A guide for any open-minded person who wishes to let the Lord frame their opinion of abortion.
I have much I would like to say personally about abortion. I could also find numerous sources to support my (and, really, any) opinion, or I could heavily research current and historical legal action regarding abortion. For this post, however, I would like to focus primarily on what the Lord has revealed to us regarding abortion.
These days, it seems everybody has an opinion about abortion. A few lie on the extreme “prolife” end of the spectrum, urging that abortion be unthinkable and illegal in every case everywhere, and a few on the extreme “prochoice” end, pushing the social and legal acceptance of abortion through the entire nine months of pregnancy for any reason. Most find themselves somewhere in the middle, and many are simply unsure.
Regardless of where you lie in the philosophical spectrum, I hope you will join me in humbly taking counsel from the Lord as much as possible on this subject.
I hope and pray that you read on with an open mind, whatever your opinion of abortion. My personal opinion regarding abortion has shifted slowly as I’ve really looked for and tried to understand what God says about it, and I believe the same can happen for you.
I am incredibly grateful to have so much of God’s word at the tap of a finger or click of a mouse. At our disposal we have the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and teachings of modern and living prophets and apostles—not to mention personal revelation through prayer and the Holy Spirit. We are so blessed! We needn’t suffer through the ambiguity of wading through the philosophies of men.
Counsel from the scriptures
I could have listed dozens of scriptures, but I tried to choose those most directly applicable to abortion:
“If men… hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no *mischief follow: he shall be surely punished”Exodus 21:22 (*footnote clarifies: “OR other harm.”)
“…therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live”Deuteronomy 30:19
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”1 Corinthians 3:19
“… the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.”Alma 14:11
“Thou shalt not… kill, nor do anything like unto it.”Doctrine and Covenants 59:6
Counsel from modern prophets
A number of modern prophets and apostles have addressed the topic of abortion, but a few general conference talks seemed to most explicitly discuss the issue. I highly recommend perusal of each of these sources, but please at least review the citations listed below.
Please note that two of these talks are from our current prophet of the Lord, President Russell M. Nelson. If you have not yet, I implore you to pray to ask God for a personal confirmation of President Nelson’s authority as the Lord’s mouthpiece on the earth. (I must also add that he also acts as an advanced medical authority as well, something relevant in such a medically-involved topic as abortion.)
“a new war… annually claims more casualties than the total number of fatalities from all the wars of [the United States of America].
“It is a war on the defenseless—and the voiceless. It is a war on the unborn…
“Now, as a servant of the Lord, I dutifully warn those who advocate and practice abortion that they incur the wrath of Almighty God…”President Nelson, “Reverence for Life”, April 1985
“A woman’s choice for her own body does not include the right to deprive her baby of life—and a lifetime of choices that her child would make.
“As Latter-day Saints, we should stand up for choice—the right choice—not simply for choice as a method.”President Nelson, “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless”, October 2008
“We decry abortions and ask our people to refrain from this serious transgression.”President Kimball, “The Time to Labor Is Now”, October 1975
Official Church statements
At this point, I feel it is safe to say that abortion does not please the Lord.
But what of the many factors surrounding abortion, including rape, incest, disability, health, life of the mother, socioeconomic outlook, and more? What does this mean for the legality of the practice?
I feel this is where ambiguity arises, especially among members of the Church.
For this reason, I think the most straightforward and helpful resources in understanding the application of God’s word regarding abortion are the following Gospel Topics essay titled “Abortion” along with the section about abortion in Handbook 2 (the official Church leadership guide), to which the essay strongly refers, nearly quoting verbatim.
We can trust both sources as accumulations of doctrine presented and approved by modern prophets, apostles, and others called by God with authority. At least until revealed otherwise, the following is considered Church policy and truth for its members:
Human life is a sacred gift from God. Elective abortion for personal or social convenience is contrary to the will and the commandments of God. Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church.
In today’s society, abortion has become a common practice, defended by deceptive arguments. Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord’s declaration, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:6). Their counsel on the matter is clear: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.
Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.
When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship. If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services.
Gospel Topics, “Abortion” (emphasis added)
There may be things about this statement that conflict with your current views, whatever they are. You might be skeptical or just unsure about their truth or relevance.
As always, I invite you to do your own research. Look for truth everywhere you can; churchofjesuschrist.org is a great place to start. Branch out to other sources that present facts, data, and stories about abortion. Most importantly, ask God in personal prayer before, during, and after your research for the spirit of discernment so He might give you eyes to see what is true and what is not, as well as how to act on what He teaches you.
A Brief Personal Note
I will add a brief overview of my opinion, as well as my testimony.
Life is sacred. God’s plan is perfect and real. We lived with Him before, and He sent us here to allow us to become like Him and live in families. “Children are entitled to birth” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World), and we do not have the authority to take that away from them.
In almost every case, I believe that unlikely candidates for parenthood (including those who have conceived under less-than-ideal or even unrighteous circumstances) will only become better as they become more like God in the best way possible: accepting their foreordained role as mother or father.
We need our children, and they need us. I feel a personal calling to defend those too young to speak for themselves.
I do not know when the spirit enters the body in the womb. I do know I could see my little one twisting and wiggling on both 2D and 3D ultrasounds at 11 weeks (first trimester), and then the ultrasounds at 20 weeks (halfway through pregnancy) showed even more of her clearly human body, active and curious. Now, I feel her every day, playing, pushing, and punching away at my insides (making me need to pee all the time!).
I believe God wants us to value preborn life as early as possible, as soon as possible.
What do you think?
What do you believe about abortion? Why? What doctrine or discourse has most influenced your opinion of abortion?