By JENNIFER GANTT ABSHE
Twenty-six years ago, an unwed BYU student discovered she was pregnant and went home to California to have her baby and give it up for adoption.
Angie Carling, a 25-year-old BYU student from Rancho Mirage, Calif., majoring in family sciences, was that baby.
“I grew up knowing I was adopted,” Carling said. “I’m grateful to my birth mother because she gave me up when she knew she couldn’t provide for me what she wanted to. She kept me for almost 6 weeks and then gave me up.”
Carling is now married and 4 1/2 months pregnant.
“Now that I am pregnant I’ve thought a lot about it and the realities of it and I’m not saying it’s easy,” Carling said. “She was LDS and wanted me to go to an LDS family. The gospel changes your life so much. I have a lot of gratitude for her. Some day I’d like to say thank you.”
LDS Social Services helps many LDS women deal with unwanted pregnancies each year.
Last year alone, LDS Social Services in Utah County helped counsel 130 birth mothers, 35 of those placed their child in an LDS home for adoption, said Gary Steggello, manager of administration and special services for LDS Social Services.
LDS Social Services follow the teachings of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their counseling.
“When the unwed parents are unable or unwilling to marry, they should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Social Services,” the First Presidency wrote in a letter addressed to church leaders dated Feb. 1, 1994. “Placing the infant for adoption through LDS Social Services helps ensure that the baby will be reared by a faithful Latter-day Saint family and will receive the blessings of the sacred sealing covenant.”
The statistics show how few mothers choose adoption with unwanted pregnancies but the numbers of those having unwanted pregnancies are rising.
“Only 3 percent of unwed mothers choose adoption,” Lorie D. Fowlke wrote in her column “A Matter of Law” for the Daily Herald on Jan. 1, 1995. “Single parenting is chosen 67 percent of the time. However, studies show children reared by unwed mothers more often receive abuse, multiple caretakers, inconsistent parenting and a higher incidence of later problems. Seventy percent of all juveniles in long-term correctional facilities did not live with their fathers while growing up.”
The number of unwed births in Utah County is growing, 445 in 1990, 467 in 1991 and 542 in 1992, said Fowlke.
Church leaders have expressed concern over the alarming numbers of abortions and those children being reared by unwed parents.
“One major problem is the now-common phenomenon of children bearing children, of children without fathers,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in the October 1994 Sunday morning session of general conference.
LDS Social Services provides a birth parent telephone helpline across the nation. In the past five years that they have had the helpline they have averaged between 5,000 to 6,000 calls a year. The helpline number is 1-800-537-2229, Steggello said.