “With respect to the handbook policy, one aspect that is often ignored is the question of who gets to decide if a pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. So often, women are not believed or are afraid or unwilling to describe there experience as non-consensual. Incest, in particular, may never be revealed as the victim may be unwilling or prevented from naming the other person.”

    Along these same lines, my impression is that many Mormons have views of abortion that probably make them thrilled with the Alabama and Georgia laws. The Handbook may open the possibility of abortion being permissible in a few cases, but I feel like many Church members think it is always and universally wrong, and that these conditions under which it might be okay should never really be used. They don’t believe in rape, not really. Or even if they maybe do (if the woman has three witnesses and a signed affidavit from the rapist saying “I raped you.”), they still think–as in the story Ardis shared–that it’s more righteous to carry the rapist’s baby to term. They also maybe *in theory* believe that the health or life of the mother matters, but not *really*. If a woman’s major purpose in life is to birth and raise babies, as we hear so much at church, then what greater honor could a woman have than to die while doing so? So they think like with the rape exception that it’s really best if no woman ever actually has an abortion even if carrying the baby to term will kill her.

    I think this also lines up with Wally’s neighbor who calls abortion “infanticide,” and folks like Dsc who see a fertilized egg as a fully realized human and cannot imagine any complications to this view at all.

  106. salty tribune says:

    Power to bring another human being another child of god into this world into the next stage of the plan of salvation and yet the world plays with the power of procreation no reposiblity for the men who sleep around or the ladys that dont us proper protection or both not ready to be adults fufill the objective of evolution reproduce survive and so fourth in the end dont do whoredoms

  107. Mark B. says:

    John C.

    The process is more important that one or two stupid statutes. Legislative mistakes can be fixed in a hurry, but judicial errors can last for several lifetimes. Or for 60,000,000 non-lifetimes.

  108. I agree with the comments that Roe vs Wade has had a racist effect on Black and Hispanic families. Are we willing to label its supporters as the racists they are?

  109. Having lived in the Bay Area beginning in 1981 until four years ago, I am well aware of the rent situation. But long before families had to leave San Francisco, Down’s Syndrome children basically disappeared there because of abortion. I was very startled to see them in Utah when I visited because I literally had not seen a child with Down’s in the Bay Area in decades. Not one anywhere. And I worked with children for some of those years.
    And yes John C, you may find the source quoted biased, but unfortunately the statistics on the abortion rate for Down’s Syndrome are available on many websites.

  110. Angela C says:

    For those who are claiming that making abortion legal is tantamount to genocide of people of color, there are two things you are forgetting: 1) allowing women to make their own difficult choices isn’t “genocide,” and 2) the reason for the correlation is because people of color more have higher rates of poverty (poverty also skews female). So, I’m all for reducing abortions among people of color! Let’s do that by helping to lift people out of poverty and helping to provide resources and support they don’t currently have, not by holding their bodies hostage against their will and forcing them into unsupported and impoverished motherhood. There’s a reason these communities are at greater risk, and that reason is the cycle of poverty.

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