Mormon Views on Abortion
Abortion is not permitted for Mormons except in very specific circumstances. Having or supporting an abortion is grounds for church discipline and possible expulsion. The LDS church does not take a position on whether abortion should be legal.
The Mormon church is opposed to abortion and prohibits its members to have or support abortions except in certain rare circumstances, which must be approved by church leadership.
Official LDS Statements on Abortion
The current (undated) official statement on abortion by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads in full:1
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, 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.
The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when: Pregnancy results from rape or incest; or a competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy; or a competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.
The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.
A former official statement released in 1973 reads in full:2
In view of a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, we feel it necessary to restate the position of the Church on abortion in order that there be no misunderstanding of our attitude.
The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.
Abortion must be considered one of the most revolting and sinful practices in this day, when we are witnessing the frightening evidence of permissiveness leading to sexual immorality.
Members of the Church guilty of being parties to the sin of abortion must be subjected to the disciplinary action of the councils of the Church as circumstances warrant. In dealing with this serious matter, it would be well to keep in mind the word of the Lord stated in the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 6, “Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” [D&C 59:6]
As to the amenability of the sin of abortion to the laws of repentance and forgiveness, we quote the following statement made by President David O. McKay and his counselors, Stephen L Richards and J. Reuben Clark, Jr., which continues to represent the attitude and position of the Church:
“As the matter stands today, no definite statement has been made by the Lord one way or another regarding the crime of abortion. So far as is known, he has not listed it alongside the crime of the unpardonable sin and shedding of innocent human blood. That he has not done so would suggest that it is not in that class of crime and therefore that it will be amenable to the laws of repentance and forgiveness.”
This quoted statement, however, should not, in any sense, be construed to minimize the seriousness of this revolting sin.
Reasons cited by Mormon sources for opposing abortion include:
- the sanctity of human life1
- the command in Mormon scripture that "Thou shalt not kill, nor do anything like unto it"2
- it is revolting2
- it is sinful2
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.... Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord's declaration, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6).3
Does Life Begin at Conception?
None of the official statements or, as far as we can find, articles on official websites state that human life begins at conception or that a fetus has the same status as a person.
Some past church leaders have indicated a belief that life begins sometime after conception, with such statements as:
- "When... the mother feels life come to her infant it is the spirit entering the body preparatory to the mortal existence." (Brigham Young, 1874)4
- "This [3 Nephi 1:13] indicates that the spirit takes possession of the body at birth." (President McKay, 1934, in a letter condemning abortion)4
- "Mortality is fully upon us when we first breathe the breath of life." (Bruce R. McConkie, 1977)4
The exemptions for rape and incest allowed in the official statement have been interpreted by at least one Mormon as indicating that a fetus does not have the same status as the mother:
The Mormon Church allows for abortions in the cases of rape and incest, and thus implicitly doesn't view a zygote as a 'human being.'4
A pro-life website, which takes the position that life begins at conception, condemns the LDS statement for its exceptions:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints says it opposes abortion, but tragically the Mormon church officially defends the killing of the innocent child in four different circumstances.[^768]
Religious Consequences of Abortion
Possible consequences for a Mormon who has or supports an abortion include Church discipline and loss of membership in the Church:
Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church.... Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.3
This is reiterated in the 1973 statement:
Members of the Church guilty of being parties to the sin of abortion must be subjected to the disciplinary action of the councils of the Church as circumstances warrant.2
Can Mormons Be Pro-Choice?
The official LDS statement on abortion explicitly takes no position on legislative proposals concerning abortion.1 The 1973 statement, although it references Roe vs. Wade, does not address whether Mormons should support or oppose the legality of abortion.2
In a video from 2012, the Mormon politician Mitt Romney explains his own separation between "church and state" on abortion, comparing it to Mormon views on alcohol: while he is personally opposed to drinking alcohol as a Mormon, he does not think alcohol should be made illegal or unavailable - he thinks people should be able to make their own choices.5
An article on MormonPress, a liberal Mormon website, discusses the wording of the official statement and other church teachings and concludes that "one can be pro-choice and a faithful Mormon."4
“ABORTION - Mitt Romney caught on hidden camera - claims some Church Leadership is Pro-Choice.” (2012) Mitt Romney explains why he separates his personal Mormon moral code that prohibits abortion (and alcohol) from making those things illegal for everyone. ↩
- “Abortion.” LDS.org. Web. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.
- “Abortion (official statement).” MormonNewsroom.org. Web. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017. Official statement.
- “ABORTION - Mitt Romney caught on hidden camera - claims some Church Leadership is Pro-Choice.” 28 Jul. 2012. Web. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017. Mitt Romney explains why he separates his personal Mormon moral code that prohibits abortion (and alcohol) from making those things illegal for everyone.
- Harold B. Lee, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney. “Policies and Procedures: Statement on Abortion.” LDS.org. . Web. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017. Official statement in April 1973 from the First Presidency.
- Kuruvilla, Carol. “Mormon Mom Has An Abortion Story Donald Trump Needs To Hear.” 21 Oct. 2016. Web. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017. A personal account of a Mormon who had an abortion due to exceptional circumstances.
- Nelson, Geoffrey S.. “Abortion.” Web. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017. A pro-choice Mormon perspective on abortion, from a non-official Mormon website.