The social media sensation talks about the Mormon church’s stance on abortion and “responsible ejaculation.”
If you checked social media, or the internet in general, when the most recent attack on reproductive rights turned a corner (once the Supreme Court became majority conservative in 2018), when the Supreme Court draft leaked, or when Roe v. Wade was tragically overturned in June, you might know Gabrielle Blair’s work. You might not recognize her name, but you’d recognize her tweets.
Gabrielle Blair first went viral in 2018, when she tweeted about reproductive rights from the point of view of a Mormon mother. “I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon. I have a good understanding of arguments surrounding abortion, religious and otherwise. I’ve been listening to men grandstand about women’s reproductive rights, and I’m convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion,” the first tweet in her thread read.
The 30-plus tweets that follow are probably not exactly what you expected. They aren’t about religion, Blair’s feminist awakening, or even her own experience with abortion. They’re about her belief that men are responsible for all unwanted pregnancies. She lays out a detailed and convincing argument, including the fact female birth control is expensive and can be difficult to attain — and comes with debilitating side effects for some — while condoms are readily available and have no serious impact on the wearer (aside from those allergic to latex). Not only can they prevent most pregnancies, but they also protect against STIs. Blair points out that many people prefer not to wear condoms, though, because it slightly hinders the pleasure they experience during sex. So, women are meant to deal with the hassle of procuring birth control and any side effects the hormones result in to prevent pregnancy so that men can enjoy sex just a tiny bit more. (Meanwhile, many women aren’t enjoying it at all.)
Some of the most impressive points are below:
This argument has pretty much become Blair’s brand: Taking politics, religion, emotion, and talk of babies out of the abortion argument, and pointing out what she believes the real problem is, which is trying to control women’s bodies instead of holding men accountable at all. She just released a book called Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion.
“Men should definitely be doing more. Why is this all on the shoulders of women?” Blair tells KCM. “I hear from women who feel such a release thinking about it this way, like, ‘Oh, someone else can help with this? I hate the side effects of birth control. We’re done having kids. Why haven’t I suggested my husband get a vasectomy? Why hasn’t he suggested it? It hasn’t crossed my mind.’ I hear from men who say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never once contributed to my girlfriend’s birth control costs. I don’t help in any way. And I benefit from it just as much as she does.’”
Blair says, “It’s a lovely thing to be able to talk about abortion without having to bring up images of babies, whether they’re alive, not alive, heart beating or not. I’m not talking about that. We completely set that aside and say, ‘What if we didn’t have to worry about that because you didn’t cause the pregnancy in the first place?’” She believes this is where both sides of the abortion debate can meet in the middle. “Who doesn’t want to get on board with prevention? For anyone who is insistent that they want to see abortion reduced, prevention is it.”
Blair says her foremost goal “is to get people to stop focusing on controlling women’s bodies and shift the conversation toward men’s accountability. What if we just did that? It would help. It would prevent unwanted pregnancies. And we wouldn’t be controlling women, which is awesome.”
We asked Blair why she feels accountability and prevention are the most powerful abortion talking points — and the Mormon church’s response to her controversial perspective.
Tell us about your connection to the Mormon church. Are you still practicing?
I was born into a big Mormon family. I’m number five of eight kids. My husband is also from a Mormon family and is also one of eight. So we have a big extended Mormon family. We’re still practicing Mormons.
I’m the only practicing Mormon among my siblings, but five years ago that wasn’t true. Everyone was in and then suddenly, now I’m the only one. When everyone was a Mormon, my siblings probably would’ve said I was the least Mormon of them, because I was openly critical of the church.
Was abortion discussed in your upbringing in the Church?
I grew up in a very Republican town — although, in my household, my dad was a Democrat and my mom was a Republican. I remember zero conversations about abortion.
By the time it started being discussed, I was an adult. I remember hearing about it in terms of killing babies — being told, “Oh, an abortion is killing babies,” and responding, “I’m against killing babies.” But certainly, no one gave me any kind of nuance around like who’s having abortions, and why are they having them? Nothing like that. It was just, “Do you think people should kill babies?” That was about as deep as I was seeing it among Mormons.
As I went off to college, I remember thinking, I feel more connected to my mom, so I must be a Republican. But in my 20s, I moved to New York, where it’s an entirely different crowd. It’s not all Mormons all the time. I was there for eight years and I had to really decide what I believed.
Once I understood [the issue], of course, everything changed for me, but as a kid, I didn’t think about it because no one was debating it. It was just like, this is what Utah believes, and that’s where I lived. It just was a nonissue.
People are shocked to hear from a Mormon mother in support of abortion. What most people know about Mormonism is that women often get married and start having children young, and motherhood makes up a lot of a woman’s worth. Is that a valid stereotype or are they basing their response on a misrepresentation of Mormons?
Utah, where the religion is based, is known for being a red state, and Mormons are known for being Republicans and conservatives. Although, if you drill down the numbers, there are a lot of Mormon Democrats. But beyond that, the true Mormon stance is anti-abortion, except in a case when the health of the mother is at risk or if there’s incest. Not every LDS person likes when I describe the church’s stance as pro-legal abortion. But technically, that’s what it is.
My beliefs would certainly be on the left of Mormonism, but there are more of us [who feel that way] than you would think. The stereotype is that the religion is Republican. And if you look at it generationally, over the age of 65, that’s true. But if you look at young generations, it’s just not.
Would the Mormon church excommunicate someone because they got an abortion?
Oh for sure. There are plenty of Mormons who will argue with me if I say, “Well, technically the church is pro-legal abortion.” They all argue and say, “No, the church wants to outlaw all abortions.” I do believe they absolutely would make exceptions in lots of cases, but generally, I think that’s fair to say the church fights against abortion.
What does the Book of Mormon say about abortion?
We do not have religious doctrine within Mormonism about when life begins. A lot of religious arguments around abortion are about when life begins, and we technically don’t have any doctrine there. And they’re very open about that fact.
Here’s what’s interesting: In practice, Mormons are big on family history, tracking your ancestry, making a huge family tree, genealogy forever — this is a big thing for us. And if you have a baby and the baby dies a week later or whatever, that baby is included in your family’s tree. But if you have a miscarriage or a stillbirth, the baby is not included in your family tree. So that implies very strongly that a life or a soul exists only once the child is born, according to Mormons. That has certainly informed my thinking.
What was the reaction like when you started this Twitter thread in 2018?
A lot of extremes. The very first text I got, literally within like 10 minutes of me posting, was from my Mormon Bishop, which is like the leader of your congregation. He’s also a lawyer, and he texted me and loved it, he was so excited. That’s one extreme: super positive and supportive. Another extreme was strangers on Twitter who are LDS screaming at me saying, “How have you not been excommunicated?” Calling me names, telling me I’m horrible. But I could easily go back and say, “Point out how I’m against Mormon doctrine. There’s nothing there.” But in general, it was positive.
What do you hope to accomplish by increasing awareness of your perspective?
Men should definitely be doing more: Men are not taught to be responsible for preventing pregnancy. Women are taught that that’s their role, and no one really has questioned it. From the moment a person who can carry a baby is thinking about sex, this is on their shoulders. We should be teaching those who can reproduce but cannot carry a child, “OK, your sperm is dangerous. Just a few seconds of pleasure for you can absolutely derail a person’s life. Be so careful with your bodily fluids, look what they can do.”
Overturning Roe v. Wade isn’t a win for anybody — and it’s so hypocritical, that’s what’s making me crazy. It’s mostly men making these laws and running our government, and they’re grandstanding about abortion. Men didn’t have to overturn Roe. They could have, at any moment, stopped abortion simply by controlling their own bodies — by ejaculating responsibly and teaching other men to do the same. Instead, they’ve used all their energy to try and control women’s bodies. I want to push the attention toward men and hold them accountable.
I personally want abortion to be legal for anyone who needs it — any time, all the time. If someone asked me if I want the abortion rate to go down, I would say “Yes, but not the way you probably imagine.” If unwanted pregnancies go down, abortions go down. We know what works, and it’s not magic. It’s all prevention.