Abortion

What is the Church's policy on abortion?

The Church opposes abortion in almost all cases.[1] It has listed exceptions to the abortion policy in cases like pregnancy from rape or incest, when the life or health of the mother is at risk, or when the fetus has a severe defect that makes life after birth impossible.[2]

The Church Handbook notes that "even these exceptions do not justify abortion automatically."[3] In these cases, the handbook directs members to pray and counsel with local leaders before making a decision.[4]

Is abortion considered a sin?

Yes, the Church has stated that when there are no exceptional circumstances, abortion is considered a serious sin.[5]

Are people that have abortions subject to Church discipline?

Yes, if none of the exceptional cases apply.[6] Performing, arranging, paying for, or encouraging one may also result in a membership council.[7]

This does not apply to those who are involved in an abortion before becoming a member.[8] In those cases, the member interviews with a mission president and receives special permission for baptism.[9]

Does the Church consider abortion murder?

No, not really. The Church General Handbook states that abortion is not defined as murder.[10] But it also compares it to D&C 59:6 which states: “Thou shalt not . . . kill, nor do anything like unto it."[11]

So if it's not considered murder, why is abortion wrong?

The Church teaches that "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."[12]

Is there doctrine relating to when life begins?

No, there is no specific doctrine about when life begins.[13]

The Church doesn't record miscarriages or stillborns in family records and doesn't do temple work for them. So doesn't this imply that a fetus isn't a person?

Possibly, but the Church Handbook refers to children who die before birth as "children" and specifically states that the lack of requirement for temple ordinances "does not deny the possibility that these children may be part of the family in the eternities."[14]

Why would the Church policy have exceptions and allow abortions?

Sometimes commandments have exceptions to account for particular circumstances.[15] President Dallin H. Oaks[BIO] has noted that when a woman is violated by rape or incest, she has a moral and legal right to an abortion.[16]

Is the call to make "abortion safe, legal, and rare" consistent with the Church policy on abortion?

Sort of, but not really. The wording itself can align with the policy of the Church,[17] but the political slogan "abortion should be safe, legal, and rare" has been typically used to support the legalization of elective abortions,[18] which the Church opposes.[19]

Does the Church take a position as it relates to "pro-life" versus "pro-choice" legislation?

Yes and no. The Church has not taken positions on individual bills or initiatives related to abortion.[20] However, some Church leaders have expressed positions generally related to abortion legislation.[21]

Does the principle of free agency support voting pro-choice?

Possibly, however, Church leaders have argued that agency is not a valid reason to support elective abortion legislation.[22]

Does the Church restrict the bodily autonomy or reproductive rights of women?

Yes. Policies and teachings of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ prescribe behavior across a variety of areas like Sabbath day observance,[23] diet,[24] and sexual activity.[25]

Is the Church okay with contraceptives?

Yes. The Church teaches that family planning decisions "rest solely with each married couple."[26]

What is the Church policy on in vitro fertilization (IVF) which in practice can result in embryos being destroyed?

The Church recognizes that IVF may be necessary for married couples attempting to conceive children.[27] However, the Church has not made any statements on the issue of discarding fertilized embryos.

Some People Say . . .

"Abortion is murder."

— overheard in Sunday School

The Facts

  • The Church opposes elective abortions.

  • People that participate in abortions may be subject to Church discipline.

  • The Church allows for abortions in rare circumstances after prayerful consultation with priesthood leaders.

  • The Church General Handbook states that abortion is not considered murder.

  • There is no accepted doctrine on when life begins in a pregnancy.

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) is permitted by the Church, but it makes no statement on discarding fertilized eggs.

  • The Church does not take specific positions on "pro-life" or "pro-choice" abortion legislation.

Our Take

For many people, abortion is a sensitive, controversial, and emotional topic. Some consider abortion to be a violation of life, while others consider restrictions on abortion to be a violation of self and agency. Life, self, and agency are important elements of Latter-day Saint beliefs which makes it an especially difficult topic.

Church leaders and policy have consistently opposed abortion. Faithful Church members may vote differently on related legislation.

Given the variety of views people have and the position the Church has taken, abortion can be a frustrating topic to navigate. While working to reconcile faith with important political and moral issues, it's important to be humble and exercise charity in interactions with others.

What's Your Take?

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These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Wayne L.
    Abortion is a topic that I'm unsure I'll ever settle into comfortable place with- I can understand so many perspectives, and they all feel difficult and irreconcilable. I think ultimately, keeping the spirit with me in these interactions is all I can strive for.
Footnotes