What the Path to Reduce Abortions Should be – Hint, It’s Not More Adoptions
DISCLAIMER – this post will speak about abortion. I come at the topic from the point of view that an unborn child is a life, I realize many people don’t believe this and I respect that you see things differently. Please respect my view of this as precisely that, my view. Also, realize that all I write below come from that perspective.
As political season is in full force, and I share my experiences as a birth mother, I have found many people seem to want to talk to me about abortion. For those with no involvement in adoption, I’m sure they think as a birth mother I have pretty strong views of abortion and their assumption is usually that I’m staunchly pro-life.
But as open as I am about talking about my beliefs in regards to adoption, ethics, openness, I am pretty shy about talking about abortion. Personally I have an incredibly hard time being pigeonholed into a category; I think it’s unfair in general that people expect you to fit into pro-life or pro-choice. I am sure if you are staunchly pro-choice you would see me as closer to pro-life, and if you’re pro-life you would see me as more pro-choice. In fact, it’s because I’ve realized most of the time no matter what I can’t win that just keeps me from talking about it and my opinions on the subject.
But too often adoption is used as an answer, a way to show there are other options besides abortion if you can’t or don’t want to parent. Too often birth mothers are held up as examples of someone who was able to deal with a crisis pregnancy and not have an abortion. Truthfully for me, going through with relinquishing rights to my son and living the life of a birth mother is the strongest reason for my belief that women need access to all choices because when you are truly in a crisis pregnancy there will be no easy answer, so at least allow women the ability to have as many options as possible to make a difficult decision. I will forever be dealing with the aftershocks of adoption on my life, I would never wish this life on anyone, and because of that I could never take away the choice of a pregnant woman to have an abortion. That being said, because I do believe it is the life of a child we are dealing with, the decision to have an abortion also isn’t one I believe should be taken lightly, I personally don’t believe it’s an easy fix either.
What bothers me most about the debate is politicians and in general Americans seem to be missing the forest for the trees. To me the issue isn’t the legality of abortion, but what we as a society can do to minimize the amount of abortions that happen. I find it deplorable that teenage pregnancy rates have gone up so much during this generation, and it seems directly related to the education in our schools – everyone needs to be educated about the risks of sex, and the ways to minimize those risks. Teaching abstinence has not been shown to work. And truthfully, if we chose to educate our young about safe sex, and provide everyone with access to affordable contraceptives (meaning even the poor or uninsured could afford it), I believe we would find ourselves with a lot less women facing the difficult experience of a crisis pregnancy.
But there is more to it than that, because I can attest, birth control doesn’t always work. If we as a society want to help women facing a crisis pregnancy to not feel the best choice is abortion, for me the first thing to do is to make sure we have affordable insurance, have paid maternity leave, and have access to affordable day care. Those might have saved me from having to make an impossible choice. I firmly believe if we supported Mothers facing the first years of their child’s life in poverty (or even those like me who are not quite poor enough to be considered poor but too poor to actually support another being and at times even myself), if they were able to not worry how they were going to survive, than those women, women like me, would have an honest choice to parent and wouldn’t feel trapped between abortion and adoption. When I knew I was pregnant, and I realized the circumstances I was facing, I knew quite early that parenting wasn’t a choice – major things had to change in my life in order for me to parent and I personally had no means to change them. I chose to not have an abortion knowing it would probably end in adoption. I chose the lifelong grief for myself and taking my son away from his biological family, so for me we should be working to reduce the amount of women feeling like they have a choice between two heartbreaking options.
I recently saw a report which talked about rates of abortion by country. The rates had little to do with whether abortion was legal or not, in fact some of the countries with the highest levels of abortion had the greatest restrictions on what abortions were legal. This study stated it had to do with how often crisis pregnancies happened. This seemed to happen most in countries where contraceptives were not available and where small families were preferred (often this was in poorer countries or where over-crowding was a concern). But as I looked at the list of countries, the other thing I noticed is several of the lowest rates were also countries with pretty extensive social programs.
So as I enter this election season, I don’t look to see if a politician is pro-life or pro-choice, in fact I’m pretty turned off when that is the only issue politicians want to talk about. Instead I look if they are willing to work towards reducing the need for abortion, not legislate women’s access to them.
The reason I wrote this piece is as I was trying to find the words to talk about abortion when I was asked recently, I remembered a speech given by Obama where I knew he talked about this idea of finding common ground to reduce the need for abortions. I looked up the speech – it was part of his commencement address to Notre Dame, and as I read it I was nodding my head agreeing with it, thinking his words were similar to the ones I wanted to say and when I got to the meat of the part about abortion, I found this…
That’s when we begin to say, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.
So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. (Applause.) Let’s make adoption more available. (Applause.) Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. (Applause.) Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.” Those are things we can do. (Applause.)
I was at first aghast. I mean seriously – make adoption more available? What does that even mean. Every state allows for adoption. Type it into your computer and you’ll see hundreds of agencies or lawyers who are perfectly willing to help relieve you of a child. How can he think it’s not available, or even worse how someone believe it should happen more?
And then I started to wonder why I hadn’t remembered this so very obvious insult to what I believe. And that’s when it struck me, this speech was from 1 year before I had J almost to the day (May 17th, 2009). And back then I probably agreed with him, thinking that more women should place their children instead of having an abortion, that it was the perfect solution for women who couldn’t parent. They would do this selfless thing, walk away and think of their children fondly while moving on with their lives. One year before I made this decision that forever changed my life, I had lived thinking adoption would be an easy fix to an unexpected pregnancy. I didn’t know better. I didn’t know anything.
And it was then that I decided to write this. Because even a well meaning person might believe that if a woman can’t raise a child she can just choose adoption and it will do no major harm to her or her child. They might believe that all she will have to deal with is 9 months of discomfort from pregnancy, but then the child will be well taken care of and she can go back to her regular life. And for those people who think that adoption is a simple solution for a woman in a difficult situation, I want to explain it’s not. Birth parents suffer lifelong grief, it takes years to heal, and for many they never really do. I am forever changed because I’m not raising my first born, and my decision to relinquish him will affect not only me for the rest of my life, but will have a ripple effect for generations to come.
I challenge each of you, the next time anyone uses adoption as a solution when speaking about abortions around you, challenge them to look for real solutions in support and education.