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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ stance on abortion is now ‘more liberal’ than some states’ laws

Photo of U.S. flag and LDS Temple.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirmed its stance on abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But its beliefs, and the new political reality of abortion, put the institution in a complicated position, some scholars say.

The church is against abortions, except for instances of rape, incest and if the pregnant person’s life or the fetus is in danger. Utah’s abortion trigger law, SB 174, is in line with the church’s stance, but other states are now far more restrictive.

“The church's position is now at odds with that of the government,” said Jana Riess, a senior columnist with Religion News Service. “And instead of the usual situation when the Church's position is at odds on a social issue, this is actually more liberal than what our government is now saying is legal.”

The church’s statement said members “may appropriately choose to participate in efforts to protect life and to preserve religious liberty.” Riess said that has a lot of latitude for interpretation, for example, if members want to advocate for the life of a pregnant person.

This all leaves the church and its members in “an awkward position,” said Courtney Campbell, the Hundere Professor in Religion and Culture at Oregon State University.

“It's one thing to tell church members they're supposed to be engaged in the political process to work against laws that allow for elective abortions,” he said. “It's a very different kind of political, moral and ecclesiastical matter when some of these laws restrict therapeutic abortions that the church permits.”

The church also states its belief in the sanctity of human life. Campbell said with that stance, he thinks leaders could do more to advocate for and help pregnant people.

“The church could sort of distance themselves from the particular policy issues of abortion … it's going to be very messy to send a consistent message now,” he said. “But [the church] can be an advocate for women's health care, for universal access to … forms of medical care that would actually protect women's choices, but also work to minimize the numbers of abortions.”

Read more from NPR: Abortion bans with no exceptions may be politically risky

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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