baby collage General Conference Abortion

General Conference Abortion

Elder Anderson spoke on Life during LDS General Conference on Saturday, but his right turn into the topic of abortion caused some struggles in my little group chat of seven female members. I admit I, too, bristled. It took some real effort to dismiss my frustrations and irritation with the delivery to recognize he wasn’t really saying anything that I disagreed with. I mean, I want fewer abortions. Who doesn’t? Do I believe in the sanctity of life? Sure.

Nevertheless, the talk was … difficult. Listening, I can hear that he is trying to be understanding and encourage adoption. This talk just missed the mark. Badly. Here’s some of the comments, most from four women, whose names and other identifying references I’ve omitted:

Struggling with Elder Anderson.

According to the handbook stillborn children are not considered “born in the covenant” because they never take a breath…but an abortion is killing a life?? I am just so confused. He said we clearly understand where life begins but then don’t honor it when a baby dies before they are born?? Trying to understand.

It was a mixed emotional talk. Especially since I have adopted a child.

I kept tuning out cuz it was bothering me

I am trying to draw on Elder Renlund’s words on “unfair” and Christ has felt it all.

Just got a message from [my daughter] (not sharing my thoughts with her) “I also loved Anderson, I think he approached the situation of abortion/teen pregnancy with kindness”…maybe I need to learn from my daughter.

I think that stillborn children can be recorded as born in the covenant if the parents were sealed before the child was born. Temple ordinances are not performed for stillborn babies, however, so if a stillborn child was born before you were sealed, it is not marked BIC. :-(

This is old but I think it’s relevant to what you’re asking, nnn, especially the part about breath, spirit, and body

… I am thinking of my sweet twin nephews [these children were stillborn to her brother and SIL who are no longer affiliated with Mormonism]. I still believe they are running around with my dad [also passed, active LDS].

So many holes. I feel like it’s so complicated when revelation is often not clear or influenced by our own lives. We just don’t know so much about things. I feel like policies error on one side from tradition because we know so little.

Such as stem cell research and abortion. Yet in miscarriage the there are very different views on life depending on how far the mom is. I don’t know. My sister has had 3 miscarriages, not something I have personal experience myself, but just going off her thoughts.

My feelings and thoughts are all over the place with that talk I have a niece who had an abortion and even though I don’t agree with her It was her choice. I talked to her and she was upset we would hate her if we knew she did it. We don’t and wouldn’t and I could understand why she did made her discussion. She now has a beautiful boy and is in a better mental place to raise him. It is hard cuz I adopted, I struggled with infertility I then had to make decisions with birth control cuz I had 2 kids and apparently could have kids…then thought I was pregnant at 42 and thought of doing the morning after pill cuz I mentally couldn’t deal with the post-partum depression that I struggle with after pregnancy. I fell like I have gone through it all. I am ashamed that I thought that way but there it is. It’s sticky. Complicated and grey in color.

Nnn, I struggle with [post-partum depression] too and sincerely appreciate your vulnerability here. We adopted because I knew I could not manage post-partum either. I feel abortion like suicide is more nuanced. If it will put the mom’s life in danger (because of mental illness) then we have to look at all aspects.

I get a little pissy about this issue. We are super fast to whine about abortion and life, but I don’t hear them talking about male killing. When I hear us preaching about war I will feel better. I realize the two aren’t exactly analogous, but the commandment says thou shalt not kill, not thou shalt not kill except when you’re really pissy or have a bigger gun.

Good point and maybe I missed it but I didn’t hear much about men’s roll in abortion. Like no male support with money or emotional support and male pressure to abort child. I’m kept thinking why is a man talking to me this Man I better quit. And quit throwing stones 😂😂😂

I keep trying to wrap my brain around all that he said and need to read his words again because I immediately shut down once he started in on abortion. I absolutely sustain him as an apostle of God, so now I need to understand why would God inspire him to talk about this? It felt like a sucker punch after Elder Renlund’s beautiful words. If I am approaching it in a “what I am doing right” way, then I feel I am right in asking for greater understanding because I simply don’t.

… I only told this group about my thoughts of plan b cuz of who we r. But even at church I get nervous cuz I have overheard comments from others I don’t feel safe expressing some things. I went to bishop at the time in tears cuz I felt so guilty about thinking those thoughts. And I came out from meeting feeling worse. I get some men r kind and say “you do you” but most men, even when trying to be kind, struggle. Or I guess I struggle with believing they understand my struggles, feeling and thoughts.
I get tired of the argument sometimes and think why can’t I just feel and think what I do and not have to explain or justify or educate others.

I love that too nnn, the only man that can understand a woman’s pain is our Savior and He’s a God…what does that tell us.

I’ve probably said it before but there is a woman in our ward, totally active, who has had three abortions. I am not sure why we keep bringing this up as every time it gets dogmatic, they have to back up and admit they don’t actually know when life begins. Once President Nelson argued that since we don’t know, we should not have any abortions. But that doesn’t sit well with me.

I worried about abortion when I was pregnant with Nnn bc I was so sick. There are many of us who have complicated pregnancy issues.

Me too nnn I’m just confused sometimes cuz I’m frustrated cuz for some reason I picked up on the guilt and shame and didn’t open my eyes to other ways Idk it was a triggering talk and maybe I’m upset cuz most of the other were great and all I’m focusing on is this one

The topic switched over to the collective guilt many of us have for working or staying home or both. Mother guilt is real no matter what the situation we find ourselves in — we feel guilty whether we are working or staying home or some combination. But my point here is that the talk was triggering, not just to the wrestlers like me, but it was also difficult for the more orthodox.

I didn’t say so during our chat, but I struggled greatly with the story of the woman 1 who had high-risk pregnancies but chose to have more children for a total of FIVE! I, too, have pregnancy complications, and I would not have either the courage or inclination to sprout a second without and experience I had at the temple. And yet, I was left feeling that I did not do enough, although I was sick for months with each child and though my doctor, who was an LDS stake president, told me that he’d never seen anyone as sick as I am with more than three kids, and then only if they had two of the same gender and really wanted a different for some reason. I recognize that making me feel like vomiting for seven months while eating through a tube to bring Kid #2 here wasn’t good enough was not Elder Anderson’s intent. But women weave and connect present stories that we feel relate with past experiences. We internalize. This type of talk brings up much, much more than the words alone express, and it can hurt us.

This talk did hurt and confuse many women, me included.

I wrote the following FB post, but I didn’t make it public. I’m trying to determine if social media is a private or public space for me. In the past I’ve been more inclined to share my wilder or more provocative thoughts privately because I subscribed to the LDS perspective on public airing of dissatisfaction or dissent as apostate. But lately I’ve been reading Kant, and I find his model of public disagreement and private quietude to be more in line with my thinking. I have little interest in persuading someone to think as I do or what I do, but I do have an interest in describing those things I think can be better or that are wrong with the intent of helping us/me do better. That expression must occur in public. Private discourse is too close, and I worry, a lot, about damaging someone else’s faith or belief by describing my own. A person who is struggling with faith is vulnerable, and it is necessary to support them in finding their own way rather than imposing our own way on them, which for me — at least at the moment — means keeping quieter on private discussion and getting louder here on my blog (recognizing that with little traffic I have no voice, but at least I’m not publicly pretending to think other than I do, which I believe to be mentally unhealthy).

So anyway, here it is:

Women may be responsible for abortion, but men are responsible for pregnancy.

It’s not enough to stop abortion. Society must also support the children they force mothers who are unable — for whatever reason — to raise. If you are a person who opposes abortion, you MUST also support increased social support for women. This means you will elect only leaders who honor fidelity in marriage, motherhood, and fatherhood. You will foster children, because if adopting a newborn is blessed, fostering a troubled teen is holy work. You’ll put all males on a DNA database so they can be held responsible for the children they sire irresponsibly, just like mothers are. You will vote to support tax increases to support single parents so those children are taken care of as well as your own.

No, you say. Single parents should be supported by social programs offered by churches or other charities. I categorically disagree, because if the *government* is going to use the law to force women to raise children they would not or could not raise, the *government* is responsible to support those children it brought to life.

Abortion is always a fraught decision for women. I’m all for reducing abortion numbers. I agree that adoption is beautiful, and blessed work. What I didn’t hear today was talk about how to support the children **already here**, the single mothers **already raising children alone**, and how to hold **fathers responsible** both legally and societally for the children they’ve already sired. Call me crazy, but I think we ought to take care of single mothers and children who are struggling RIGHT NOW, before we even consider introducing millions more babies that might be born if abortions are stopped.

We need more discussion on this issue than a 12-minute talk in conference can possibly handle, and I don’t blame anyone for not being able to cover the nuances of the issue in so short a time. But listen, if we are going to be serious about children, let’s get serious about children, and do the hard work of figuring out how reduce women’s need for abortion by also holding men fully responsible for pregnancy.

Me, opiner extraordinaire

I guess the above is an expression of what I wanted to hear and didn’t: an acknowledgment that it takes two to make a baby, that men are not fulfilling their responsibility to father which is a direct, real cause of abortions, stories that show it is OKAY to not have children when you have physical or mental health issues 2, and a discussion of what we as a church will do RIGHT NOW to help women who are struggling to raise children alone to include pressing for action in Congresses worldwide. It’s not particularly polished, but I wasn’t feeling polished when I wrote it, and I’m not now.

I just think we can do better on this subject than we are.

Mothers need help now. If you value our role and the children we bear — if they are truly the most important thing we are/do, show us.3

  1. “In the summer of 2011, life for our family was seemingly perfect. We were happily married with four children—ages 9, 7, 5, and 3. …

    “My pregnancies and deliveries [had been] high risk … [and] we felt [very] blessed to have four children, [thinking] that our family was complete. In October while listening to general conference, I felt an unmistakable feeling that we were to have another baby. As LeGrand and I pondered and prayed, … we knew that God had a different plan for us than we had for ourselves.

    “After another difficult pregnancy and delivery, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. We named her Brielle. She was a miracle. Moments after her birth, while still in [the delivery room], I heard the unmistakable voice of the Spirit: ‘There is one more.’

    “Three years later, another miracle, Mia. Brielle and Mia are a tremendous joy for our family.” She concludes, “Being open to the Lord’s direction and following His plan for us will always bring greater happiness than … relying on our own understanding.”

    I note, by the way, that this quote is from a correspondance dated mid-March. It makes me question whether this is topic Elder Anderson actually spent much time thinking about.

  2. …as opposed to the mythologizing the heroic mother who risked her life five times for a child
  3. I was on a road trip and didn’t see conference. It’s probably just as well, as there are plenty of guilt-inducing pictures on the webpage, like this one, that I presume were showed on the screen during the talk:

Posted by Jenny Smith

I'm Jenny Smith. I blog about life on the 300+ acres of rolling farmland in Northern Virginia where I live. I like tomatoes, all things Star Trek, watercolor, and reading. I spend most days in the garden fighting deer and groundhogs while trying to find my life's meaning. I'm trying to be like Jesus -- emphasis on the trying.