Sometimes, in Adoptionland, it feels like we throw around the word “choice” far too often. The adoptee has no choice on whether or not they are adopted. The adoptive parents choose to adopt or not to adopt and what kind of adoption it will eventually be. And of course, the word ‘choice” is huge within the cries to silence the regretful “birthmother“; you had a choice, no one held a gun to your head. When birthmothers are not getting browbeaten for their “choices”; we are often profusely thanked. “Thank you for choosing life” and other such platitudes that really don’t take in the full weight of the adoption experience either. Can we say many shades of gray?
Whatever warped views, mis information, fears, doubts, and adoption agency propaganda I did base my decision on, it was way more complex than “having a gun to my head” or “choosing life. To assume that any mother would base her decision to parent or place her child for adoption based on such simplistic terms is insulting whether or not there really was a true “choice” involved or not. The bottom line is that often adoption only seems like a choice, yet we are expected to conduct ourselves as if it was. Often we are kind of damned if we do and damned if we don’t. It’s a thankless choice.
Abortion is Also a Thankless Choice
Whether or not a crisis or unplanned pregnancy does end in adoption, the decision to parent or not is a second choice. One thing has been decided already; this women is having a baby. She will become a mother. The decision of whether or not to become a mother is an earlier one; the decision whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term. Abortion? Yes or No?
Abortion and Adoption are two truly unrelated decisions. One is a reproductive choice and the other is a parenting choice. They just happen to be about pregnancy, superficially a less than optimum situation for pregnancy, and often about the same pregnancy. The first choice a woman makes when she finds herself confronted with the life changes represented by the two lines on a pregnancy stick is whether or not to BE pregnant. For some women it might not even be a question; for others there is only one answer either way. It’s not as simple as saying “More Adoption, Less Abortion”. It’s not an either or and they are hardly the most effective tools to combat either one. The cure for both ills are affordable, available birth control and comprehensive sex education.
Just like Adoption, We Need Informed Choices About Making Reproductive Choices
There has never been a time in my life when I have not been pro choice. Long before I was ever involved in Adoptionland, long before I even started to become the adoption activist I am now, I marched in pro choice rallies and carried signs with wire hangers on them. For many years before, and I expect, many years hence, I will base my vote on the stance a candidate takes regarding a women’s right to control her fertility and family size, even when the choices involved can be the hard ones to make. While the reasons why a woman might not want or feel she is able to complete a pregnancy are usually not simple, the overall concept, for me, is. I wanted to be able to make those calls for myself when I needed to. I don’t want some South Dakota male legislator to decide whether or not I have a baby. I don’t want to have the right to decide that for another woman. That should be her choice to make when an did she needs to based on where she is in life, what she knows, what she is comfortable doing. That’s her personal struggle. I had my own.
My Own Choices
And I have had to make those choices. Three times to be exact. Sometimes they were easier, more simple. I knew without a shadow of a doubt where the two blue lines on the pee stick would end when I was 18. Back in 1986, the choice was not if, but where. There were options of abortion providers. There were different types of procedures. I compared costs.
Fertility verses the pill a few years later, and now the choices were not as simple. I could have welcomed a child, but I let the father choose and he opted out. Not as simple, a bit more sadness, but I still had options. I had choices.
Almost 20 years later, my fertilities last stand: our family was complete, but no one sent my ovaries the memo. I didn’t necessarily like the fact that I had to make a choice, but it was still mine to make. I had options. And then I had a husband with a glorious vasectomy and the lifelong fears of pregnancy and battle over my fertility was finally at an end.
Other times, I had babies. And once, I “choose adoption”. I can tell you that based on my own personal experience, hands down, it was the adoption of my son that has most affected me. That’s not to say that I wish I had chosen differently and not given birth, but rather, if I could go back in time, I would parent my son, never relinquished. Ah, too late for me now.
Choices of the Future
My time for choices is over, but I will always be pro choice. I have a daughter, almost 12, and while I hope these decisions are many years away, I cannot imagine a world where she could not decide whether or not she wishes to have a child. I could not imagine not being able to open the phone book and find her an abortion provider should she ever need one. I have three sons, two over 21, and I could not imagine a world where my grandchildren are forced into lives that inherently know that they are not ready for them.
I don’t LIKE abortions. They are messy, icky, nasty, but necessary evils. I know many of my friends have somehow managed to avoid the necessity and am a big propagation of affordable and available birth control, but as a über fertile person, I know all too well that birth control fails. I know we are human and people make mistakes. I know sex isn’t always consentual, but it is often normal and natural and expected, even outside the marriage bed. And while a part of me wants to accept that life comes to us and we should learn to accept it, I also see conception as a biological act. I believe in reincarnation and souls coming through, but once a souls enters the physical again, the flesh rules and must control the fates. It’s a bit out there, a bit convoluted, but it works for me. People find a way that works for them.
A Safe, Legal, True Choice
Throughout history, it has pretty much always worked that way. Humans have always had sex and women have always struggled to control the rates in which they produce children to the best of their abilitities. Letting biology rule has not always been kind to mothers or even the children they produced. Uncontrolled pregnancy takes a terrible toll on a woman’s body, sucking the very life out of her and making her unable to parent the children she has made. Studies show that when able to make their own reproductive decisions, society benefits overall with decreased crime rates, poverty, and unemployment over long term projections. The fact is, legal or illegal, women will choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies for a multitude of reasons. Laws will not change whether or not there will be abortions, but the kinds of abortions available and the outcomes of those illegal procedures. If my daughter wants to end a pregnancy, I don’t want her to end up dead or sterile. Safe, legal abortions must remain.
Of course, the most important thing about the word choice, to me, means that there are other options available. If there aren’t any options, then there really isn’t a choice. I mean, if you only have one flavor of ice cream available, then it’s useless to offer your guests a choice of three flavors. Asking them chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry is a completely useless waste of time and becomes more of a trick, a slight of hand, a choice in name only, when vanilla is the only ice cream flavor de jur. The true choice then is “do you want ice cream or not?” Don’t pretend that they choose the vanilla flavor, they only choose ice cream.
It scares me to hear about the states in the USA where there is only one abortion provider in the whole state of South Dakota or Mississippi. Yeah, there’s your ice cream, but take what you can get. Granted there was probably more abortion clinics in NY over the combined Dakotas, but I doubt my 18 year old self would have the same choices I did back in the day. I know in my area now, one must cross the Hudson River to have a D&C at Planned Parenthood in Poughkeepsie. Not much choice in location, or procedures, or price, but still better than having to drive clear across a state, or forced waiting periods, parental consent, or demanding vaginal ultrasounds.
I am so thankful for the people on the front lines, facing real dangers, who battle to keep the choices available for other women.
If you don’t believe in abortion, then don’t have one. I promise I won’t force you, but please don’t force my daughter to feel shame or cross state lines for wanting to control her fertility. Don’t give our countries women fake choices and then blame them and shame them for doing what they must. Don’t make them endanger their lives or be slaves to their bodies. Don’t let sex become something only the rich deserve. Don’t feed the adoption machine at the risk of women’s lives. You decide your moral code for your body and I will decide the moral code for my body.
And let’s work on that whole “choice” thing. I want more flavors for everyone.