US Rep. Todd Akin’s comments on the Jaco Report this past Sunday morning lit up everyone’s newsfeeds and set the tweets to rapid-fire. Todd Akin currently represents me in the House and will be on my ballot for Senate this November. But rather than talk politics, I want to talk about the responses I’ve encountered to the church’s position on abortion.
I have a lot of Mormon friends that believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is as pro-life as you can get. This surprises me, perhaps because having grown up in the Midwest, many of my friend are evangelical born-again Christians. Most of them are also Todd Akin-ly pro-life, and one of their biggest criticisms of the Mormon church is that it is not pro-life. I spent a lot of time discussing religion with my friends in high school, and a lot of my effort debating abortion focused on justifying the exceptional circumstances under which the church is accepting of abortion. I wonder if other Mormons felt this way, and I hope that readers will share in the comments how what I’ve described seems familiar or foreign to their experiences.
For reference, Handbook 2: Administering the Church provides some insight into the church’s official stance toward abortion:
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 – Pregnancy resulted from forcible rape or incest.
2 – A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy.
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.
The Church discourages abortion; however, this statement makes it clear that women need to have a choice. If we look at pro-life and pro-choice affiliation purely as political movements aimed at guiding legislation, the Church—since it does not advocate making abortion illegal—is mildly “pro-choice.”