Instilling Pro-Life Moral Principles in Difficult Times: The Experience of One Faith Community

By Wardle, Lynn D. | Ave Maria Law Review, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Instilling Pro-Life Moral Principles in Difficult Times: The Experience of One Faith Community


Wardle, Lynn D., Ave Maria Law Review


H. LDS Church Positions on the Legalization of Elective Abortion

On March 7, 1974, just a year after Roe, an official, designated representative of the Church testified before a United States Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments hearing

considering several proposed Amendments to the United States Constitution that would reverse Roe. David L. McKay, a son of the former President of the Church, David O. McKay and then-President of the LDS mission in New York and New England, presented "a statement on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints," that included the recent LDS First Presidency statement opposing abortion as "one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day." (116) He concluded: "The church is therefore against the legalization of abortion." (117)

That baseline position against the legalization of elective abortion has never been repudiated or disavowed. However, the Church, qua Church, has deliberately avoided getting involved in the political battles over whether and how to preserve, change, and shape the law regarding the myriad potential incidental legal issues (such as abortion funding, parental consent, spousal participation, waiting periods, informed consent, disposition of fetal remains, regulation of methods used to perform abortion, etc.). Rather, the Church has taken a clear position on the big issue (elective abortion should not be legal) and avoided the bramble bush of political battles on the many lesser issues that seem to even divide the most sincere pro-life groups and persons. Thus, the current published position of the Church regarding legalized abortion states: "The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion." (118)

However, the Church has encouraged members to be actively involved individually in supporting laws that protect the sanctity of life. The "Proclamation on the Family" has become the anchor for LDS policy positions regarding the family since it was issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles on September 23, 1995. It includes, in relevant part, the declarations: "We affirm the sanctity of life ..." and "We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society." (119)

In his first sermon after he was sustained as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a little more than a year after the United States Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, President Spencer W. Kimball

the World, Sept. 23, 1995.

delivered the first of many sermons explicitly condemning abortion, including a direct repudiation of abortion for reasons of personal convenience, and in the same speech admonished members of the Church to be politically active in "their respective political parties and there exercise their influence." (120) He later declared:

   There is today a strong clamor to make such practices legal by
   passing legislation. Some would also legislate to legalize
   prostitution. They have legalized abortion, seeking to remove from
   this heinous crime the stigma of sin.

   We do not hesitate to tell the world that the cure for these evils
   is not in surrender. (121)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught students at Brigham Young University:

   The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social
   convenience. 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. That direction tells us what we
   need to do on the weightier matters of the law, the choices that
   will move us toward eternal life. (122)

Many General Authorities have encouraged Mormons to "stand up" and have mentioned the legalization of elective abortion as one example of the moral deterioration that must be resisted and opposed. …

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