Please allow me to ramble a bit today as I try to collect my scattered thoughts into something tangible. Over the last six weeks or so, I’ve thought a lot about the miscarriage I had on April 3, 1982—yes, I remember the exact date 37 years later, even though I don’t remember dates and have a hard time remembering the birthdays of my own grandchildren. At the time, we had two little girls, 4 and almost 3 years old.
I had a warning sign of a possible miscarriage, and on the advice of my doctor, had been on constant bed rest for a couple of days. All my pregnancies came with all-day “morning” sickness that lasted throughout the pregnancy, so in order not to alarm the children with their mother’s constant illness, we had to be very open with them. There was never any hiding of a pregnancy through the first trimester. It simply was not an option in our home. When we realized that miscarriage was probably imminent, my husband and I talked to our daughters and explained to them that the baby was sick and might have to go back to heaven. However, in a moment of grief when it finally happened, my husband told the girls that “Mom lost the baby.” The next morning, our almost-three-year-old climbed in bed with us and asked me if I’d found the baby yet. We had some more explaining and teaching to do.
We were able to have two more children after the miscarriage, but not without accompanying trials. Each of our children was brought into this world in a miraculous way—each with their own story and level of difficulty.
These last weeks as I’ve pondered the struggles we had of complicated high-risk pregnancies and births, very ill babies, the miscarriage, and a period of infertility, the online discussion about abortion has rung in my ears and rattled my brain. It’s like the loud neighborhood party at 1:00 a.m. that you can’t turn off so you can sleep. No matter how many pillows you put over your ears, the party gets louder as the night moves on.
With all my faculties fully awake from the constant beat of the drum, I began to think about our two adopted grandchildren who are such a blessing to our family. I also thought about how carrying our children in my belly, I got to know their individual little personalities. For instance, our first child kicked constantly until I would double over in pain (and she’s still a Type A personality). I cried the whole time I was pregnant with our second child because she never moved. I thought she would be stillborn. She is our laid back, easygoing, methodical, constant reader. Each of our children let us know long before they were born exactly who they are.
Medical and technological advances over the years allow us to understand that those in the womb are babies, not insignificant developing cells. We can now actually see into the womb. We know what we are doing; this isn’t a mystery anymore. The number of babies who are aborted saddens me more than I have words to say. Yet, I have faith that Heavenly Father is a just and merciful God. The louder the drums beat in my ears, the more fervent my prayers become for these little ones—and the more fervent my prayers become for the birth mothers of my two adopted grandchildren who gave them the gift of life.
As I’ve pondered that tragic time in 1982 when I miscarried, I’ve come to understand the abortion debate. Nothing that I will ever say will change anyone’s mind. I’ve learned that as a volunteer for an organization that answers letters from people who are troubled or have questions or problems. My heart breaks as I read some of these letters. Young women (and some older) write expressing their confusion over when to lose their virginity—some just want to get it over with quickly so they don’t have to think about it anymore. I answer these letters as I would if I were talking with my own grandchildren, giving grandmotherly advice and guidance encouraging chastity in a world that no longer understands the meaning of that word.
Then there are the letters from desperate young pregnant girls. After inquiring about their support system, I tell them our family’s adoption story and encourage them to place their babies for adoption if there is no support system in place. I explain to them that they have an opportunity to turn a mistake into the most precious gift they can ever give another person. I counsel them about choice and accountability, and that there are consequences for all our actions.
Each of us has a decision to make about choice and accountability. It comes down to human life, responsibility, character, and following the covenant path. It comes down to agency and how we use that agency. In many cases, it comes down to a choice between selfishness and selflessness; obedience and disobedience. Ultimately, it’s all about love.
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. Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church.
In today’s society, abortion has become a common practice, defended by deceptive arguments. Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord’s declaration, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). Their counsel on the matter is clear: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.
Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.
When a child is conceived out of wedlock, the best option is for the mother and father of the child to marry and work toward establishing an eternal family relationship. If a successful marriage is unlikely, they should place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services. (ChurchofJesusChrist.org, Gospel Topics, “Abortion.” Emphasis added.)
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.