It’s a cop-out to answer this question with the answer: all of them. To lay it out simply: if you are a Mormon woman living in your country, then your countries public policies affect you because you are a woman. It is also true that being Mormon shapes who we are as women. Though we may make some of the same decisions as our sisters from other faiths, often our reasons are different and the rates of those decisions are different due to our religious beliefs.
With so much talk about the War on Women being waged in the United States, this is a good opportunity to discuss how are Mormon women specifically are affected by public policies that affect women. This speaks directly to the idea that Mormon women may not identify with the need for some policies and therefore not have a vested interest in them. It seems like basic human nature to not care as much about challenges not personally faced by oneself though this is the antithesis of Christ’s doctrine of charity and “comforting those who stand in need of comfort.”
The Women’s Service Mission aims to understand the needs of women both within and outside the church and support efforts that meet these needs both in the public and personal sphere.
Public policies play a role in much of how women are able to care for and nurture themselves and their families so it stands to reason that public policies matter to Mormon women. The question then is: which ones?
Below are my thoughts, please discuss and add policies that I have left out here. Do you feel strongly about any of these policies? Can you make the case for why others support be in support or against them as you are?
Even in 2011, women still make $.70 to the $1 for each hour of paid work in comparison to men in comparable positions. The Lilly Ledbetter Act enacted in 2009 provides recourse for women who suspect that they did not receive fair pay in comparison to their male counterparts. Did Mormon women care about this victory for equality? Because most Mormon women find themselves out of the work force, it could be said that Mormon women do not feel strongly whether their working peers receive a fair wage or not. Yet if we look at our support of public policies as a service to those who need those policies enacted, Mormon women provide meaningful service to women not of their faith as well as many who share it by supporting equal pay assist through not making them work harder than they need to in order to care for themselves and their dependents.
Latter-day Saints in general oppose abortion so this is one public policy that most feel like they are not arguing for themselves but would rather be putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and arguing on their behalf. Though there may be some situations where a faithful Latter-day Saint may feel compelled to abort a pregnancy , in general, Mormons support adoption over abortion . If you have ever been to General Conference in Salt Lake City, you will know that fundamental Christian groups oppose the church’s stance on abortion because it states there are three circumstances (rape, incest, when the mother’s health may be in danger by the continuation of the pregnancy or when the baby experiences defects that make living beyond birth unlikely) where abortion may be indicated.
When asked, most Mormon women will state that they are pro-life but a significant portion also recognize a need for abortion services in those allowable cases Additionally, some Mormon women recognize a woman’s need to make decisions prayerfully in light of their personal situations as well as finding it troubling that a woman’s agency is being taken from her. So then, how important to Mormon women are the decisions made by policy makers on this topic? Do Mormon women have a responsibility to try to protect these services for themselves and other women? Where do you stand and can you make a case for why other Mormon women should care?
The Proclamation on the Family provides what some Mormon feminists consider an escape clause, “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” It can be up to the family to decide how the breadwinning will be done though the norm is that mothers stay out of the work force to care for their children while fathers work to provide for the family. Yet many LDS women find that they need to work outside the home when their children are young for a variety of reasons. For those LDS and non-LDS women who feel compelled to return to work after pregnancy, is this one public policy that does matter to Mormon women? By supporting the expansion of this public policy, can Mormon women provide meaningful and compassionate service to mothers, babies and families?
Another workplace issue is requiring businesses and employers to allow breastfeeding women to take additional breaks in order to pump breastmilk that is taken home and given to their breastfeeding young children. Since most Mormon women are not working when they are breastfeeding, why should they care that many mothers find that their employment keeps them from breastfeeding their children as long as recommended by not allowing them the time to express milk? Is this one policy that Mormon women can support despite their belief that women should be at home caring for their babies?
Subsidies for Stay at Home Mothers
Mormons recognize the importance of mothers as nurturers and value stay at home mothers as the ideal caregivers for their children. Many lower income families are unable to support a stay at home mother due to financial constraints yet would prefer the parents remaining the main providers of childcare. Also taking into account the government funded subsidies to pay childcare providers, it seems justice would be served in providing an equal amount in subsidies(http://www.calgaryandareacfsa.gov.ab.ca/home/591.cfm) to families who would like the parents to be the main childcare provider. Also see here: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/DocServer/AHICchartOct05.pdf?docID=1048 Would this policy be one that many lower income Mormons would support and appreciate?
Flex-time and telecommuting options
Some corporations and agencies are ahead of the game because they allow their employees to work from home some days or to work longer hours some days in order to have more days off. There are proposals that exist to encourage and provide incentives to more businesses and agencies to provide this benefit to their employees. For Mormon families wouldn’t this be an exceptional boon? Fathers having more time with children, mothers being able to work and share childcare responsibilities as “equal partners”?
For a little historical perspective, some public policies have decidedly benefitted Mormon women including achieving the right to vote as well as transferring Social Security benefits to a homemaking spouse.
So then, I’ve listed some of my favorite public policies that I believe would be beneficial to LDS families as well as others that don’t seem to have much effect on Latter-day Saints as a rule.
Can you think of others? Can you make a case for or against these policies and others you can come up with?