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 abortion 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, "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]

Do the scriptures say anything about abortion?

Possibly. Some have argued that the "ordeal of bitter water" in Numbers in the Old Testament as describing a ritual that induced an abortion,[14] although others have argued that the text is unclear.[15]

A few New Testament passages speak negatively of pharmakeia, which may be a term that refers to abortion inducing treatments.[16] The Didache (a 1st-2nd century AD christian document) explicitly condemn abortion.[17]

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."[18]

Why would the Church policy have exceptions and allow abortions?

Sometimes commandments have exceptions to account for particular circumstances.[19] 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.[20]

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,[21] but the political slogan "abortion should be safe, legal, and rare" has been typically used to support the legalization of elective abortions,[22] which the Church opposes.[23]

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,[24] however in June of 2022 it updated[25] it's stated policy to say "Church members may appropriately choose to participate in efforts to protect life and to preserve religious liberty."[26]

Additionally, some Church leaders have expressed positions critical of "pro-choice" policy.[27]

Do Latter-day Saints tend to be "pro-life" or "pro-choice"? How do they compare with the general population?

A 2015 Pew Research study indicated that most American Latter-day Saints (70%) believe that abortion should be "illegal in all/most cases."[28] Survey data also suggest that greater religiosity among Latter-Day Saints predicts pro-life positions.[29]

Various survey datasets have found that the majority of Americans want at least some restrictions on abortion.[30] For example, a 2022 Marist poll found that 83% of Americans want at least some kind of restriction on abortion.[31] And a 2022 Pew Research survey found 71% of Americans believe there are "exceptions" in which abortion should be illegal.[32]

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.[33]

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,[34] diet,[35] and sexual activity.[36]

Is the Church okay with contraceptives?

Yes. The Church teaches that family planning decisions "rest solely with each married couple."[37]

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.[38] However, the Church has not made any statements on the issue of discarding fertilized embryos.

Why does a person have to be asked about abortion in a baptismal interview?

Because of the seriousness of abortion, special care is taken that potential new members understand where the Church stands on the matter.[39] In the case that a potential new member has been involved in an abortion, a mission president or one of his counselors will speak to a person privately before a baptism is performed.[40]

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.
  • Julia
    I don't understand why there isn't more effort to just eliminate unwanted pregnancies and focus on supporting those who wanted the pregnancies who are in the worst times of their lives.
  • Sean
    Adultery is opposed by the church and yet any legislation to punish it would be viewed as Draconian at best. I am morally opposed to elective abortion, and as a health care provider don’t perform them, but I do provide patients with the information to choose on their own.
  • Kyle
    you guys have a very solid perspective on this one and I appreciate it!
  • 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.