Oct 15, 2015

Birth Rate Declines Sharply in Polygamous Town

Birth Rate Declines Sharply in Polygamous Town
ABC News
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
October 14, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY — The number of babies born in a polygamous town on the Utah-Arizona border sharply declined from 2009 to 2013 — a time period when jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs ordered a halt to all marriages and sexual relations between those already married.

Only 42 babies were born in sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona in 2013 — down 11-fold from the 467 births in 2009, data from health departments show.

The lack of pregnant women prompted staff at a health clinic to consider closing the birthing center, said Helen Barlow, who worked at the health clinic in Hildale for 20 years until she left in 2014, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1VQSgQj

"It was just so depressing that my colleagues and I could barely stand to go down there," Barlow told the Tribune.

The overall population in the two cities increased slightly to about 7,720 in 2014, up from 7,570 in 2010, U.S. Census data shows.

The majority of residents belong to a sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, that practices polygamy under the belief that it brings exaltation in heaven.

That teaching is part of the legacy of the early Mormon church, but the mainstream Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today.

The ban on sexual relations came in late 2011 after Jeffs was sentenced to life in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered wives. The message was delivered by his brother, Lyle Jeffs, at a church meeting, said Barlow and others who have since left the sect.

Though Lyle Jeffs didn't give the reasons behind the order, most people assumed it was meant to help free Warren Jeffs from prison, Barlow said. "The perceived reason was everyone was supposed to conserve their energies for the deliverance of the prophet," Barlow told the Tribune.

Roy Jeffs, a son of Warren Jeffs, recently told The Associated Press that his father has a standing prohibition on new marriages dating back to the late 2000s.

The decline in new babies may also reflect the effects of the ousting of hundreds of young men by sect leaders for perceived transgressions, a movement that has reduced the pool of men in the community. Others have decided to leave on their own.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not have a spokesman or a phone listing where leaders can be contacted.

Barlow said that before Warren Jeffs became leader of the sect in 2002, after his father died, members were free to choose when and how many children to have. Most had large families, she said.

The ban on marital sex was one of the final reasons James Broadbent and his family walked away from the sect in 2011.

"I just knew better," Broadbent said. "As far as I was concerned, (the ban) went against what I understood was in the scriptures."

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/birth-rate-declines-sharply-polygamous-town-34477122

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