Mitt Romney's Heartless Advice to a Woman Whose Pregnancy Might Have Killed Her
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Instead she was "shocked" by what she heard. According to Hayes, Romney "pressured" her to give her son up for adoption through an LDS agency. At first, she thought she had misunderstood him, but much to her horror, she hadn't.
"[Romney] told me it was really important to give the baby up," Hayes said in her original interview with Globe reporters Frank Phillips and Scot Lehigh nearly two decades ago. "He told me he was a representative of the church and by refusing I was failing to comply with the church's wishes and I could be excommunicated."
Hayes took Romney's admonition as a threat. She felt attacked, even intimidated. Moreover, it was insulting: "He was saying that because Dane [her son] didn't have a Mormon father in the home and because of the circumstances of his birth—being born to a single mother—then the expectation of the church was that I give him up for adoption to the church agency so he could be raised by a Mormon couple in good standing."
There was an additional, racial component to the story that has never been reported. Hayes' first child, a girl, was African American on her father's side. "No one ever asked me to give her up for adoption," Hayes said. "They wanted my son because he was a white male who could grow up and be a member of the Mormon priesthood."
It wasn't until 1978 that the LDS Church finally lifted its ban on black men from serving in the Mormon priesthood. "I want to make it clear that I don't think Mitt was a racist," Hayes said in an interview this past week. "But the church was, and remains, a racist institution. And had my son been black, like my daughter, there wouldn't have been this push for adoption."
At the time, Romney issued a formal statement through his campaign organization acknowledging his adoption advice. "This was Peggie's second child," he declared. "At the time, Peggie was not working, had no visible means of support and was living on welfare. She was also a member of a family that had had severe problems in many different ways which, to protect Peggies's privacy, I will not go into in this statement." According to Phillips and Lehigh, Romney strongly denied any threats of excommunication and pointed out that while Hayes had rejected his advice, she remained in the church.
A close friend of Hayes, along with her aunt, however, backed up the story. "I told them what happened the very next day," says Hayes. "This wasn't something that came up later. There were other women in the church who were told the same thing," she says. "The sin was not about having the baby. The sin was not listening to the prophecy of the church."
Hayes acknowledges that there were "family issues" at the time of the incident, but bristles at the way that Romney referenced them in the press. "If I was so unfit to be a mother," she asks, "why was it OK for me to be around his sons, to babysit them, to work at their home?"
LDS officials in Salt Lake City also issued a formal announcement at the time, stating that Mormon policy dictates that unwed parents who are unable or unwilling to marry "should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS social services," the official church social services agency. "Placing the infant for adoption through LDS Social Services helps ensure that the baby will be reared in a faithful Latter-day Saint family."