Editor’s note: This All In excerpt from the episode that was released October 28th shares the decision one mother faced of whether or not to abort her pregnancy due to her own health concerns. We feel it important to note that the Church’s official statement on abortion is as follows:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.
The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:
Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.
The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.
Mandie Sherman was never sure if she would be able to give birth. She was born with cystic fibrosis (CF), a disease which affects the lungs and digestive system. In fact, Sherman wasn’t even sure she would live to be 18 years old—the life expectancy given to her parents by doctors at the time of her birth. But today, Sherman is a 31-year-old wife and mother. On this week’s episode of All In, Sherman recounted the difficult decision she faced regarding childbirth due to potential challenges for both herself and her unborn child.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Mandie Sherman: As soon as I found out I was pregnant, the first people that Ric and I told were my doctors. We knew that what had happened—the ability for me to actually conceive—was in and of itself a miracle. It was going to be a hard road, and we needed all hands on deck. What we didn't realize was really how difficult it was [going to be]. But my doctors realized that. We went in naïve, being like, “We're pregnant, isn't this a miracle? This is so wonderful, help us move forward with, you know, having this baby.” And everybody's initially pretty excited about babies, and that lasted for about two minutes. And then . . . they encouraged us to terminate and said, “This is not good. Our job is to keep you alive and keep you healthy and this directly affects both of those, so our professional medical opinion is to abort. It would be in your best interest.” Ric and I were so taken aback. Initially, our guards flew up and we're like, “Oh, no, we can't do that. We have strong religious views, that is not what we're supposed to do,” and we left.
When I said we needed all hands on deck, that's medically as well as spiritually.
We met with a bishop and stake president, just seeking spiritual advice on how to navigate this path, and told them what our medical team recommended. And they said, “Well, actually, when it comes to the Church's stance, if it's a direct threat to the woman's life and that's accessible, and in this situation—you can't say, ‘Oh, my religious standards are a “No,”’ because you are in that unique situation where your life is directly threatened. Whatever road you have to take, that is between you guys and your Heavenly Father, and whatever road you do choose to take, you know, Heavenly Father will direct you and you won't have shame." And Ric and I are just like, “Wow, yeah, we do fall into that category. And this is really, really hard.” And he and I, we delve right in, I mean, we're praying people anyway, but when you have a situation like this on your hand, your prayers just become way more intense and severe and constant. And your brain is in overdrive trying to think of all the situations, and what-if’s, and we did lots of pondering and studying of the scriptures.
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Ultimately, we both came to a decision on our own. And we both had separate feelings. And then we got together and talked about it. Both of us, we only got one answer, and that was that this baby needed to come to earth. We never got any peace or comfort [about] if the baby was going to live a long life, we never got peace or comfort [about] what was going to happen to my life or what my outcome would be of the situation. And what we didn’t mention is that we had been married at this point for three months, and we were six weeks pregnant. And so three months into our marriage, we were making this life-or-death decision. And it was crazy emotionally, crazy spiritually, but what we both knew was that this baby had to come to earth, and I had been chosen to bring this vessel to earth. And no matter what the outcome was in regards to my life, if the last thing I ever did was bring this spirit to have their earthly body, there's no more beautiful gift that I could have done or could have had. And so that's when we knew we had to move forward.
And like I said, we never knew what was going to happen to me. [There was another] CF gal who lost her life four months before I did in labor—both her and the baby passed away in delivery. And my pregnancy was so difficult. We had so many complications and hospital stays. Both Hawk [my son] and I should have died multiple times during my pregnancy. And we were both saved. And I felt pretty calm and confident during my pregnancy because I knew he had to come to earth. I knew this baby had to come. And so I was like, “Alright, this is going to be okay. These are scary moments, but I know it's supposed to happen. We’ll make it through this.” In delivery was when I was nervous, because I knew that that was when the other CF woman had passed away. And I had been talking to my grandfather a lot—I was very close to my grandmother and she had passed away before I had been remarried—and I was talking to him. And I was so sad that [my grandmother] wasn't going to be a part of this, and I asked him, “Can I pray for Grandma to be with me during the delivery?” He said, “Absolutely.” He encouraged me to pray for whoever I wanted to be there on whatever side of the veil.
And I, in that moment—I knew what I needed to do. And I began praying for all of the ancestors that came before me, all the women who gave birth that I was related to from the time of Adam up until now. They gave birth in scary situations—unmedicated situations—on the plains, in a boat, wherever they had survived pregnancy, and I needed them to help me survive this, [to] do this task at hand, and then hopefully, be able to survive some way. As time went on during my labor, the room became increasingly hotter and hotter and hotter. And I knew it was because more and more of my female ancestors were showing up to the room to help me do this task, to help this spirit child make its way to earth and its earthly body safely. And it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I knew that my Heavenly Father and my Savior were there. I felt when their hands took over my body. And it was an almost out-of-body experience. I turned my body and my life over to the Lord and I saw and felt Him work His miracles through me. And both Hawk and I made it safely through that experience.
Five years later, we're both still here. We're both healthy, and I never felt more beautiful, more connected with my ancestors and the heavenly spirits than in that moment. I felt my Heavenly Father's love and His arms, and I felt the miracle of childbirth. And I knew that this is what life is about, you know? It's about family. No matter what your family looks like now, or in the future, or what it has looked like, Heavenly Father knows your unique family experience, your unique family design, and He has His hand in there and is helping you and will help you along the way.