Saturday, August 8, 2015

Adoption is Not The Only Option

The recent spate of highly-edited videos crafted to present Planned Parenthood as an uncaring and ethically questionable organization got me thinking. As a woman, mother, and adoptee, the arguments for and against removing federal financial support of Planned Parenthood made me consider what happened to my natural mother 45 years ago and how her experience relates to what is happening today. Please note that my thoughts are focused solely on domestic United States newborn adoption in which the parents have not abused or neglected their unborn child.

What stuck out for me with all the Planned Parenthood debating and fighting is how the "parenthood" part of the organization's name is so often completely ignored as an option. Regardless of how one feels about abortion, it is a decision regarding whether or not to continue with a pregnancy. If a decision is made to continue the pregnancy, the choice then becomes one of whether or not to parent the child. At this point, parenting is just as much a viable option as adoption. Yet, the parenting option tends to be ignored because those fighting to defund Planned Parenthood are more often than not the same people who are against supporting government welfare programs that could provide the help that expectant parents need to raise their child. It is my observation that many of these same people are also against ensuring that all members of society have access to the safe, affordable contraception that would prevent pregnancies and, in turn, abortions.

Instead, the adoption option is often promoted as the only viable alternative to abortion as if it is an either/or decision. It seems to me that those who do not support or promote the parenting option would rather have an expectant mother who is struggling give birth and provide her child to someone waiting to adopt. Temporary setbacks regarding the parenting option are "solved" with an extremely permanent solution. Even if what the mother truly wants to do is parent. It is my feeling that this is far from compassionate. I also believe that those who demand an end to safe, legal abortion while also wanting to deny women access to affordable contraception and reproductive health care are hardly "pro-life."

Speaking as an adoptee, I believe that the physical and emotional life of my mother should have been considered just as important, if not more, as that of the fetus growing in her uterus that ended up being me. Losing your newborn baby to adoption is extremely traumatic for a parent. Helping a mother parent her newborn, if this is what she truly wants to do, is much more compassionate and "pro-life" than scaring and shaming the mother into "giving her baby a better life through adoption."

Through reunion, I have the privilege of knowing the entirety of my pre-adoption narrative. My 19-year-old mother made a choice. She chose to parent her baby and marry my 19-year-old father, her high school sweetheart. My maternal grandparents didn't approve of my father or the marriage plan and arranged for my mother to enter a maternity home. They would not help her raise her baby. Catholic Charities wouldn't help her either and instead arranged the adoption even though her parents were the only ones who wanted it. Her parents and Catholic Charities then conspired to completely cut her off from people who were more than willing to help her raise her baby--the baby's father who wanted to marry her and the paternal grandparents who did not want the adoption to happen. Despite the fact that my mother actually had support and that my father should have had the right to parent his own child, my mother's choice was not honored or respected. My 19-year-old mother, who wanted to parent me, was given no other option but to place her first born daughter for adoption in an environment of shame and sin. And we have all been living with the impact of my adoption ever since. 

Despite changes in social mores over the year, how society views newborn adoption has remained the same. Abortion might be legal. Women might have better access to contraception. It might no longer be deemed shameful and sinful to get pregnant outside of marriage. But the supply of newborns is not meeting the demand of those wanting to adopt. And the adoption industry has its bottom line to think about. Today, many expectant mothers who want to parent while also facing temporary economic, relationship, or other challenges that could be overcome with just a little bit of assistance, are asked "what can you offer your baby right now?" instead of "how can we help you overcome these setbacks so that you can successfully parent?"

Legal abortion or not, things haven't really changed all that much in 45 years. And it is not just religious conservatives who keep the status quo. I lost count over the past week of how many times I read a "pro-choice liberal" comment such as "if you don't want abortions, are you going to adopt all the unwanted babies then?" Taking into account the fact that many babies are, in fact, wanted (I was), it is my feeling that a much better question would be "if you want to make abortion illegal, then are you prepared to do everything you can to ensure that parenting is a viable option?"  

As evidenced over the past several days, the current answer to this question from many identifying as pro-life is most definitely no. Answering yes would be, in my view, a much better representation of what it truly means to value and respect life. 

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

~ Dalai Lama

NOTE: Before anyone shares a comment telling me that that I should feel lucky to have not been aborted, I will offer a preemptive response. If I had been aborted, I would have no idea that I had been aborted because I would never have been born. So I consider the question to be completely irrelevant.

Julie Stromberg
When the time came to think about college, I decided that my career path would encompass either child psychology or journalism. Fortunately for all the young people out there, I opted for journalism and earned a bachelor's degree in communications. Since that time, I have worked as a newspaper and magazine staff writer, public relations associate, and marketing copywriter. My professional creative efforts have been acknowledged with several industry awards.

I am also pleased to be involved in several writing and advocacy projects outside of the office. As an adoptee, my advocacy work is focused on changing the common, societal discourse on adoption practices and encouraging reform that would place the emotional needs and legal rights of the children involved first.