The Case against Easier Abortion Laws

“The Case against Easier Abortion Laws,” Ensign, Aug. 1972, 53

The Case against Easier Abortion Laws

15. Christian-Judeo thought opposes abortion.

Religious leaders of many faiths are against most types of abortion. The Didache, an early Christian writing, includes this precept: “Thou shalt not procure abortion.”

A statement from the First Presidency in 1971 on the subject of abortion and sterilization reads in part: “We have given careful consideration to the question of proposed laws on abortion and sterilization. We are opposed to any modification, expansion, or liberalization of laws on these vital subjects.”11

Elaborating on this statement is the following statement published in the June 1972 issue of the Priesthood Bulletin:

“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.

“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.

“These observations must not be interpreted to mean that acts of abortion, except under circumstances explained in a preceding paragraph, are not of a serious nature. To tamper or interfere with any of the processes in the procreation of offspring is to violate one of the most sacred of God’s commandments—to multiply and replenish the earth. 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.’”

Each person who believes that abortion is a sin and a crime against God and man must fortify himself with the arguments against this evil. Our goal should be, as the Book of Mormon states, to raise our children “to grow up unto the Lord.”

14. Abortion only strikes at the symptoms of the ills of society, not the causes.

The plight of unwanted children is one of the tragic problems of our society. Making it easier to empty life’s creative chamber is not the solution. Efforts should be made to solve the problem of why children are unwanted.

“One of the greatest challenges today,” Dr. Joe J. Christensen, associate commissioner of Latter-day Saint schools, has stated, “would be to strike at the causes rather than the symptoms of some of the deep and abiding problems in society, problems that cause some to feel that having an abortion is a justifiable option.”

Dr. Christensen continues: “After life has been taken, the problems that motivated this move still persist in all likelihood—problems such as poverty, injustice, intolerance, ignorance, immorality, and selfishness.”10

13. Eliminating an imperfect fetus is extremely cruel discrimination.

Some feel that abortion is justified when there is a chance of a defective child’s being born. If we will not tolerate imperfections in human beings, it might make more sense to practice infanticide or genocide. Abortion is even worse because it doesn’t discriminate; it destroys the healthy as well as the deformed baby. “Every argument that can be made for aborting a fetus can also be made for killing the same fetus once it is born,” argues Professor R. Paul Ramsey of Princeton University.

Many devoted parents have proved that the birth of a defective child need not be tragic; often such a child becomes a focal point of family love. Eighty-five percent of the retarded can get jobs and adjust to society.

Speaking of her own child, Nobel Prizewinning author Pearl S. Buck stated: “A retarded child, a handicapped person, brings its own gift to life, even to the life of normal human beings.”9

12. Laws on abortion are contrary to other laws pertaining to the rights of the unborn child.

The unborn child is perhaps the only minority that can’t speak for itself. It is completely helpless. Yet even the worst type of criminal is given every possible benefit, including the right to every legal procedure, from the right to counsel to the right to a trial by jury. But the unborn child who is eliminated by abortion and is innocent has none of these rights. Abortion gives one person rights over another without due process of law.

The United Nations Declaration of Rights of the Child states: “The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

How important it is that the law protect that most basic of all rights—the right of life, upon which all others are based!

Legal writers have pointed to the fact that, while the law is moving toward recognition of the unborn child as a person—with all of a person’s inalienable rights—the trend in abortion laws is to deny the existence of life. “With the exception of the abortion movement,” one attorney has noted, “the universal trend in the law is toward full recognition of the humanity of the unborn child.”

Courts in a number of states in the USA have accepted the principle that the unborn child is a person. The right of a child to recover damages for prenatal injuries has long been acknowledged in a number of cases. Even a century ago a Pennsylvania court held that “the civil rights of an infant … are fully protected at all periods after conception.”

11. Many abortion laws remove the father’s rights and responsibilities.

In any unwanted pregnancy, one-half of the responsibility rests with the father. Yet many of today’s laws allow abortion if the mother desires it. This does not permit the father any right or even knowledge of the situation, which can only lead to further abdication of his responsibilities as the father and denial of his right to prevent abortion.

Today a man (married or single) unwilling to accept the responsibility of fatherhood can be taken to court and, if convicted, forced to pay hospital, doctor, and other expenses. To force responsibility in one situation and to deny it in another is inconsistent justice.

10. Existing abortion laws already provide for the saving of the mother’s life.

With present medical techniques, the chances of a woman’s losing her life because of pregnancy are rare. Dr. R. J. Heffernan of Tufts put it even stronger in an address to the congress of the American College of Surgeons: “Anyone who performs a therapeutic abortion is either ignorant of modern medical methods of treating the complication of pregnancy or is unwilling to take the time to use them.”8

The wording of revised abortion statutes is often so vague that it can be interpreted quite freely to cover almost any situation. There is, for example, no explanation of what is meant by the word “gravely” in the phrase “gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother.”

According to some laws, a doctor need only certify his “belief” in the existence of circumstances justifying the abortion. He need not offer any proof that the circumstances do in fact exist, nor is he even required to examine the patient.

Since all states already permit abortions to save a woman’s life, further modification in this area is not needed.

9. The future consequences of a smaller, younger population supporting an increasingly older population are formidable.

Already medical science has helped to lengthen life expectancy, and this pattern will undoubtedly continue. An older population needs to be supported and is less productive than a younger one. It takes hard-working people with an increasing productivity rate to produce the standard of living all segments of society want.

With the already decreasing birthrate in the USA, critical problems will be faced in just a few years if the present decline in the birthrate continues. A total of 800,000 fewer babies were born in the United States in 1968 than in 1961. This means that in 1976 there will be 800,000 fewer third graders in the nation’s classrooms than today and an increasingly disproportionate number of senior citizens.

8. When the state legalizes abortion for convenience, it promotes sexual promiscuity and other ills.

Another argument sanctioning freer abortions states that “85 percent of those who want them are married women, which doesn’t greatly affect the sexual activity of single people.” But now “experts agree that the abortion ratio between married and single [women] is now about 50–50 and that young women are experimenting with sex irresponsibly.”7

During the first year Denmark liberalized its laws, there were only 439 legal abortions. Sixteen years later (and without a proportionate population increase), the number of abortions increased ten times, and there was an increase in the number of those illegally performed.

Unfortunately for many, the only moral principles that have some effect are the laws of the land. Law is an educator. If it allows the destruction of unwanted life, it unavoidably teaches that life is cheap. If easier abortions are sanctioned for any reason, promiscuous behavior is promoted.

7. Linking abortion to demography and the quality of life diverts attention from the real environmental issues.

Proponents of infanticide and euthanasia are insensitive to the higher purposes of life, and such suggestions are repulsive to family-oriented people everywhere. There also seems to be no definite corollary between population density and the incidence of crime or a poor quality of life.

Within the area of environmental control, those alarmists who claim that the increasing number of people is the only culprit responsible for our pollution problems are likely to obscure many other issues that urgently need to be solved.

6. Starvation is not the result of uncontrolled population growth.

The oft-repeated myth that one-half to two-thirds of the world’s people go to bed hungry has never been supported by facts. The World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reluctantly admitted that it defined as “malnourished” anyone who did not eat like the inhabitants of Western Europe, where overeating was more often a problem than undernutrition.

Dr. Collin Clark, who specializes in economics and population at Oxford University, maintains that even “at our high level of consumption, the world’s available agricultural land could feed over 40 billion people, before we made any attempt to reclaim mountains or deserts, or to obtain food from the ocean.”6

There is abundant evidence that much of the world’s hunger is due to government mismanagement and superstitions of people against certain foods, rather than actual shortages.

Population experts discount the explosionists’ view that in a future time there will be one person for every square yard of the earth’s surface. Population growth is actually leveling off in many areas in the world and even declining in some.

5. No one can tell at what point a fetus is viable.

Since, at the present stage of medical achievement, a fetus cannot be kept alive outside the mother’s womb before about twenty-four weeks after conception, the new abortion laws allow life to be taken prior to this time.

Some argue that “no one knows when life begins,” so they reason, “Why not consider it at birth?” However, the argument might just as well be reversed to state that if no one really knows when life starts, why not consider it as life at the point when the life-developing processes begin.

The genetic potential that directs the development of all human life is fully established at the moment of conception when the mother’s egg is fertilized by the father’s sperm. The factors that influence temperament, physique, eye, hair, skin color, and even intellectual capacity are all present.

At four weeks the fetus has a functioning heart, before the mother is aware that she is pregnant; by eight weeks there is a central nervous system and ingestive and digestive systems; brain cells, ears, eyes, nose, toes, and fingers are also forming. The baby can even move his head and bend his body, and he is sensitive to touch.

The simple fact is that at no point during a pregnancy is any human capable of knowing when the spirit of life takes up a new abode.

4. Fetal tissue is different from all other tissue.

Some would say that the fetus inside the mother is merely a piece of tissue. However, Dr. Robert E. Cooke, chief of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has pointed out three basic differences: “First, fetal tissue is unique. There never was nor ever will be another piece of tissue identical to it.

“Second, cell tissue composition of the fetus is distinct from its mother’s tissue and would be rejected from her body were it not enclosed in the amniotic sac. … Your tonsils are yours and yours alone—but a mother’s fetal tissue is not hers.

“A third and even greater difference between fetal and tonsil tissue is the potential of the fetal tissue.”5

3. Abortion brings physical risks to the mother and future children.

Although medical statistics show that legal abortions have one of the lowest mortality rates of all types of surgery, there are some problems to consider. When abortions are performed, a 2 percent sterility rate is considered a reasonable estimate, and the risks of infection are also increased because sometimes the uterine cavity must be invaded, which is rarely the case in normal childbirth.

2. Abortion can cause more psycho-neurotic problems than it can cure.

Today, mental reasons are given more frequently than physiological ones for obtaining abortions. Yet a growing number of psychiatrists state that genuine cases of mental sickness arising from unwanted pregnancy are rare.

Dr. Victor Calef, of the Mt. Sinai Clinic in San Francisco, believes that “abortion itself is a potential source of psychiatric illness and a basis for mental breakdown. For this reason there should be no psychiatric grounds for abortion. There are only two kinds of women who would not be bothered by an abortion—a woman already severely mentally disturbed and a woman completely free of psychiatric symptoms.”3 Dr. Calef concludes by saying that he has never met anyone free of psychiatric symptoms.

A common argument for abortion for psychiatric reasons is the threat of suicide. While many authorities regard such tactics as bluffs designed to force a doctor into approving such an operation, Dr. Myre Sim, a British psychiatrist, has commented that “statistical evidence shows that the incidence of suicide is lower among pregnant women than among the population generally. The best advice a doctor can give a pregnant woman who threatens suicide is to tell her to stay pregnant.”4

1. Legalizing abortions may not have reduced the number of illegal abortions.

“I have seen the results of enough back-street abortions to make me in favor of the new laws” is a frequent argument. While there are many other factors involved, there has instead been a significant increase in the number of illegal abortions in many areas where they are sanctioned.

“Thank heaven for little babies; what would we do without them?” sighed my wife, as she cuddled our new little one. With our new son’s arrival, there seemed to be more love and harmony among our entire family.

Most Latter-day Saints know that raising children, as our Father in heaven has commanded, brings one of life’s greatest joys and helps fulfill the purpose of our creation:

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

“Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. …” (Ps. 127:3–5.)

Furthermore, the Lord has proclaimed: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:14.)

To Adam and Eve the Lord commanded: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. …” (Gen. 1:28; see also Gen. 35:11.)

In our day the First Presidency of the Church has reaffirmed this law by stating: “We seriously regret that there should exist a sentiment or feeling among any members of the Church to curtail the birth of their children. We have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity.”1

Yet the conviction that abortions are wrong is being shattered by the winds of reform. Increasingly, insistent cries are heard that a pregnant woman (married or single) has the right to terminate the developing life within her. The pressure is now shifting from limited changes in the law to a well-organized and well-financed drive for abortion on demand. Many spokesmen for planned parenthood, women’s liberation, and other groups are behind this movement.

On March 16, 1972, the Federal Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, which had been appointed in 1970 by the president of the United States, issued its formal recommendations. This report urged removal of most restrictions on abortion by all of the states. It also recommended that under some circumstances the federal government pay for abortions and that insurance companies include in their policies specific coverage for hospital and surgical costs incurred by women who have abortions.

An early and significant development toward changing the abortion laws in the United States occurred in 1959, when the American Law Institute presented a model penal code advocating numerous changes in state laws, including loosening of existing abortion laws. Up to that time, these statutes permitted abortion under only very limited circumstances.

The first states to enact new legislation were California, Colorado, and North Carolina in 1967. Some fifteen states now have more liberal laws.

The American Medical Association has also spoken out for relaxing existing laws.

Dr. John A. Harper, a psychologist, speaking at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, urged that the “world’s governments take the right to produce from the people.”2 And a 1971 bill in the Hawaii legislature would have compelled the sterilization of all women after the second child.

In 1965 a Gallup Poll in the United States showed that only 15 percent of the adults favored abortion if a woman wanted one. By 1969 a similar survey showed an increase to 40 percent.

Liberalized abortion has been thwarted recently in the courts or legislatures of several states; however, many people are being deceived and persuaded by pro-abortionists to embrace this inhuman concept. Therefore, the many arguments against making abortions easier to obtain need to be examined.


  1. Letter from the First Presidency to presidents of stakes, bishops, and mission presidents, April 14, 1969.

  2. Medical World News, April 13, 1970, p. 54.

  3. Daily Utah Chronicle (University of Utah), February 25, 1971, p. 5.

  4. Russell Shaw, The Trouble with Abortion (Alexandria, Virginia: National Right to Life Committee, 1968), p. 13.

  5. Joe J. Christensen, “Legalized Abortion—Murder or Mercy?” (talk delivered at LDS Institute of Religion, University of Utah).

  6. Salt Lake Tribune, October 4, 1969, p. 2.

  7. Look, February 9, 1971, p. 71.

  8. Shaw, p. 15.

  9. Robert E. Cook and Others, The Terrible Choice, the Abortion Dilemma (New York: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation, 1968), foreword by Pearl S. Buck.

  10. Christensen, op. cit.

  11. Priesthood Bulletin, February 1971, p. 3.

  • Dr. Scharffs is associate director of the institute of religion at the University of Utah. He has filled three stake missions and a full-term mission in Germany; he is now serving as a stake missionary in East Mill Creek Stake.