Adoption, the loving option

Today I saw yet one more article in which hopeful adoptive parents describe the lengths they’re going to Find Their Baby. This time it’s not billboards, it’s bumper stickers and a Facebook page. This couple wanted to be featured in an article on the dangers of internet adoptions, and hope that someone will respond to their ad campaign with the baby they dream of.

Let me restate what they’re saying from another angle: “We hope that a woman who does not want to have a baby right now will first become pregnant when she doesn’t want to be. Then it is our dream that she will delay decision-making about that pregnancy until the risks of carrying that pregnancy to term, and delivering a child she doesn’t intend to raise, are unavoidable; and that finally, she will conclude that her baby should be raised by strangers with money.”

It’s complicated and all that, but it’s not all that complicated. If you’re advertising for your child, your plan’s success relies on an unwanted pregnancy and a woman you’ve never met risking her life (pregnancy is dangerous, physically and psychically) to bring her baby into the world, only to turn around and hand you that child.

So where did Amber and Dan, or lots of other couples like them, get the idea that this was an acceptable thing to ask of another human being? From the pro-life movement. They think adoption is an alternative to contraception, emergency contraception and abortion.

Two weeks ago I got to chat with a volunteer who was willing to spend her day at the polls, making sure that no “pro-life” vote went uncounted. I was volunteering for an organization that advocates for women and their doctors making the tough calls about difficult pregnancies, instead of having the neighbors vote to limit what doctors can offer.

When Linda asked me some questions about myself and learned that I’m a parent through adoption, she got really quiet. A number of voters came and went. Finally she asked me what she really wanted to know: What if your daughter had been aborted? Wouldn’t that bother you, that you wouldn’t have her?

I told her the truth: Yes, I’d be sad if I had some other child instead of this one, because the child I’m raising has been the impetus for, and the source of, quite a bit of growth for me.* But what was in it for her, to be born in desperate straits, handed off to strangers who scared her, and taken around the world? What was in it for her first mother, who was almost certainly never offered a reliable way to avoid having this child who she couldn’t raise? What if, instead of bearing and sacrificing my child, her other mother had been able to plan her conceptions and only bear the children she could afford?

I like to think that my kid got lucky: Given that she was removed from her home and village for adoption, there were far less thoughtful people in line to take her away from all that– without ever questioning any aspect of how adoption served her. But setting up adoption as “the loving option”, the win-win outcome for unwanted pregnancy, makes the bumper stickers inevitable.

*For more on this idea, Andrew Solomon’s book ‘Far From the Tree’ features a number of parents struggling with the hard truth that my kid’s trauma has made me a different person, and probably a better one–but was all downside for her.

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