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These measures include post abortion healing; male responsibility; comprehensive sexual/reproductive health education; all voluntary pregnancy prevention methods, plus rape and incest prevention & treatment; and life-affirming ways to get through crisis pregnancy and beyond.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Adoption as an Alternative to Abortion

Cory Richards at RHRealityCheck.org insists: "Facilitating adoptions, especially of hard-to-place children, deserves our strong support. But it does nothing to affect the abortion rate. To assert that it does is either ill-informed or simply cynical, and it should stop." He concludes that "the only way to meaningfully achieve fewer abortions is to do better in helping women and their partners prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place."

Now, I fully agree on the importance of prevention in reducing abortions. But is it "the only way [italics mine] to meaningfully achieve this goal"? Might adoption actually play a part, too--in the real lives of women and babies in crisis pregnancies, not merely in the crowd-playing, manipulative rhetoric of politicians?

A new study from the prochoice Guttmacher Institute on women's motivations to abort raises that possibility. "Without being asked directly, several of the women indicated that adoption is not a realistic option for them. They reported that the thought of one’s child being out in the world without knowing if it was being taken care of or by whom would induce more guilt than having an abortion."

The story of Robin Ringleka-Kottke, one of the prochoice activists featured in the 2005 documentary "Speak Out: I Had an Abortion" also suggests the power of women's perceptions about and experiences of adoption to affect their pregnancy outcomes. As a young woman who wished to complete her education, she seriously considered adoption. That is, until the dubious "prolife" agency she had turned to for help found out that while she was white, her baby's father was black. At a Chicago Foundation for Women screening of the documentary, Ringleka-Kottke described the impact of this racist rebuff. “It was a huge blow. What occurred to me was there isn’t a shortage of children at all...I remember having a tremendous amount of hate for this thing growing inside me. I didn’t think racism extended anywhere outside the South.” She then had an abortion.


Whatever the inmost truths of her motives, or the motives of the women in the Guttmacher study, which only they can tell...am I wrong and misplaced to surmise that if they had seen and/or experienced adoption differently, they might have gone that route instead?

The women in the Guttmacher study expressed that they resorted to abortion out of concern that they could not properly mother these babies. Were they affected by the pernicious stereotype that birthmothers are uncaring and so adoption is an act of not caring? By the stuck-in-the-past but still unfortunately widespread view that adoption means the birthmother has no say over who raises her child and no contact ever after...when in fact a birthmother in the US generally chooses the adoptive family and the kinds and amounts of contact she has with them?

(In saying this I do not wish to minimize the considerable "leap of faith" involved in permanently relinquishing one's own flesh and blood over to others, even people one has chosen for the task. I only wish to point out that birthmothers today, especially when they are working through ethical, humane organizations, have far more say over their children's fates and far more opportunity to heal than they did under the horrific old shame-ridden practice of closed adoption.)

What was/is the disconnect here between these women and so many others like them, struggling with crisis pregnancies, and the positive realities within adoption today? (Assuming there was/is one. Having been a maternity services counselor...I would venture to speculate there was/is one.) How can it be bridged, and would bridging it not have a profound affect on their pregnancy outcomes? I for one think it would.

As for Robin Ringleka-Kottke's story--yes, there are many involved today in arranging adoptions who are only interested in placing white babies with upper-crusty Chreeshtain white families. And sometimes this is done in the unmerited name of "prolife," when prolife indeed means anything but racial discrimination! On the other hand, there are actually many ethical, nondiscriminatory agencies--some of them operating under the rubric of prolife--that readily find loving homes for babies of color, despite the fact (known to Americans of color but not so much to whites) that racism is omnipresent and brutally so throughout the United States.

But what was/is the disconnect between such agencies and women like Robin Ringleka-Kottke, facing the fear that no one will love and care for their racially "unwanted," deemed-inferior babies? How can it be bridged? And again, I feel fairly sure that bridging it will make for more adoptions, fewer abortions.

I also feel fairly sure that there are no easy answers for women's pregnancy dilemmas--having been through one of my own, and having borne witness to the dilemmas of so many other women, as a counselor, and also as a friend. There is no "only answer"--whether it is the "only answer" of prochoicers like Cory Richards or the "only answer" of prolifers who blithely intone "Adoption not Abortion." There are as many answers as there are women and babies and other humans affected by problem pregnancy.

And if abortion, an act of lifetaking, is not to be part of the vast repertoire of possible answers....that just makes it all the more vital to advocate voluntary pregnancy prevention, challenge white supremacy in the adoption field, and connect women in crisis with the positive realities that do exist today in that field--the rampant racism, misogyny, greed, and exploitation notwithstanding.

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