There has been a lot of talk lately about the connection between adoption and abortion what with the storm brewing over Planned Parenthood and the social media campaigns #ShoutYourAbortion and #ShoutYourAdoption. So, now is as good a time as any to toss my hat in the ring and warn against something dangerous that I see happening. And that is: Simplifying Adoption.
There are those in the adoption reform world who feel that if you are not going to raise the child then you should absolutely have an abortion. On the other hand, there are people who believe that abortion should be available but know that it would never be an option for them. And then there are others who feel that abortion should never be an option because to them there is a simple and perfect solution; you can always give the child up for adoption. I can understand their point of view, which goes something like this: A woman facing an untimely pregnancy chooses to have an abortion because she feels she is not in a position to raise the baby. So their response is, “Fine! You don’t have to raise the child. You don’t have to have any responsibility at all. Just give the child up for adoption.” Although, I have to admit, sometimes this approach makes me wonder if the pro-life people are just naïve or are being intentionally obtuse by assuming that most people are unaware of adoption. I would say it’s a fair bet that the vast majority of people are aware that giving up a child for adoption is an option.
But here’s where they are wrong. Their stance simplifies adoption to a ridiculous degree, when in reality adoption is extremely complex. So I hate to burst your bubble, but adoption is not the slam dunk answer to a crisis pregnancy you make it out to be. And you do any woman facing a crisis pregnancy a grave disservice by encouraging her to believe that it is.
I mean, let’s face it. You are giving a helpless infant to strangers. Everyone who adopts is not a wonderful person who will love the child as if he or she was their own. Of course, biological families can be crappy too. But the purpose of adoption is to give the child a better life, no, to guarantee the child a better life. And as much as you may think prospective adoptive parents are carefully vetted, by background checks, home studies, and the like, too many undesirable people can still get through the screening process. I mean, how many times have we all heard a news story where someone has committed a heinous crime and all the people who know him, the neighbors, the friends, etc., all rave about what a wonderful person is he and how they’re all in complete shock?
There have also been some very tragic adoption stories that have made headlines. The case of Elisabeth (Lisa) Launders*, better known as Lisa Steinberg, comes immediately to mind. Of course, this is a horrifying story and it’s not the norm by any means. But it should still serve as a cautionary tale. As in Lisa’s case, some of those hoping to adopt manage to get a child without going through any screening process at all.
When it comes to international adoption, I have observed that prospective adoptive parents often seem to only consider transnational and even transracial adoption from the angle that they are rescuing a child. This is a topic I don’t usually write about in depth because, as someone placed in a domestic infant adoption, I don’t feel I know enough about it. But from some of what I have heard and read, these prospective adoptive parents often don’t seem to give enough attention to the fact that the child is experiencing an enormous trauma by being removed from his or her home country, and everything that is familiar, to be placed with strangers in a foreign land.
And how will the child feel about all this? Of course, some will be happy to have been placed for adoption. But you are also making an assumption that the mother would definitely have chosen abortion if she hadn’t given the child up for adoption. And that’s not always true. My own mother never wanted an abortion, and never would have had one. And please stop assuming that we are all ‘unwanted’ children. You don’t know that a child is being given up freely. Are you aware of how many children are given up for adoption who were desperately wanted by at least one of their natural parents? I happen to be one of them. We may have been untimely, we may have been unplanned, we may have been, and probably were, a crisis, but that doesn’t automatically mean we were unwanted.
So please, don’t ever encourage taking a child away from his mother unless there is truly no other option. As long as he or she is safe, a child wants his natural mother and no other. I would be more tolerant of the pro-life position if you encouraged having the baby and keeping the baby, and did not make so many erroneous and, in my opinion, naïve assumptions. And let me also suggest that anyone on the pro-life side of the fence consider adopting a child from foster care, or another child who truly needs a home.
At this point, we would all be wise to accept that we are never going back to a world where people don’t have sex outside of marriage (if such a world ever existed in the first place). That genie is not going back in the bottle. As Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren, said in a recent interview with Jake Tapper, “We are not going back to 1955. We will not go back without a fight.” Or to reiterate an age-old expression…that ship has sailed.
Adoption is no more an easy answer to an unplanned pregnancy than abortion is. Is it the right choice in some cases? Yes, it is. But the ramifications of adoption are far too serious and long-lasting for both the mother and the child to promote it as the simple “go to” solution for the problem of an untimely pregnancy. It must be a carefully thought out decision with all the information made available, not just the information the pro-adoption people want women and their families to know. And this information must include testimonies from women who relinquished their children not just in the recent past, but from those who relinquished years and even decades ago. And that doesn’t mean cherry picking those first mothers who support the adoption industry’s party line, either. Although it is never truly possible to know all the ramifications of such a serious decision before it is made, this will at least give someone considering adoption a more realistic picture of what to expect. I, for one, do not want to see the crushing effect on another first mother who didn’t fully understand what she was getting herself into. So, while I can understand a person’s opposition to abortion, everyone must insist that adoption never be entered into with limited facts or misinformation.
Adoption–It’s not so simple.
*Lisa was never legally adopted by attorney Joel Steinberg and his partner, Hedda Nussbaum. Her last name therefore remained Launders; her natural mother’s maiden name. To the best of my knowledge, Lisa’s natural father has never been identified publicly.