Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Good News for Mormons

May 21st, 2009 by Adam G.

For the first time ever in a Gallup poll, a majority of Americans are pro-life. As many support the Church’s moderate prolife position–that abortion should be illegal, but with some exceptions–as support the extreme pro-choice and the moderate pro-choice positions combined.

Among abortion opponents, the Church often gets criticized for having an “incoherent” and “convenient” position on abortion. Revelation, schmevelation, they say. The same types of criticisms of revelation are made more generally by critics of the Church. Isn’t it clear, they say, that you would only need continuing revelation if you were planning on compromising with the times? Yes, I say, and hell, yes. God is a fisherman. He lets the line run out a little and then reels it in a little. He is not aloof. He condescends to speak to us in our own fatuous tongue. He adapts to our weaknesses.

Some evidence suggests that Mormons are far more pro-life than other denominations. I think the reason is that the Church’s has spoken very clearly on the evil of abortion in most circumstances (“like unto murder”), but has just as clearly refused to condemn what most people would consider to be the hardship or difficult cases. More than 95% of aborted children (over 900,000 per year) are of the kind the Church condemns, so the usefulness of this attitude is obvious.

I can’t credit the Church’s stance on abortion for the recent upsurge in Americans who identify themselves as pro-life. The change is real–a couple of other recent polls have shown the same thing–but its also too sudden to be explicable. The public, however, has slowly and gradually been shifting pro-life for years, and I believe the Church does have quite a bit to do with that. The pro-life movement has done a lot better since it adopted a step-by-step approach in the 90s. The widespread involvement of Mormons in pro-life groups made this adoption easier. And, I believe, the fact that Mormons aren’t ultimately committed to outlawing all abortions everywhere has and does make the step-by-step approach more credible; it seems less like a stalking horse for a total ban if many of the backers are religiously committed to avoiding a total ban.

So thanks be to God who gave us life and children and procreation and revelation.

Note: I’m not persuaded that the our revealed pro-life position is actually a pragmatic accommodation to public opinion. It could well be that there are fundamental reasons for drawing the lines that the we draw. But if it is a pragmatic accommodation, so what?

Comments (18)
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May 21st, 2009 08:56:04
18 comments

Wm Morris
May 21, 2009

“Yes, I say, and hell, yes. God is a fisherman. He lets the line run out a little and then reels it in a little. He is not aloof. He condescends to speak to us in our own fatuous tongue. He adapts to our weaknesses.”

Word.


Bookslinger
May 21, 2009

“More than 95% of aborted children (over 900,000 per year) are of the kind the Church condemns, so the usefulness of this attitude is obvious.”

What other kinds of children does the church condemn?


Adam Greenwood
May 21, 2009

Yes, that’s phrased badly, Bookslinger. Sorry.


the narrator
May 21, 2009

I haven’t followed things closely, but I thought you quit Times and Seasons. Why post there as well and custardly close comments on that blog?


Steve M
May 21, 2009

Some evidence suggests that Mormons are far more pro-life than other denominations

That’s debatable. The survey you cite to (2008 Super Tuesday GOP exit polls) shows that, of all the Republicans voting on Super Tuesday, Utahans were the least likely to say that abortion should always be illegal. Only 10% of Utah Republicans felt that abortion should always be illegal; by comparison, 37% of Arkansas Republicans, 33% of Tennessee Republicans, and 32% of both Missouri and Alabama Republicans indicated that abortion should always be illegal.

The majority of Utah Republicans (75%) felt that abortion should only be “mostly illegal.” While that may constitute a Pro-Life position, it is certainly a more moderate one than that espoused by Republicans in the Bible Belt.

The Church’s stance on abortion has been described as a “relatively liberal position within the pro-life movement.” I think the Super Tuesday data bear that out.


bbell
May 21, 2009

http://www.nd.edu/~dcampbe4/DRY%20KINDLING.pdf

See page 9. LDS consistently show in the social science data as just about the most pro-life segment in society. There was a recent pew or gallup poll that establishes this and was discussed at length in the Naccle


Adam Greenwood
May 21, 2009

Steve M. Far from being something I’ve overlooked, that’s the point of the post. Because Mormons are content with the “mostly illegal” pro-life position, far more Mormons hold a pro-life position.


AHLDuke
May 21, 2009

bbell,
I invite you to go back and actually read what that Notre Dame paper says. It says that 3% fewer Mormons take the “never justified” position on abortion, relative to Catholics and Southern Baptists (probably not statistically significant). However, the paper states that “far more” Mormons (statistically significant) would permit abortion in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother. The only question on which Mormons seem less liberal is the question regarding whether abortion is a personal choice. I imagine that has something to do with the peculiar way in which choice/agency language gets tossed around in the Church. Under the rubric these authors are using, they conclude that Mormons are the “most pro-life” based on the fact that 60% of Mormons adhere to the more moderate, weaker pro-life position. Their conclusion and your reliance on it- classic overreach.


Adam Greenwood
May 21, 2009

BBell,
is this the Pew survey you’re talking about?

http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=384


Adam Greenwood
May 21, 2009

Why is that classic overreach, AHLDuke? What you call the “weak” pro-life position is opposed to something like 98% of the abortions in this country. What’s weak about that?

Mormon liberals and pro-life purists both are unhappy with the Church’s effective, pragmatic pro-life stance–purists because its pragmatic, liberals because its effective. Either way, why should we care?


Steve M
May 21, 2009

Adam,

Another issue is whether the Church (as opposed to its members) is really “Pro-Life,” even if moderately so. Typically, the term “Pro-Life” connotes such things as disagreement with Roe v. Wade and support for legislative measures that restricting the availability of abortions.

According to the LDS.org Newsroom, although “the Church 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 “has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

In other words, while the Church discourages elective abortions in most circumstances, the Church does not have an official position on government regulation of it. The Church’s recent statement on alcohol laws, which states that the Church is not opposed to alcohol laws that make room for more “individual freedom of choice,” suggests that moral opposition to something does not necessarily translate into support for government prohibition of it.

This is a HUGE distinction between the LDS Church and the world of Evangelical Christianity. Even if most Mormons end up siding with the Pro-Lifers, the Church’s position should not be overlooked.


bbell
May 21, 2009

Yes Adam that is the Pew study,

Clearly based on the data the LDS population is along with the JW’s the most Pro-life segment of American Society. My views mirror the moderate pro-life position.


Adam Greenwood
May 21, 2009

By the same token, Steve M., one could argue that just because the Church doesn’t morally condemn certain abortion exceptions doesn’t mean ALL abortion shouldn’t be illegal. I prefer not to get into that thicket. Politically I’m fine with Elder Oaks thinking that our moral abortion stance is probably a good match for our legal abortion stance. I’m also fine with seeing a distinction between aborting an unborn, uh, something and laws about where liquor can be served.


Agellius
May 21, 2009

The link to the Gallup poll doesn’t go anywhere. Or is it just me?


Steve M.
May 21, 2009

By the same token, Steve M., one could argue that just because the Church doesn’t morally condemn certain abortion exceptions doesn’t mean ALL abortion shouldn’t be illegal.

True. But the thing is, nobody here is arguing that abortions should be legal under all circumstances, or that the Church’s policy should be read as an endorsement of that position.

Rather, according to the Newsroom, the Church seems to be taking a quasi-neutral stance–moral opposition to most elective abortions, but neutrality with respect to public policy. And that cuts against your assertion that the Church itself (as opposed to merely a majority of its active American membership) has a “moderate” or “pragmatic pro-life stance.”

I’m also fine with seeing a distinction between aborting an unborn, uh, something and laws about where liquor can be served.

I agree that there is a moral distinction between alcohol consumption and abortion, but that’s kinda beside the point, don’t you think? My earlier point was that, as evidenced by the Church’s statement on alcohol laws, moral opposition to a particular type of conduct does not compel support for its prohibition. Which means that, in the absence of an affirmative statement to the contrary, the Church’s discouragement of elective abortions should not be considered a de facto endorsement of the Pro-Life agenda.

I don’t think Elder Oaks’ views should be construed as a statement of official Church policy.


Adam Greenwood
May 22, 2009

“True. But the thing is, nobody here is arguing that abortions should be legal under all circumstances, or that the Church’s policy should be read as an endorsement of that position.”

I think you’re parsing the negatives wrong in what I said, or else I don’t understand what you’re saying.

I also think you’re parsing the Newsroom statement wrong. You’re construing a statement that no particular law or legislative proposal has recieved endorsement as a statement of indifference to whether abortion is legal and under what circumstances.


Adam Greenwood
May 26, 2009

Or look at another presentation of Pew data here:
http://religions.pewforum.org/comparisons#


Bookslinger
June 22, 2009

Here’s a keeper:

What’s the connection between abortion and careers?
by Penelope Trunk.
June 17th, 2009
——————-

I have had two abortions.

The first one was when I was twenty-seven. I was playing professional beach volleyball. I was playing volleyball eight hours a day and I spent two hours a day at the gym. I noticed that I was getting tired more easily, but I thought it meant I needed to train harder.

Then one weekend, a doctor friend on a visit saw me drop a plate one day, and a vase the next. I told her my hands just gave out because they were so tired.

She said I was anemic. Then she said, “Maybe you’re pregnant.”

“I’m not,” I said. “I have a regular period.”

It turns out, though, that you can have a regular period and still be pregnant.

And I was. Fourteen weeks.

My friend said, “Schedule the abortion now. You’re already late for it.”

I didn’t do anything. I was in shock. My boyfriend was in shock. Neither of us had ever had a pregnancy. I couldn’t believe the whole process actually worked, to be honest.

I told my mom I was pregnant. She said, “Get an abortion.”

I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t really thinking I had any choices. I didn’t have a job that could support a child. And I wasn’t sure if I was planning to marry my boyfriend, although we were living together. I knew that I had big ideas for my life and I hadn’t figured things out yet.

My mom got militant. “You’ll destroy your career possibilities.”

She riffed on this theme for a week, calling me every night. Her passion is understandable. My mom took a job when I was young because she hated being home with kids. She endured interview questions like, “Does your husband want you away from home working?” She was one of the first women to become an executive at her Fortune 500 company. She blazed trails so I could have career goals that required an abortion to preserve.

Here’s what else happened: Other women called. It turned out that many, many women I knew had had an abortion. This is not something women talk about. I mean, I had no idea how ubiquitous the procedure was, at least in my big-city, liberal, Jewish world.

Each of those women told me that I should get an abortion so that I could keep my options open. “You’re a smart girl. You can do anything with your life right now. Don’t ruin it.”

My boyfriend was laying low. He was no slouch when it came to pro-choice politics and he knew it was, ultimately, my decision.

But the minute I said I would get an abortion, he was driving me to Planned Parenthood.

You had to go once to set up the appointment, and then go back.

When I went back, I had a panic attack. I was on the table, in a hospital gown, screaming.

The nurse asked me if I was a religious Christian.

The boyfriend asked me if I was aware that my abortion would be basically illegal in seven more days.

I couldn’t stop screaming. I was too scared. I felt absolutely sick that I was going to kill a baby. And, now that I know more about being a mother, I understand that hormones had already kicked in to make me want to keep the baby. We left. No abortion.

My boyfriend started panicking by suddenly staying really late at work and going out with friends a lot. I stopped playing volleyball because I got tired so quickly.

People kept calling me: They said, “Think about how you’ll support the child. Think about what you’ll do if your boyfriend leaves you. You’re all alone in LA with no family. How will you take care of yourself?”

People gave me advice: Get a job. Once you have established yourself in a career, you’ll feel much better about having kids. Figure out where you fit in the world. Get a job, then get married, and then have kids.

I scheduled another abortion. But it was past the time when Planned Parenthood will do an abortion. Now it was a very expensive one at a clinic that seemed to cater to women coming from Christian countries in South America. I knew that if I did not go through with it this time, no one would do the abortion. I was too far along.

So I did it.

I went to sleep with a baby and woke up without one. Groggy. Unsure about everything. Everything in the whole world.

People think abortion is such an easy choice–they say, “Don’t use abortion as birth control.” Any woman who has had one will tell you how that is such crazy talk. Because an abortion is terrible. You never stop thinking about the baby you killed. You never stop thinking about the guy you were with when you killed the baby you made with him. You never stop wondering.

So the second time I got pregnant, I thought of killing myself. My career was soaring. I was 30 and I felt like I had everything going for me – great job, great boyfriend, and finally, for the first time ever, I had enough money to support myself. I hated that I put myself in the position of either losing all that or killing a baby.

I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant. I knew what they’d say.

So I completely checked out emotionally. I scheduled the abortion like I was on autopilot. I told my boyfriend at the last minute and told him not to come with me.

He said forget it. He’s coming with me.

I remember staring at the wall. Telling myself to stop thinking of anything.

The doctor asked me, “Do you understand what’s going to happen?”

I said yes. That’s all I remember.

I got two abortions to preserve my career. To keep my options open. To keep my aspirations within reach.

I bought into the idea that kids undermine your ability to build an amazing career.

And here I am, with the amazing career.

But also, here I am with two kids. So I know a bit about having kids and a career. And I want to tell you something: You don’t need to get an abortion to have a big career. Women who want big careers want them because something deep inside you drives you to change the world, lead a revolution, break new barriers.

It doesn’t matter whether you have kids now or later, because they will always make your career more difficult. There is no time in your life when you are so stable in your work that kids won’t create an earthquake underneath that confidence.

I think about the men I was with when I had the abortions. They were not bad men. One is my ex-husband. So much of life is a gamble, and I think I might have had as good a chance of staying together with the first guy as I did with my ex-husband. And I am not sure that my life would have turned out worse if I had had kids early. I am not sure it would have turned out better. I’m not even sure it would have been that different.

You never know, not really. There is little certainty. But there are some certain truths: It’s very hard to have an abortion. And, there is not a perfect time to have kids.

And I wonder, are there other women out there who had abortions in the name of their career and their potential? What do those women think now?

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