Yes, “Pro-Choice” Can be Consistent with “Mormon”

Let me start out by saying this is an unpleasant topic. It saddens me to think of all of the legitimate reasons women might choose to end a pregnancy. However, because of the current political climate and the lack of real analysis happening within the Church, I feel compelled to write this in order to provoke thought among my fellow members.

Most Mormons consider themselves to be Pro-Life. This is probably due to the Church’s very clear stance on abortion; it is permitted in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life or health is threatened. Naturally, being otherwise against abortion, we want to prevent it in other cases. Hence, the vast majority of Pro-Life Mormons.

If this was a rule that could easily be enforced without causing women who have been abused any additional pain or stress, I might agree that more strict Pro-Life laws were a good idea. However, this is not the case. In fact, determining whether any of those three criteria might apply in a certain scenario is more likely to cause contention than not.

Let’s take the medical scenario first. Who is to decide whether the mother’s life is threatened? Hopefully her doctor is making that call and not the government or an insurance company. What if her doctor is particularly pro-life or pro-choice? Could the woman seek out a second opinion, or a third? What percent chance of death should be considered enough of a threat to allow an abortion? You can be sure that no matter how the law was written to enforce a policy, some women wanting abortions would die from this, and some with little risk of death would be able to get a legal abortion despite the rules.

In the case of incest, what are you going to require from a young woman who has been abused by someone who should have been protecting her to do to prove that it was incest? The earliest a paternity test can be performed is at about 9 weeks. Even at that point, there are risks of causing miscarriage. Would such tests be outlawed for the risk to the fetus? How long would she have to carry the baby in order to prove the charge? What if the test comes back inconclusive? Or even worse, what if the girl has no family members to support her charge, and she is afraid to charge her father with a crime? No crime filed, no abortion?

As for rape, who gets to decide what constitutes rape? Surely we wouldn’t leave this up to a group of men who have publicly stated their opposition to any abortion in any form. There are a number of states where husbands are allowed to essentially rape their wives under full legal protection. Non-consensual sex is not rape if the people are married. Do we really want to force mothers to bear children into a home where domestic violence is already rampant? What about date rape? Rape under the influence? Does the rapist have to be convicted before the abortion is granted? What if it takes 7 months for the trial to even get to court?

This is all ugly, messy stuff. I don’t believe government is capable of legislating reasonable rules, let alone of regulating or enforcing them. When you add in the challenges of local authorities and corruption, you begin to see how hopeless a clean distinction is.

Particularly painfully, there are the women whose beloved children die before they see their faces. Those mothers, too, are affected by these well-meaning laws. Mothers with miscarriages today are read to from scripts designed to produce guilt in those seeking an abortion, when they should be receiving counsel and comfort. Some have even been taken to court in states with “Personhood” laws, so that the courts can legally determine whether or not the miscarriage was of natural causes. These offenses would only increase with stricter laws.

Our church believes strongly in the principle of agency. There is no freedom more important than the freedom to make your own choices. Some would argue that we can choose to break the law, so restricting abortion rights does not diminish agency. I would suggest that if it is possible make an ethical choice and still break the law, the agency of those who choose to obey the law is diminished, as is the law itself.

Hopefully, we pro-agency Mormons will grow in numbers as the ramifications of legislating this kind of morality becomes more apparent.

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About thelogicalmormon

Devout Mormon. Graduate of MIT. Father. Technologist.

11 responses to “Yes, “Pro-Choice” Can be Consistent with “Mormon””

  1. Ben Larsen says :

    Hopefully, we pro-agency Mormons will grow in numbers as the ramifications of legislating this kind of morality becomes more apparent.

    Why are you hopeful of that?
    What legislation are you speaking of?
    a woman killing her unborn, consequence of fornication is already legal.

    • thelogicalmormon says :

      You’re right. It is currently legal to get an abortion for any reason. I am more or less in favor of keeping the laws the way they are today. The reason I’m hopeful that more will become pro-choice is not that I think things need to change, it is because I think the changes I’ve seen recently are really awful changes. Personhood laws are particularly awful.

  2. Corey Howard says :

    I have had these exact arguments rolling around my brain for awhile now. Thank you for your post.

  3. David LaBau says :

    Love the article. There are also two additional complications to a simple “government” can solve this messy issue by having the right laws. The first is our own 11th and 12th Articles of Faith. The second is the persecution of our own faith, as well as the faith of many others throughout the world, under the cover of government action. We live in a pluralistic, democratic society that was essential for our own faith to be established. We should be very reluctant to impose our will on others, especially in ways that are harmful to those who believe differently than we. It seems that our obligation is to act like the Savior and work to help people understand why an abortion might be a bad choice for them.

    It is interesting that even with the pretty limiting exceptions that our faith recognizes to justify an abortion, it leaves the decision in the hands of those “personally responsible” after having consulted with their bishop and having received divine confirmation through prayer. The bishop doesn’t decide, he simply consults and offers guidance and support. Then the persons who will have to live with the decision seek guidance and make their decision.

  4. MG Durrant says :

    People forget that pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion. It is quite possible to find abortion distasteful, upsetting, reprehensible, or repulsive while simultaneously supporting the right of individuals to make their own choices, however bad those choices might be. If you are the victim of rape or incest, there probably are NO good choices, just poor alternatives from which to select.

  5. davidsonlaw says :

    You do understand that abortions for reasons of rape, incest and health of the mother account for less than 3% of all abortions, right? You also understand that you post is in opposition to what every prophet and apostle has ever said on the topic? To say that an abortion is the “ethical” choice in any circumstance is to gloss over the fact that an abortion is never a good choice. In certain limited circumstances, less than 3% of the actual abortions performed, it may be the lesser of two evils, but it is still an evil.

    • thelogicalmormon says :

      I do understand that for those of us with the privilege of having the Gospel in our lives and a loving community to support us, abortion seems purely evil. However, there are many people in the world without our privilege. Many women would rather risk their own lives than to carry a baby to term in their circumstances. Many women feel that carrying a baby to term in their circumstances IS risking their life. The 3 percent statistic you quote does not give us the right to throw compassion and empathy out the window. Are you offering to adopt a disabled baby from a woman who lives alone in poverty and addicted to Meth? Perhaps you know someone who is?

      There are many sides of complicated issues like these. Only we, as Mormons, are bound by what the prophets say. Do we not need to allow others to live the best way they know how?

      • davidsonlaw says :

        Are you suggesting that abortion is not evil when the woman aborting her child isn’t LDS? I would suggest that you need look no further than Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants to disabuse yourself of the false conclusion that only members of the Church are bound by what the prophets say. Verse two states:

        “For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.”

        There are many more examples that can be brought to bear. While we are all judged, at least in part, in accordance with the light and knowledge that we are afforded, we also know that the light of Christ is given unto all men and that none one that has ever lived on this earth has had a life completely devoid of the light of Christ.

        As to what “many women feel,” this is not the source of reliable moral truth. Particularly when these many women are pursuing a course that we know to be wrong.

        Further, I raised the 3% statistic simply because your post completely ignored the simple fact that the overwhelming majority of abortions in this country are completely elective. Further, you overstate the Church’s position. Too many people wrongly believe that the Church says that everything is hunky-dory when you want to abort a child conceived by rape, for instance. This is not the case. As your bishop what the Handbook actually says about this, if you don’t believe me. It says that it isn’t necessary to convene a disciplinary council for people who undergo, consent to, pay for or otherwise advocate or assist with an abortion where the child was conceived by rape.

        “Do we not need to allow others to live the best way they know how?” Let’s look at this question from a more logical perspective. Your arguments seem to justify the violation of a moral law that has been proclaimed throughout the history of Christianity, and which continues to be condemned by Christians (and many other religions) today, including the Church. How are any of the Ten Commandments, for instance any different? Should we decriminalize larceny, arson, murder or trafficking in heroine under the same logic? Shouldn’t we let serial killers, arsonists, drug pushers and other people engaged in criminal behavior to “live the best way they know how?” After all, many of them think it’s the only thing they can do too.

        The biggest difference between abortion and the other crimes list in the previous paragraph is simply that the victims of abortion don’t vote, don’t have names, and most of us who don’t work at abortion clinics never have to look them in the eye. But they are unique human lives, and they are at least as worthy of empathy and compassion as any of their mothers who (by an overwhelming majority) took active steps to create that life.

      • thelogicalmormon says :

        There are degrees of both wickedness and righteousness, evil and good. We will be judged by the light and knowledge we have, not by any absolute measure. We, as members of the church, not only are bound to a certain standard by covenant but also by the light and knowledge we possess. Others will not, and cannot be held to the same standard, except in terms of it being relative to their understanding. That the prophets stand as watchmen for the world does not bind the world to obey them any more than the world is already bound by the Bible.

        The core principle of the Gospel is love. Our focus should be on mercy, repentance, forgiveness and compassion, not on laws and punishment.

        Let’s step back a second and revisit one of the points from my post. How would you logistically propose to implement a complete ban against abortion? Any and all pregnancies would have to be monitored extremely closely, to make sure that no drug-induced abortions slip through, unnoticed. Are all women required to check in somewhere once a month (or more) to verify the status of their womb? Of course, all miscarriages — natural or otherwise — would have to be criminally investigated, if not prosecuted. So, for women who might be trying to have children, you’re going to put them through the psychological trauma of an investigation while they are still fresh in their grief? What punishment would you propose if women are found guilty of having an abortion? Fines? Jail sentences? I sure hope those women are not already mothers, or worse, single mothers.

        Until you have reasonable solutions to these problems, I don’t see how abortions can be made illegal without doing more damage to families than the abortions are doing themselves. So, evil? Perhaps. Definitely the lesser of two.

    • thelogicalmormon says :

      Here are some of the salient points from that article:

      * “Our members are taught that, subject only to some very rare exceptions, they must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion.” But there are exceptions, and this applies to members.
      * Elder Oaks discussed how the choice is made (most often) in whether or not not risk pregnancy, and allowing for elective abortions is effectively a method of altering consequences of a choice, and is therefore not justifiable.
      * We have the responsibility to advocate for moral and ethical laws.
      * “Moral agency—the right to choose—is a fundamental condition of mortal life. Without this precious gift of God, the purpose of mortal life could not be realized.”

      I don’t know whether or not you took the time to read my article, but my argument is that we do not have a good way to legislate the matter while still allowing for the exceptions that the Church itself says are justified. This is why I am pro-choice, not because I believe all women should be able to have elective abortions, but because I believe it is better to allow all women the choice to have an elective abortion than it would be to prohibit women who need or deserve them from getting them safely and without judgement.

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