LDS Church Neutrality on Abortion Legislation

While a student at BYU, I encountered an incredible amount of misconceptions on the political issue of abortion. It seemed that anyone who spoke to me of the issue assumed that Democrats and liberals “believed in” abortion, meaning that those who were pro-choice thought abortions were good things, and not something to be avoided. Over the next few posts, I aim to explore various aspects concerning the political issues of abortion, stem cell research, and as President George W. Bush termed it, “the culture of life.” To be clear, this is not an effort on my part to support the pro-choice position as I do not define myself as pro-choice, nor do I define myself as pro-life. I hope to establish a framework for thoughtful people to have rational discussions about these issues.

Since this is an LDS-related blog, I want to start this series of posts with the Church’s positions on abortion. Yes, that’s right, positions. On moral and ethical grounds, the Church has clearly articulated its expectations of its members. The Church “believes in the sanctity of human life… and opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.” It only allows for possible exceptions in cases of (1) rape/incest, (2) where the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, and (3) where the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. Additionally, these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. It is clear that the Church considers elective abortion to be sinful. I would never personally support or encourage someone to have an elective abortion because of my personal view on the sanctity of life.

However, the Church’s position on what the government’s role should be in regulating abortion is entirely different. On the Church’s official newsroom webpage, it states that “the Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.” Clearly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been politically neutral on what laws related to abortion should be adopted by our legislatures.

So to kick off my series of posts about the political issues of life, it needs to be clear, at least within LDS circles, that there is room within official LDS orthodoxy on what should be the law of the land. The pro-choice position basically articulates the belief that our government has little or no role in regulating abortions in our country. The pro-life position conversely believes that the government should have a heavy hand in regulating abortion, criminalizing it in most cases. I believe there are earnest, moral, and thoughtful people who are in both camps and in between.

About the author

I have been an active Latter-Day Saint all of my life and have also been an enthusiastic Democrat and progressive since my days as an economics undergraduate student at Brigham Young University. The hostile climate towards progressives at BYU inspired me to get involved with the BYU College Democrats, where I served as president during my senior year. I have since obtained a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Oklahoma. I served a full-time mission to the Philippines. I’m active in my local ward, happily married and have two rambunctious little boys and an infant daughter.