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Two Mormon profs, two views on birth control

Published January 29, 2014 7:30 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two Mormon men — a physician and a lawyer — have recently weighed in on the knotty issue of birth control but from different fronts.

Joseph Stanford, a professor in family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah, said he opposes the use of the so-called "morning-after pill" or an intrauterine device (IUD), both of which block implantation of an embryo, as a form of contraception.

"When [Stanford] deals with patients, he inquires about their beliefs on when life begins and explains all the possible ways — including blocking implantation — that birth control could work," Cathy Lynn Grossman wrote Tuesday in a Religion News Service piece. "If they still want pills or an IUD, he refers them to colleagues."

Stanford, a Latter-day Saint, said his decision is personal.

"I am not willing to prescribe anything," he told RNS, "that may, even some of the time, prevent the further development of a human embryo."

On Jan. 15, Frederick Mark Gedicks, a law professor at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, argued that asking for a religious exemption to Obamacare's requirement to cover employees' birth-control costs actually violates the employees' — not the owners' — religious rights.

Gedicks, writing an opinion piece in The Washington Post, described two cases that the U.S. Supreme Court will consider this year involving a cabinet manufacturer and a chain of arts and crafts stores whose "owners claim that contraceptive coverage poses a grave threat to their religious liberty."

Such claims, the BYU lawyer wrote, "indeed pose a grave threat to religious liberty, but not to that of the owners of these businesses."

Allowing "ordinary, nonreligious, profit-seeking businesses" to opt out of a general law "because of the religious beliefs of their owners would be extraordinary, especially when doing so would shift the costs of observing those beliefs to those of other faiths or no faith," Gedicks wrote. "The threat to religious liberty, then, comes from the prospect that the court might permit a for-profit business to impose the costs of its owners' anti-contraception beliefs on employees who do not share them."

Neither man claims to be representing the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which takes no position on birth control, but rather encourages its members to consider prayerfully their individual decisions.

"The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them," the faith advises in its Handbook for local leaders, "is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord.

Peggy Fletcher Stack