On “Laws Related to Abortion”

Several weeks ago, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the church made a change to its official statement on abortion. Reaffirming its political neutrality, the church gave explicit permission for members to “choose to participate in efforts to protect life and to preserve religious liberty.”

What does that mean? Well, the church explicitly permits abortions in cases of rape, incest, in cases where the pregnancy imposes a serious risk to the mother’s health or life, and in cases where the fetus has serious defects and will not survive.

That is, the church recognizes that there must be some kind of balance between the rights of a pregnant person and the rights of a fetus. In at least some circumstances, that balance favors the pregnant person. Which makes sense—in Mormonism, we don’t have any theological commitment to when life begins. We have, of course, scriptures that suggest it may be sometime before birth (John leapt in Elisabeth’s womb when Elisabeth heard Mary) and scriptures that suggest maybe not (Jesus spoke to Nephi the day before He was born). And from a policy perspective, stillborn children are not recorded as births or deaths on church records and no temple work can be performed for them.

So when we work for legislation, should we try to codify the church’s policy, allowing abortions in the three situations that the church does?

I would argue that the best answer to that is a resounding no. (And no, it’s not because of the separation of church and state; individuals can absolutely vote and even legislate out of their religious convictions.) Rather, it’s because the church and the state occupy different spheres, with different powers and different goals.

Most critically, the state exercises significant coercive power, which it can exercise through physical and financial punishment (that is, the state can arrest you and/or fine you). Meanwhile, the only coercive power the church has is excommunication.[fn1]

So let’s say your state criminalizes abortion except in the case of risk to the health of the mother. How do we determine whether the risk is imminent and severe enough to meet the legal criteria?

Well, the mother almost certainly cannot. And, for all that doctors are trained in, medical school doesn’t teach a whole lot of statutory interpretation. So who’s making the decision? An attorney. (You can read this thread to see how it actually works in practice.) An attorney, not a health care provider or the person whose health is at risk, must make the ultimate decision about whether the risk is severe and imminent enough to satisfy the legal criteria.

By contrast, for church purposes, the pregnant person must consult with God (and, presumably, her doctor) to determine whether the risk is severe and imminent enough. The church allows that she may consult her bishop, but that is not obligatory.

But can’t the doctor just use their own best judgment? Absolutely not. The doctor faces potential professional, financial, and even criminal consequences. Which is why, in spite of the fact that Ohio law allows abortions in the case of “medical emergency or medical necessity,” the 10-year-old in Ohio had to travel across state lines to get an abortion.

Because yes, a 10-year-old body isn’t going to be able to handle giving birth, at least not without serious physical consequences. But the statute defines “medical necessity” as a “medical condition” that “so complicates the pregnancy that it necessitates the immediate performance or inducement of an abortion.” It’s not clear that being 10 is a “medical condition” or that being 6.5 weeks pregnant necessitates “immediate” abortion. Similarly, the way the law is drafted, “medical emergency” seems to require some sort of imminent harm, not just a good chance of eventual harm or death. Anybody who tells you unequivocally that the girl could have had a(n eventually life-saving) abortion in Ohio is either wrong or lying.

So the church’s rules work really well as guides for a pregnant person, where there is no coercive power of the state to second-guess the choice. But they work pretty poorly as law.

And it’s not just that: this type of near-total criminalization of abortion doesn’t only restrict the ability of people to get abortions. It restricts access to medicine and care for other problems where that medicine could cause miscarriages.

But wait, there’s more: even if you’re not pregnant and you don’t need medical care, the criminalization of abortion can harm you if you’re capable of getting pregnant.

How? Because the process can be the punishment. A police officer could decide, based on anything or nothing, to arrest you for illegally having or causing an abortion. A prosecutor could decide to prosecute you for it. And even if you win, you’ve spent time in jail. You’ve spent money on a defense attorney. You’ve faced the stress of the legal system. You’ve maybe lost friends, maybe lost a job, maybe lost income. Sure, you’re vindicated in the end. But you’re not getting back the things that were taken from you.[fn2]

So should members of the church work to ensure just abortion laws? Absolutely; we have a responsibility to our community to ensure that the laws are just and fair. But should we try to codify the church’s handbook?

No. The handbook serves a far different purpose than law. And, given that the church lacks the coercive power of the state and that the church’s policies present a framework for an individual to make a decision, not for a system to punish wrong behavior, the church’s framework doesn’t work as a legal framework.[fn3]

[fn1] There’s a slight difference for church employees, though in that case, the church is acting as employer, not as church. And, while there may be significant issues with the coercive power of an employer, again, it pales in comparison to the power the state can exercise. Also, while I’m not going to spend much time on it, the church also lacks the tremendous surveillance power of the state.

[fn2] Given that I’m married and have daughters, I’m particularly relieved that I live in Illinois. I couldn’t, in good faith, drag my family to a state that has decided to criminalize abortion, and I can’t, in good faith, recommend that my daughters attend college in such a state. But it’s also important to keep in mind that a significant number of people do live in those states. And those people shouldn’t be required to move or face the extreme risks that these laws impose.

[fn3] What kinds of laws should we work for? Carolyn’s list strikes me as pretty compelling, at least if our goal is to respect life, not just to deny women autonomy and agency.

Photo by Chase Charaba on Unsplash


  1. Ardis E. Parshall says:

    Before the inevitable and same-old-same-old argument commences here, I’ll say that I very much agree with you — this should be the standard not only with abortion but about a great many other things. Law should be established to serve the public interest. Faith should certainly never be barred as a factor in any individual’s decision to support or reject a particular candidate or law, but neither should anyone’s private faith overrule the public interest. I haven’t always felt this way. But as we edge closer and closer to destroying the wall between church and state, and ever closer to instituting one narrow (and narrow-minded) religion to control the behaviors and privileges of those who reject that narrow religion, the more important I think it is to defend the public interest: that is, the greatest possible leeway allowed to all to live as they see fit, without imposition of ANY church’s private tenets on the public.

  2. Thanks, Ardis. I appreciate your thoughts and comments here, and I agree with everything you wrote.

  3. These are important considerations, and a good example of why the Ohio law and many others are bad laws. However, that is not, on its own, a good reason to avoid legislating in the area.

    A person faced with a lethal threat from another person is in the best place to determine whether shooting someone in self defense is justified. But we are collectively ok with lawyers ultimately determining whether a homicide was justified self-defense or something else.

    A police officer or CPS officer can also effectively punish parents if their child gets hurt, even if the injury was an accident. You can find plenty of stories of people having their children taken away and spending a fortune on legal fees because of some innocent situation that someone initially deemed to be child abuse. That, however, doesn’t mean we don’t legislate against child abuse and prosecute it; it means we place procedural safeguards.

  4. Dsc, and I’m not suggesting that we stay out of the legislative processes. I am, however, saying that the idea of creating exceptions for, say, health of the mother, etc., isn’t as easy as simply copying the church’s policies into legislative language. Moreover, while the church’s position works perfectly well as an internal policy, it is far too restrictive as a legal policy.

    Law is hard. And balancing competing moral rights is hard. And anyone who suggests that it’s easy either doesn’t understand what they’re talking about or, if they do, is lying. (Also, (a) in Chicago, “CPS” means “Chicago Public Schools,” not “Child Protective Services” (that’s DFCS here) and (2) the Child Protective Services model is broadly recognized as overly-intrusive while also being not particularly effective, so it’s probably a good analogue here.)

  5. Chadwick says:

    Dsc: “But we are collectively ok with lawyers ultimately determining whether a homicide was justified self-defense or something else.” I’m an accountant and not an attorney, so please forgive my ignorance, but is this really a thing? I thought a jury of my peers, after reviewing evidence from both sides, would handle such a decision, not a lawyer. So unless I’m missing something, your analogy to our current abortion situation doesn’t work.

    I feel the same as Sam’s footnote 2. I live in California. If anyone, anytime, needs a place to stay seeking any sort of medical or other care protected in California but not in your state, my spare room is always available.

  6. Geoff - Aus says:

    Republican Abortion action may be a symptom of a larger plan for America.

    T.his article was published by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.


    These are the last few lines.

    “It’s not just trying to stop or roll back what the left has done, it’s actually trying to transform the political institutions and political culture,” she said.

    “The right is actually trying to move forward, away from liberal democratic political institutions, [and] processes.”

    The religious right was made in the battle over access to abortion rights, but now experts believe there is a much broader war being waged and other personal freedoms, as well as American democracy, are all on the line.”

    If this article is correct abortion reform is something republicans have been selling for years to the christian right as an excuse to remove other Americans personal freedoms.

    It can also excuse removing voting rights, insurrections, and replacing a democratically elected government with a republican dictator.

    At what point will republican supporters realise it is too late? If Republicans control the senate and congress After November?

  7. Hi Geoff, thanks for commenting. FWIW, for purposes of this post, I’m not so concerned with broader culture wars issues surrounding abortion. For right now, at least, in the US, the question of what regulation has devolved to the states. In the meantime, Latter-day Saints in the various states have been encouraged to participate in the political process surrounding abortion regulation. And I want to point out that, while the church’s approach is perfectly acceptable for an internal policy, it’s suboptimal at the state level for, among other reasons, the reasons I mention in the post.

  8. It will be interesting to see how things develop in our church as states pass legislation defining life as beginning at conception. There are many temple recommend holding members who use IUDs, in vitro fertilization, and other health care that will now be challenged because they terminate a fertilized egg. And let’s not forget how all five LDS senators voted in favor of stem cell research in 2001 – thereby pushing the bill through for the presidents signature.
    My personal testimony is that the spirit does not enter the body until many weeks after conception, so my faith compels me to support most abortion decisions. But I’m not expecting to be in the majority of my faith anytime soon.

  9. Rockwell says:

    I like the analysis and I agree with most of it.

    However I think that many or even most church leaders do not come to the conclusions in the third paragraph about the significance of the church policy meaning that in some cases the balance turns in favor of the mother’s choice. Although they allow exceptions, the leaders consistently give examples *only* of women who choose not to have an abortion even when an exception applies. I hesitate to say this because I think that women should be able to exercise their choice without the added guilt of thinking that church leaders would not approve. Ziff did a nice analysis of this at ZD some months or years ago, but I was unable to find his post in a quick search.

    Dsc is right that we do legislate and allow lawyers (really juries) to determine the legality of difficult cases, like self defense. One big problem with legislating around abortion is that doctors may decline to perform a needed medical procedure because of the *risk* of being arrested / going to jail / losing a trial by jury, even if the procedure is legal. In Dsc’s example of self defense, the comparable situation for an abortion is not in fact self defense, but something completely different. A perfect analogy may not be possible, but it is more like risking arrest for acting for the (potentially life saving) benefit of a stranger or acquaintance. So now I’m many states a doctor must ask herself, when their patient needs a medically necessary abortion, is the need immediate enough, is the potential harm great enough, that the doctor is not going to have to worry about defending herself to a jury? Or does she need to wait and *intentionally put the mother at more risk* in order to prove medical necessity?

    I haven’t seen an abortion law that is better than freedom of the mother to choose.

  10. Rockwell says:

    Re: moving states

    As a married man without daughters, I have also considered moving to a right to a right to choose state. I’m not sure why, actually. I’m not in a position where it should directly affect me, but I’m concerned. Perhaps because I want my sons to eventually have families in states where their daughters will have their bodily autonomy recognized?

    But this really concerns me. If this is a broad pattern, where pro-choice folk move to states where their choice Is allowed, it will contribute to “The Great Sort” and deepen the country’s political divide. Which I think is a bad thing. I would much prefer a federal solution. Rights should not depend on your state.

  11. Mortimer says:

    Since the church has urged saints to engage in the legal process, they are hoping that we will vote in-line with the handbook and there was that wink and nod to “protect life” (pro-life).

    Sadly, both the handbook and the emerging laws align in denying women autonomy, privacy, and choice. Reading the handbook- women should receive male approval before making personal medical decisions, and the options she is given are defined by male ecclesiastical leaders, mostly male politicians, and a (largely) male medical establishment gate-keepers. Women are kept away from full adult responsibilities and rights. Our leaders feel entitled to speak on behalf of women, create policy for women, and influence laws that perpetuate this control.

    I have also been perplexed by President Nelson’s statements on abortion. He’s cited that if a baby’s heart is beating, there are two persons to be considered and the decision must incorporate two persons (it isn’t a woman’s full choice). Well, as someone who has kept hearts beating, knows heart tissue can beat in a Petri dish, has pioneered artificial heart technology, he would know that the heart is a machine- and does not determine life. Hearts can be made to artificially beat (on life support) or sometimes they continue to beat when the spirit has left the body and when brain activity has ceased (for example- when head trauma and brain damage occurs). Surely he has seen this in practice. Bioethicists and physicians don’t use heart function or lung function alone to determine life, neurological function is the primary determinant. So his comments were illogical to me. I wonder if he hadn’t thought through what he was saying (just parroting pro-life rhetoric), hasn’t studied bioethics (entirely possible- many physicians of his era and even today are woefully under schooled in bioethics), was over-simplifying the situation to appeal to the public, or honestly (somehow) believes a heartbeat=life. I don’t know. But, no matter how the cake is cut, women always need a benevolent male to guide them.

    I’m deeply saddened that the church finds it convenient to align itself with forces that water the lines between church and state, that undermine democratic principles, and by underground methods- supports (sadly at times) candidates that have promoted autocracy, for the convenience of moving forward pet projects (abortion laws, religious liberty, prop 8, etc).

  12. Mortimer, I want to make sure you’re aware that the Church updated its abortion policy to no longer require discussing the decision with your bishop. I presume that’s because in some states a bishop could now be liable if he says “Yes, follow the Spirit and get an abortion (in another state).” I think it’s highly significant that the Church has taken concrete steps to protect abortion access in the scenarios where the handbook says one may be justified.

    Several commenters have questioned whether lawyers or juries decide if a particular abortion is justified–I’d suggest reading the twitter thread Sam linked where a hospital attorney lays out the process. Short version: if a patient needs an abortion, the hospital’s attorney has to decide if her case meets the legal criteria for an exception, and if they decide it does not, the abortion won’t happen. It’s my impression (lawyers on the thread, correct me if I’m wrong) that most lawyers are pretty risk averse. And they’re going to be thinking mostly of the welfare of the hospital that pays their salary. They’ll be mindful of the cost of an investigation or prosecution even if they’re exonerated in the end. And they’ll be aware of the possibility of malicious actors, like the Indiana AG.

    So any attempt to turn the handbook policy into law will require a great deal of verbiage to try to make it clear enough that a lawyer can feel confident they can act on it without fear of being second-guessed by a crusading DA or AG trying to burnish their anti-abortion credentials. I’m not sure that’s possible. But the problem isn’t the handbook policy–the same concern applies to any regime consisting of an abortion ban with exceptions.

  13. Kirsten C. says:

    Thoughtful and logical as ever, Sam.

    Additional considerations:
    1. Most abortion arguments ignore the toll that pregnancy takes on a body, any body, but especially young bodies. Potential death, the birth process, and what to do with a baby are not the only essential considerations.
    2. Pro-choice laws are the only way to preserve the official church position as proving rape legally is difficult/time-consuming/often impossible. Do we take peoples word for it? Then that is essentially a pro-choice position. Are we relying on relatives to assist a person impregnated via incest (usually rape by a close relative)? Doesn’t that seem inherently problematic? To determine what constitutes a life-saving medical procedure can also be a time-consuming process and/or can be challenging to prove to the satisfaction of all, and is usually a decision that needs to be made quickly. Putting legal obstacles in the way of any of these options interferes with safe and timely access to abortion.
    3. Do we interpret medical necessity to also include mental health issues? I haven’t seen many interpretations that include it, yet it’s a significant (and potentially life-saving) consideration.
    4. A commitment to religious freedom also demands a pro-choice political position as many religious traditions prioritize the lives of pregnant-persons over the fetus.

  14. @Rockwell, your comment about sorting is really important. Those of us trapped in these states for whatever reason would like to believe that our countrymen will not abandon us. To be clear, I am only trapped here by my husband’s employer – we can afford to move anywhere we can afford to live, even though moving is a PITA. Others do not have the resources to do that, or have other constraints. Leaving this dystopian hellscape I call “home” also means leaving behind family.

    A presumed candidate for governor next year, our current AG, told a crowd, “If you don’t like our abortion laws, you can leave.”

  15. Ann, and that is a real problem. Just because a person has the assets to move doesn’t mean it doesn’t come at a high price—I love my home and wouldn’t want to be forced by bad laws to move.

  16. So you all agree that the Church teaches that abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.

    Living the gospel is the best protection against many ills that can happen in life, although we all still have our agency and some times through the decisions of others bad things can happens.

  17. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  18. On abortion, I think most people have not thought things through very much.

    I am an adoptive mother (of minority race children) in addition to a biological mother, have been a foster mother, used to attend our county Right to Life meetings (until Death with Dignity raised serious questions – I think if your family can decide to starve you to death, you ought to be able to make that decision for yourself). My adopted children were adopted as infants – an expensive and difficult process. All have learning challenges, and while we thought they were the absolutely cutest, dearest, most wonderful kids in the world (still are, in our opinion), we understand not everyone feels that way and would welcome the challenge or expense of raising a child who will not be in the top of their class, has dark skin, etc. In foster and adoptive training, we were taught that for a child age 3 or older, assume sexual abuse. We understand many people would not want to bring something like this into their home, especially with other children.

    I have three nieces that highlight some issues worth considering. One, from my husband’s family in Utah, has had a difficult life, has had several children, one adopted by her brother and his wife, one taken by the state, and one I think still with her – or someone. My niece has been in and out of jail, in and out of relationships, has substance issues, and some of her children re biracial. She does not have a home of her own.

    Another niece was adopted by my sister, who first fostered her. She is the daughter of two intellectually disabled people who were unable to care for her and her brother. My niece has intellectual difficulties but with her parents’ support has lived a happy life, marrying, being widowed, marrying again, and now has two children. The second appears to have inherited developmental disabilities and is still unable to sit up at about age 2.

    Another niece married a man with physical disabilities; their only path for having children was in vitro fertilization. She has one child but faces a decision about the multiple embryos remaining.

    One of our adopted daughters, from India, was a twin; her mother already had 5 other children, all girls (7 daughters is like the worst luck you can have in India). The mother was feeding the babies tea with a little milk because she herself was starving. The mother was giving the twins away on the steps of a Muslim temple on the last day of Ramadan. Someone knew someone who helped orphans – they took one baby. The mother said, “take both.” But the people said, no, they would just take one. We were told (when we tried to locate the sister) that she would not have survived. The person, affiliated with an agency, who cared for our daughter named her Asha, which means “hope,” because they had no hope she would survive. She was premature, weighed 3 pounds, and was starving to death. She reached us when she was about 7 months old (her actual birthdate is not known, of course), on Christmas Eve – the most wonderful present I have ever received (I had two biological sons and really, really, really wanted a daughter).
    Our other daughter, also from India, was left at the hospital after birth. We were told the mother was probably a single girl from a good family, but nobody knows anything about it, really.

    Our son, from Atlanta, Georgia, was born to parents who planned on marrying eventually but already had 2 other children and just could not see how they could afford another baby. There was only one adoption agency in the entire state who would work with a black mother.

    I think of what difference some support, including significant and ongoing (so you could count on it) financial assistance would have made to my children’s mothers.

    I used to be an “adoption not abortion” advocate, but judgment of others is making it difficult to find adoptive parents for children who are not white infants. Some say same-sex couples should not adopt. Some say single parents should not. Child care, paid leave and other family support issues represent insurmountable challenges for many.

    I am now old. I live in a pro-choice state (Vermont) with good support services for its people (some would say socialism). I do not promote abortion, but I think people need to think a little harder and a little more compassionately. Pro-life means more than prohibiting abortions. It means support, compassion, food, assistance, caring, and sacrifice. It does not mean fences, border restrictions, or cages.

    Remember the saying – “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” Which I believe should be followed by the corollary – so what am I doing with the advantages I have?

  19. Mark L, I believe, didn’t read the post and/or doesn’t seem to understand that the people who aren’t members shouldn’t be punished by the church’s standards, because that’s ridiculous and non-doctrinal.

  20. Geoff - Aus says:

    I live in the state of Queensland. I would just like to say how peacefull (less stressfull) it is to not have republicans here. We already have most of the things on Carolyns list implimented, though we have not overcome domestic violence and have a lot to do on financial inequality. We have a female premier, female health minister, and female Atourney General. Half the cabinet are women.

    Of interest to this debate a large proportion of abortions were women escaping domestic violence.

    Our abortion laws allow abortion up to 22 weeks with one doctor, and after 22 weeks requires 2 doctors. About 0.3% are after 22 weeks. In the public sector abortions are bulk billed (free).
    Abortion is not a political issue, all sides agree. We have fewer/head than America.

    The only people I have heard talk of it are some members who read conservative church sites.

    The only part of the church new message that might be helpfull is not consulting the bishop, which is good. It is a matter between a woman and her doctor.

    If you could vote republicans out it could allow America to be safe for women again. We have just had a federal election where there was a backlash by conservative women, many of whom said the conservative party did not represent them on respect for women, integrity, or climate change. Surely there is a way to organise/fund this in America. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-20/teal-independents-who-are-candidates-what-electorates/101000412

    I put this in so those of you stressed by republican culture wars could try to remember how peacefull life was (could be) without them.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    I occasionally have had the thought that it’s too bad more states don’t mirror the LDS position. But you’re right, while it’s a reasonable compromise position, it’s usefulness depends on the agency of the mother. If you try to codify it into law it wouldn’t work well. Great insight I had never considered.

  22. Good faith pro women abortion rights advocates: in layman’s terms define a policy that will drastically reduce the destruction of of develiping infants in the womb from (would be) mothers who have abortion for convenience.

    If you can’t do that then all your arguments are in bad faith or unacceptable to many of us.

    I care about women and (would be) mothers. Just not more than I care about the life of that probable healthy child. Take your exceptions and concerns and apply legislation to them.

    But the reality is most babies are destroyed because someone doesn’t want one and they participated in the act of making one. Fix that if you care about the marginal cases you raise so often. Don’t use them as cover for what everyone should regard as an appalling choice.

  23. Sute, you’re coming in pretty hot and demanding answers to questions that aren’t the topic of this post, while mischaracterizing both abortion and the reasons women get abortions. In my mind, that suggests that the legislation you’d advocate would have, as its goal, punishing women for having sex. That doesn’t strike me as a good thing.

    If I were legislating with the goal of reducing abortion, I’d look for empirical studies about what effectively reduces abortion. Given that 40% of women who get abortions do for economic reasons, I would focus on supporting women financially both during and after pregnancy. I’d make birth control easier to access and provide comprehensive sex education. I’d also note that, since a high in the 80s, the rate of abortion has fallen significantly.

    But also, critically, I wouldn’t disregard women’s rights, health, or agency in the legislation. And, as I pointed out in the OP, even life-of-the-mother exceptions—at least ones that have been written into currently-existing statutes—disregard women’s rights, health, and agency.

  24. Sam B,

    I find it quite telling and disturbing that you don’t grasp that “economic reasons” is a subset of convenience and that when considering decisions about the continuity of life you are perfectly comfortable using economics as a prevailing factor for deciding to terminate it.

    The notion that birth control is not easily accessed by 100% of the women in the US is just plain nonsense as is the notion that sex education is not absolutely ubiquitous in US public schools. Everyone knows where babies come from and everyone knows how to prevent them from being created and everyone has the resources at their disposal for prevention.

    Requiring healthy women to carry to term lives that they have consensually created in no way qualifies as punishment so public policy that closely hews to the official Church policy would provide a well-balanced framework for weighing the competing interests of a pregnant woman and the nascent life growing inside of her.

  25. PaulM, I’ll kindly ask that you read the OP before commenting. And that you refrain from confidently and condescendingly ascribing simplistic motivations to women who have thought carefully about their situations and decisions.

  26. Sute, do you really want policies which will reduce abortions of convenience? Alright, here they are: Easy access to (even government provided) contraceptives; comprehensive sex education (especially don’t allow parents to opt their kids out); employment opportunities for women. These things are well proven to reduce the need for abortions. If someone does not support these things, I cannot in good faith believe that that individual actually wants to reduce abortions.
    Who are the type of people who have multiple abortions? It’s women who don’t use contraceptives because their religious denomination tells them that doing so is a sin. I’ve read multiple accounts of nurses at clinics talking about how the only regular clients that they have are the women who are also regularly outside the clinic protesting against the clinic. So the final item to add to the list of what will reduce abortions, is to stop demonizing abortions.

  27. Chadwick says:

    “The notion that birth control is not easily accessed by 100% of the women in the US is just plain nonsense as is the notion that sex education is not absolutely ubiquitous in US public schools. Everyone knows where babies come from and everyone knows how to prevent them from being created and everyone has the resources at their disposal for prevention.”

    I’m going to assume that PaulM is a male and therefore really has no frame of reference in making this comment. To wit, I’m male and have never had to actually purchase birth control and have no idea how to do so.

    Are you aware that employees of our own faith have health coverage from DMBA that does not cover birth control? Hobby Lobby also does not cover birth control for its employees. Many people don’t have employment opportunities that provide health insurance at all.

    As for education, in my neck of the woods, sex education at school covers a broad range of topics including gender identity. As a result, many of the Mormon families opt out. How can you be so confident these parents are giving their children comprehensive sex education when they don’t attend the free, comprehensive school course?

    Protip: Your life experiences may not be as representative to everyone’s personal life experiences as you would like to think. And that’s the entire point. We should provide legislation that is fair to all, not just to you.

  28. “Which makes sense—in Mormonism, we don’t have any theological commitment to when life begins.”
    Sure, but isn’t that because it’s not a theological question? This is what President Nelson said about it:
    “It is not a question of when “meaningful life” begins or when the spirit “quickens” the body. In the biological sciences, it is known that life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being. The onset of life is not a debatable issue, but a fact of science.”
    In other words, no one disputes that a fetus who has not died has biological life, or that it is of the human species, or that it is the offspring of its parents. Maybe you meant “life” in some different sense, but I don’t know why that would be relevant for law.

  29. LA, it’s a critical question. We assign different levels of rights to different types of life (and defining an embryo or a fetus as “life” doesn’t strike me as beyond question; does “life” need to be able to survive independently?). There are serious limitations on killing people in our law. There are lesser limitations on killing some animals. But there are basically none on killing mosquitoes or viruses. So even if we define an embryo as “life,” that doesn’t answer the question of what level of rights it receives under law. And there is no scientific answer to that question; it ends up being a philosophical/religious/semantic question. And it is not an easy question by any means, and it’s one that Mormonism has no clear answer to.

  30. Regarding economic reasons and convenience as non-excuses, are you happy about taking on the financial cost for people who are unable or unwilling to properly care for their children after giving birth? i speak of homeless, intellectually disabled, substance-addicted, whatever. Yes, these are not excuses, but if they can’t properly parent (and hold a job, house and feed their family, provide emotional support, and pay for day care while they work, etc.), will you? Also, while white infants are in demand for adoption, older children (not much older, though), minorities, and children with special needs – whatever cause, require support that must come from somewhere. There already are many, many kids needing homes in every state – it’s called the foster system, which is pretty overwhelmed. States can’t find people to care for the kids we have now, let alone love them and care for them as God intends. Are we ready to add significantly to that load?

    Abortion is not a good option, but are we as a society ready to take on the responsibility and cost for the option we are eliminating? We need a replacement strategy that we understand and agree to.

    We may not agree with the reasons, but a life – after birth – requires a lot of financial and other support, which has to come from somewhere. Everyone is concerned about the sacredness of life and preserving it at all costs – until it becomes a person who needs care. Which costs money. Lots of it. For many years. If the parent(s) can’t, are we willing to take that on? If not us, then who?

  31. “So even if we define an embryo as “life,” that doesn’t answer the question of what level of rights it receives under law. ”

    Right, I agree with that. The critical questions regarding what laws to write are ethical and legal. I just don’t think those questions have anything to do with “when life begins”, which is just a matter of fact about which there is no practical disagreement. The important questions are more like “under which circumstances should it be permissible for parents to kill their offspring?”

  32. Last addition —

    What I am reading here sounds a lot like – “you made the baby, it’s your problem. Take care of it. It’s not my problem.”

  33. LA, I’m being charitable, but further characterizations of abortion as “kll[ing] their offspring” will be deleted. Like I said, the question of when life begins—and when it becomes human life—are important questions, and questions not answered by Science.

  34. Sam, I honestly can’t figure out exactly what you are arguing, so maybe you can clarify. Science does answer the question of when life begins, as even the president of the church says. We can easily tell if a human organism at any stage is living or dead. There is a difference between a living embryo or fetus and a dead embryo or fetus, but both exist, and in particular embryos or fetuses that have not died are living.

    As far as “human life”, there is also no practical disagreement. The offspring of humans is human. It cannot be some other species. How could it be life but not human life? How exactly would you suggest otherwise? And if you have some alternative account of what “human” and “life” mean in connection with your religion, why should that be relevant for making laws?

    I wasn’t trying to be provocative with my word choice. In my view, the fact that abortion involves intentionally bringing about the death (or “demise”) of the embryo or fetus does not automatically mean it is wrong or illegal. Sometimes violence is permissible, particularly in the context of a woman who carries her child within her own body, and this is something we have to be able to discuss clearly and openly to be able to have productive conversations.

  35. LA, my whole argument in the OP is that excpetions to abortion bans for health, rape, and incest make perfect sense from a religious perspective, but not from a state law perspective.

    And again, calling an embryo human life is entirely a definition one. If you define “human life” as anything with human DNA, sure (though scientists have stuck human DNA in plenty of non-human stuff, so I’m not sure that works as a definition). But if you define it as ensouled, or capable of thought, or having a beating heart, or whatever, then the question becomes harder. And the question is harder–the question of what constitutes “human” is not a biological question; its a philosophical/religious/linguistic one. Biology qua biology is not concerned with the ethics of ending life (though bioethicists certainly are!), so appeals to biology don’t help a whole lot in determining relative rights. I mean, biologically, we share a ton with plenty of clearly non-human animals that we assign fewer rights to. So flatly saying an embryo is human life is at best a debatable proposition, and not one that allows for a simplistic answer.

  36. “If you define “human life” as anything with human DNA”

    I am just saying that living organisms are human if they are of the human species. By living humans I mean living human organisms. Or, offspring of humans. Obviously the ethics of killing, say, human cancer cells are distinct from the ethics of killing human organisms.

    “ensouled, or capable of thought, or having a beating heart”

    I agree these may be relevant for ethics, but I don’t think these have anything to do with whether an organism is living or whether it is human.

    And I regret how often the debate seems to go here. There is a productive discussion to be had about the ethics of human abortion, because it should not simply be taken for granted that killing must never be permitted, especially in the unique context of pregnancy, but often this discussion just doesn’t occur because those in favor of choice prefer to use language that makes it sound like the relevant question is metaphysical (are human fetuses living?) rather than ethical (in what circumstances is intentionally bringing about the death of living humans permissible?).

    “so appeals to biology don’t help a whole lot in determining relative rights”

    I mean, yes, this is what I am saying, and part of why I am confused. I am saying pro-choice people should simply cede the obviously true point that human fetuses are living humans so that we can have the discussion about determining rights and so on.

  37. Taylor M says:

    @Chadwick “To wit, I’m male and have never had to actually purchase birth control and have no idea how to do so.” So, this is a little awkward, Chadwick. But a lot of men, like me, have purchased one of the quintessential forms of birth control, condoms. If you go into any grocery store, wander around the pharmacy section, I would bet you too can be part of the solution! (I guess maybe the comments about sex education aren’t as wrong as I thought!) ;-)

    @Sute Policies to prevent abortion: free, _long-term_ contraceptives (IUDs). The vast majority of abortions are sought by women between the ages of 20-and-39. I don’t think some course in junior high is going to make a huge dent in the actions of full grown adults, so Chadwick aside (I’m teasing, buddy!), I’m a little skeptical. Especially with teen pregnancies already going down (hard to get pregnant living life through a little screen) and a limited budget for trying to address the issue. I suspect very, very few unwanted pregnancies are due to failures of other forms of birth control. Rather, compliance is difficult for humans in the heat of passion and young, healthy people are bad at taking a pill every day. So IUDs for everyone!

    @Sam “I couldn’t, in good faith, drag my family to a state that has decided to criminalize abortion, and I can’t, in good faith, recommend that my daughters attend college in such a state.” Must be cool to be an extra awesome dad/husband without having to do anything! ;-) But seriously, do you honestly think you’d pack up and move if you lived in a crazy (at least in this respect) trigger-banning state? I know your remark was just in a footnote, but I’m genuinely curious if your geographic preferences are really so tied to any single factor or if you got a little carried in your remarks. I’m in Texas. I don’t feel like I’m a bad husband or father because we live here and I’m not planning on moving. And I wouldn’t think of dissuading my girls from going to Rice, UT Austin, or Case Western, or Ohio State because of Texas’s or Ohio’s abortion policies. Kids going to school in a state other than their own are among the most privileged kids in the country. Do you think Texas will prosecute an out-of-state tuition-paying student from Illinois if she goes back to Illinois for an abortion? No way, no how. No TX prosecutor is that dumb! (Uh,oh. I might have just jinxed it…)

  38. Taylor, fortunately it’s not a choice I have to make. (Like I acknowledged, you shouldn’t be forced to uproot your life because of bad state policies.) But I am serious that I couldn’t in good faith move to such a state (and I’m lucky that I have a good job that I love here in Chicago). And I’m also serious that I can’t recommend that my daughters go to such a state for college; fortunately, there are excellent schools in other states (but sadly, Tulane looks like it’s off the list).

  39. I agree with every factor that you have pointed out. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts on this.

  40. LA, your arguments are tautological and not helpful, except of course, unless your goal is redundancy. ‘Life is life’ isn’t really an argument, or at least, a very good one, because as Sam notes, it doesn’t mean a whole lot when you actually start dealing with ethical and biological questions. Continuing to repeat that mantra after having that pointed out hurts your larger claim because it makes it look like you don’t really have anything to say, but simply want to be heard. Take a stance, that’s fine. But at least bring something to the table a little more meaningful.

  41. Also, Taylor, I should note that my principal concern isn’t my family’s access to abortion—we are, after all, practicing Mormons, for all that comes with that. But the secondary effects on women’s health care, combine with a legislative sense that women’s agency and control over their own bodies, makes states with these strict bans deeply unappealing.

  42. Loursat says:

    LA wrote, “the obviously true point that human fetuses are living humans”

    This is not obviously true, which I think is the point that Sam is making. LA, I appreciate your argument that we should focus on the moral complexity of the questions involved here, but the questions are even more complex than you seem willing to acknowledge. The rhetorical impact of choosing certain words and phrases can’t be glossed over. We can still have the conversation while understanding that the use of loaded phrases might need to be bracketed.

    I think you would be closer to finding common ground if you emphasize the potential of human embryos and fetuses to become human life. In a moral sense and an ethical sense, that potential to become human life, whenever one might consider it to be fulfilled, becomes more compelling as viability and successful birth become more likely. There is wide, though not universal, agreement that the ethical analysis changes as gestation advances.

  43. This has been a pretty respectful discussion, and I loved reading the OP. So thanks.

    Abortion is a trolley problem. Anyone who simplifies it to absolutes (“killing offspring” or “should be absolutely legal until birth” – a comment to be fair that I have never seen sincerely made) is being ridiculous. A real-life example: a mom’s teenage children begged her to have an abortion so she could get chemo for her cancer, and see them graduate high school. The pregnancy wasn’t an imminent threat to her life. Perhaps she could have survived it and then gotten sufficient treatment. Or maybe the delay would kill her. The decision had to balance her life, her children’s life with or without her in it, and the potential life within her. What is the pro-life position here? Because I truly do not know. And I would never, ever, ever be able to tell her what to do.

    I think one comment here dismissed concerns like this as being “marginal cases.” That’s a pretty convenient umbrella that’s often used to avoid dealing with complexity. If you can’t engage with that, though, then you are just not being serious about a deadly serious topic.

  44. Loursat, there is nothing “loaded” in the language I’m using. I am using the plain meanings of the words human, describing members of the species homo sapiens, and life, meaning biological life. If you’re suggesting that people sometimes use misleading language for rhetorical effect, I agree, but I refuse to do that.

    “potential of human embryos and fetuses to become human life”

    Human embryos are specimens of the human species, they are offspring of humans, and if they have not died then they have biological life. There is simply no debate on this question. “Potential” implies “not”, and there is no process I am aware of in which an inanimate or dead or nonhuman object transforms into a living human. Even sperm and egg cells are living human cells (though not living humans, that is living human organisms). I am not sure why, or how, the fusion of two living human cells to form a new specimen would result in something not living, or not human. If you have an idiosyncratic religious definition of these words, where some members of the human species are not human or something, that’s interesting, but irrelevant for those of us who are content to apply the plain meaning of words even when rhetorically inconvenient.

    Again, you will get much further by dropping the squeamishness and talking frankly about the ethics of intentionally causing the death of living human offspring in utero, rather than using bizarre rhetorical framings of the issue.

  45. I think part of the difficulty in bridging the divide between pro-life and pro-choice is that there isn’t a really good metaphor for pregnancy. A blastocyte, embryo or fetus is part of a woman’s body, but eventually it will be a separate being. If the state wants to protect this part of a woman’s body, then perhaps the metaphor is to ask if a state could protect the liver of an alcoholic — the state has an interest in preventing death, and the liver wants to live and not die of cirrhosis (I mean, if we’re guessing the wishes of a clump of cells the size of a blueberry we can guess the wishes of a liver too), so the state should be able to force the alcoholic man to never drink again (govt actually tried that with Prohibition). Or, if he does, charge him with causing criminal harm to his liver. The state shouldn’t be passing laws to protect organs in your body without your consent. I think we can all agree on that. But the metaphor fails because the fetus doesn’t remain a part of a woman’s body the way the liver remains part of the alcoholic’s body.

    Perhaps we analogize to living organ transplants. Should the state mandate blood donations? Liver, kidney or bone marrow donations? The only way someone could defer being a donor is if a doctor says the donor’s risk of death is higher than the maternal mortality rate. No other consideration matters – not your other health conditions and medications, not your fear of hospitals, not the other plans you have for your life. If the donor registry turns up your name, you have to donate your organ or the state holds you responsible for the death of the sick person. In fact, all medications that might cause you to be ineligible as a donor are now banned. Nothing is more important than using your organ to save a life.

    The organ donation metaphor is as close as we can get to conveying the punched-in-the-gut feeling of knowing someone looks at you and just sees a body part (uterus) instead of a whole entire human being.

    Mandating organ and tissue donations would save lives. That would fit with the Church’s charge to promote laws that save life. Personally, I would be very opposed to mandating organ donation, but I do wonder if pro-life people would support mandatory organ and tissue donation.

    LA (or other pro-life reader), I am curious how you, as pro-life, would feel about the state compelling your brother to donate part of his liver? This hypothetical is just about using a body’s organ to save someone else’s life. Answer without any assumption that women who have sex should have to have the pregnancy. I know the metaphor is imperfect, but it’s the best I’ve got. Perhaps the thought exercise will show a pro-life person how much of their beliefs are tied to religious beliefs about sex.

  46. I think a lot of people are missing LA’s point. There is absolutely no ambiguity that an embryo or a fetus is a living human organism. The terms “living”, “human”, and “organism” all have widely accepted definitions, and an embryo or a fetus carried by a human woman that has not already died clearly meets all of them. The question of what subset of living human organisms are “persons” who should be protected by law together with the question of under what circumstances killing persons or nonpersons are legal and philosophical. I’m not sure what pretending that we don’t know that a fetus is both human and alive accomplishes.

  47. OP: This post considers the Church’s current policy on abortion and the implications if it were implemented as law.

    LA: But abortion is killing life! See, the prophet says life is life! Let’s talk about that and ignore current Church policy and the OP.

    I mean, obviously President Nelson has no qualms changing whatever he feels like in Church policy now that he is ‘unleashed’ as the President. And yet, anytime someone wants to have a rational discussion on actual, living policy and difficulty, someone jumps in with ‘but life is life,’ as if Church policy doesn’t explicitly allow it. I mean, come on, LA, we aren’t debating Roe vs. Wade in this thread. We’re debating what happens afterwards. Go soap box somewhere else where that would be appropriate instead of being a troll on this thread. It’s disturbing (and, again, hurts your credibility) when you can’t see that’s what you’re doing here.

  48. Loursat says:

    LA, you keep assuming that biology defines not only life, but also what it means for life to be human, and indeed what it means for life to be fully human. It’s complicated. “Humanity” encompasses more than DNA and biological processes.

  49. DSC, I think the problem is really in the word “killing.” I think a much more accurate framework is Janey’s – abortion is less like killing a human organism, and more like withdrawing or declining to give your body to sustain it even though it won’t survive without help. There is the moral answer to that question (you should give of yourself if possible to save every life possible) and the legal answer (no one is currently compelled to donate their body or organs to another human being).

    And as Janey said far better than I could, no metaphor is perfect. But it is worth really examining the fact that we do not mandate organ donation, even in death, even to your own children. Why? And why is or should pregnancy be different?

  50. LA and Dsc, you’ve made clear your belief that a fetus (and embryo? and blastocyst?) is human life. You’ve also made clear that you’re unable to accept that your view is not commonly accepted and objective truth (or Truth). That’s fine, but it also means that your contributions detract from an otherwise-fruitful conversation, not about when life begins, but about the types of laws regulating abortion we should advocate.

    There are plenty of places on the internet to debate the definition of human life, and plenty that are willing to accept absolutist positions without taking into account the difficulty and moral judgments that Marian and Janey and Loursat (and others) have so expertly teased out.

    Which is to say, if you continue asserting that human life begins at conception, I’ll delete your comments. Not because I disagree (though I very clearly do) but because they’re leading the discussion in the direction that Ardis predicted in her first comment, a direction I’m not interested in going.

  51. it's a nonny mouse says:

    abortion is less like killing a human organism, and more like withdrawing or declining to give your body to sustain it even though it won’t survive without help. There is the moral answer to that question (you should give of yourself if possible to save every life possible) and the legal answer (no one is currently compelled to donate their body or organs to another human being).

    Ah, but the key distinction with respect to abortion is this: it’s not “compulsion to donate” when you made the choice to potentially create the life in the first place. You were not “compelled to become pregnant”; rather, you engaged in sexual activity, for which pregnancy is a natural and normal potential consequence. As such, because you took affirmative action to create the life, or in other words, because that life would not exist but for your action, your moral obligation toward the life you created differs from your moral obligation toward an unrelated life you did not create.

    (the above, of course, does not apply when the pregnancy results from rape, incest, etc)
    (and responsibility for the life you created also applies to men)

  52. Sam Brunson says:

    a nonny mouse, the idea that we should ban abortion because people should live with the consequences of their actions strikes me as a poor justification for legislation, on several levels. One is that our society quite frequently allows people to avoid the consequences of their actions, whether it be emergency room visits for people who drove recklessly or bankruptcy for people who managed to lose money owning casinos. It also seems to assume that pregnancy is the inevitable consequence of sex (it’s not, and hasn’t been for at least a century and honestly, for longer than that) and that children are some sort of punishment for “bad” behavior. At best, legislation that finds its basis in forcing people to endure pregnancy, and potentially to raise an unwanted child, is going to be bad legislation.

  53. it's a nonny mouse says:

    Sam, my comment said nothing about legislation, and it was very clear to say pregnancy is a POTENTIAL consequence of sexual activity. Rather, it said this: “your moral obligation toward the life you created differs from your moral obligation toward an unrelated life you did not create.”

    Do you disagree?

  54. The parties are not equally involved. It is pretty obvious that one person partcipated (the pregnant one); the other is not easily identifiable, sometimes is not aware or does not acknowledge responsibility. Requiring responsibility would be fair if both were equally accountable with the same requirements for each. Which is clearly not the case.

  55. Geoff - Aus says:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4182793/ this article says that up to 22% of abortions are to women escaping domestic violence. There are other studies that show that if these women can’t get an abortion they are trapped in that abusive relationship, and one of the times of greatest abuse is during pregnancy. Choose to get pregnant? Over 1 in 5 abortions?

  56. Sam Brunson says:

    nonny, the post is entirely about legislation; I assumed that you’d read it and were responding to it. As I said earlier, to the extent you’re just talking about abortion, you’re in the wrong place and I’ll delete any comment along those lines.

  57. Geoff has a really valid point about women trying to escape domestic violence. Two of the means of control in domestic violence are rape and preventing her from using birth control. And legislation about abortion requires a police report about the rape, which the battered woman is often prevented from making.

  58. Margaret says:

    Eve—not Adam, not God—chose when she was ready to take the fruit. The choice was not made for her. It was not forced upon her by God or by her husband.

    A major problem with the abortion debate is the focus on abortion itself and not the broader, but totally relevant and implicated, context of reproductive rights. I strongly maintain that reproductive rights are an essential component of liberty, and should be protected. If the state has the power to force me to have a child, they have the power to prohibit me from doing so (along the lines of China’s one child rule or Nazi Germany’s eugenics programs). We do NOT want to go down the path of the state deciding and having power over reproductive choices.

    That said, I 100% support life and desire to make every effort to enable women to choose life. This is done through the socio-economic programs recommended by Carolyn and cited in Sam’s footnote. Having been a working mother, I can say that in the USA women are consistently punished in their employment for having children. On the whole (and even for me as a professional with some of my children) American women have no maternity leave, no flextime, no ability to breastfeed while working, no childcare, no healthcare or economic assistance—no support. Fix these problem and women will choose life.

  59. Geoff’s point about domestic abuse and pregnancy brings up another important legislative issue: marital rape. Legally guaranteed access to birth control is also a fairly recent development. Both of those principles need to be ironclad in legislation in every state. Even a married woman can say no, and any woman can get birth control at any time without anyone else knowing about it.

    nonny mouse’s off-topic comment actually proved my point that pro-life advocates believe that consent to sex means consent to pregnancy, and that’s just not true. For example, anyone using birth control is consenting to sex without consenting to pregnancy. I’m going to hazard a guess that pretty much everyone on the planet has had sex more times than they’ve conceived a pregnancy, and more times than they’ve WANTED to conceive.

    Perhaps we could soften the rape exception to a “non-consensual pregnancy” exception. For example, if a woman says that she consented to sex, but expected the man to pull out before ejaculation, and then he didn’t, then she can have an abortion. Or she had abstinence only sex education and genuinely believed that you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex. Or the condom broke.

    Really, do even the most avid pro-life men want women (including their wives) to say no unless she wants a baby? Does any man want to raise a child for every orgasm?

    Not every bad relationship is severe enough to be called domestic abuse, but also may not involve enthusiastic consent to having procreative sex. My friend was married to a difficult man. He was less difficult if he got to have sex every day. She consented even though she didn’t really enjoy it (hence complaining to me), but she figured letting him use her body to orgasm at midnight made him easier to deal with at other times, and also let her get to sleep sooner than if they had an argument first. It wasn’t marital rape, but …. (and pardon the crudity) do pro-life men really think that women always enjoy the man’s ejaculation as much as he does?

    Now the Brethren are renaming sex “the sacred procreative process.” The only part of sex necessary to procreate is the man ejaculating in a vagina. This leaves out the woman’s experience entirely. In fact, a woman can get pregnant during the worst experience of her life (rape). A religious zealot may even decide that sex isn’t as sacred if he does things solely for his wife’s pleasure but that don’t contribute to the possibility of conception.

    Preventing pregnancy may include educating people about non-procreative sex and then encouraging them to do that instead. The conservative Christian nature of pro-lifers will be thrown into the spotlight when people who want sex without risking pregnancy start touting the value of non-procreative sexual experiences. The value of gay relationships can be emphasized – gay sex rarely results in unplanned pregnancies. Masturbating to pornography also prevents unwanted pregnancies. Oral sex can be encouraged.

    Pro-life Christians really create a catch-22 when they try to insist that sex and pregnancy must be tied together.

  60. Nameless says:

    @nonny mouse
    This logic falls short when we don’t put legislation into place to require males to donate a kidney, their bone marrow, a portion of their liver, or even simply their blood to sustain a living breathing child they have helped to create, let alone a fetus or an embryo. Pregnancy is, even in uncomplicated cases, a risky condition and leaves permanent damage to the body of everyone who has given birth. In contrast, how many people have ever died as a result of giving blood.

  61. Good post, Sam. You’re a good man to blog about this and then wade into the comments that inevitably devolve into “but you’re a *murderer* if you have an abortion” and totally miss and/or ignore the points you’re making

  62. I am wondering if the legislature is going to weigh in on women who are taking medications that may cause birth defects. As a hypothetical, let’s say a woman has a serious health condition that requires her to take medication known to cause heart damage to the fetus. She won’t die if she doesn’t take the meds, but things will get really bad. Her health is medication dependent and she’ll be unable to work if she can’t take her meds (good-bye health insurance). Even though she used birth control, she got pregnant and her husband/boyfriend decided he couldn’t deal with it and took off. Could she be charged with child abuse for taking meds that cause birth defects?

    Then there’s the situation facing the baby. The baby will likely survive the birth, but (in our hypothetical) will need four major heart surgeries before his first birthday and will be medically fragile for life. Mother does not have the financial resources to care for baby, nor the emotional strength to deal with putting a newborn through major heart surgeries. She surrenders the baby for adoption. This traumatizes her two older children who are now terrified that mom will give them away if they get sick.

  63. Geoff - Aus says:

    LA I think you can take your life is life logic back a bit further.

    When a man ejaculates (voluntary) he releases over 250 million sperm. Each one is alive (it can swim) it has human dna and other scientific stuff, and in the right environment it can become a human. It meets your life is life definition.

    “Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate,” goes the song from Monty Python’s movie The Meaning of Life. Scripture?

    But vast numbers of sperm die 99.99%, billions/ pregnancy. Until they die they are human life? If one finds an egg, and then they both die? Any different? Of those that start a pregnancy less than half get to full term and produce a baby.


    This report says that in a study in Denmark, where universal healthcare, free birth control, and free abortion, women had 1.7 live births and 2.1 miscarriages each.

    It also says that pioneer mormon women had 8 live births and 16.8 miscarriages. With some of the republican legislation this is where we are heading.

    So if between 1 in 2 and 1 in 3 pregnancies produce a child; How is the legal system going to sort out which of the miscarriages are induced abortions? Induced abortion 1 in 5. Twice as many miscarriages as induced abortions. How women who are emotional after a miscarriage defend themselves legally could be a soul destroying experience.

    So not quite as neat and tidy as anti abortion legislators suggests.

  64. It’s always interesting the way some of these things can be tied up in knots by the same groups of people; whether it’s keeping the sabbath day holy, paying tithing, and abortion.

    The “what about…” crowd suddenly becomes very good at drawing all kinds of reasons why a proscribed choice is the appropriate one.

    For the likes of me, I can’t ever imagine the Lord advising a woman, “kill the developing baby before it’s born”, so the choice is pretty clear. I can also imagine the Lord weeping and forgiving those who made that terribly wrong choice, just as he forgave those who found joy in torturing him. That doesn’t make either one the right choice. But forgiveness is.

  65. Re: Sute’s comment 7/22 at 12:24pm. Yeah, it hard to imagine the Lord telling anyone to kill another being, right? Uh oh, if we go there, this whole discussion might get even messier. It’s easier to stick to black and white, even if human life experiences are basically shades of grey.

  66. And Sute, my comment is not meant as an attack at you.

  67. sute, the Church’s official policy on abortion gives a list of circumstances under which an abortion may be justified, but “only after the persons responsible have received confirmation through prayer.” That implies that at least some of the time the Lord will indeed confirm to someone in those circumstances that they should get an abortion. Otherwise, there’d be no need for a list of exceptions and a directive to ask the Lord.

    It’s the Handbook saying “what about…” here.

  68. Sute, there are LDS women who have come forward to admit they had an abortion after prayer led them to feel God was giving approval.

  69. Rockwell says:

    Here is a study that shows how state laws banning abortion lead to delayed medical care and increased morbidity for the mothers even when there are exceptions for the health of the mother


    So to the point of the OP, the church policy would have allowed these women to make a health care decision in consultation with their doctors, and the law allowed it as well, but the legal framework to protect the medical community from criminal liability caused the care to be delayed anyway.

  70. Rockwell says:

    I meant to include this from the conclusion of the aforementioned study:

    “ Consistent with reports evaluating outcomes in women requesting expectant management,4 most of the pregnant patients at <22 weeks presenting with medical indications for delivery experienced serious morbidity, and fetal outcomes were poor. Expectant management resulted in 57% of patients having a serious maternal morbidity compared with 33% who elected immediate pregnancy interruption under similar clinical circumstances reported in states without such legislation.“

  71. Geoff - Aus says:

    From comments here and elsewhere it appears there a people on the right politically who are incapable of hearing points of view other than that presented by their political party.

    I assume these are the types passing laws in republican states. They have to be made to feel less secure, and if possible removed.

    In Utah’s case the democrats are supporting mc mullin to replace lee in the november election. If lee was defeated it could reduce the certainty of the Utah government? Everyone who is not a in support of lee must be persuaded to vote mc mullin, in the interest of womens rights, American democracy, and progress.

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