Stop Saying “There’s Always Adoption!”

Stop Saying “There’s Always Adoption!” April 23, 2017


If you’re anything like me, you’re noticing a lot of comments these days explaining how taking away insurance coverage or drastically increasing premiums will not really leave women desperate and turning to abortion more frequently. They say that “they can choose not to kill their babies,” which is true enough, but their ideas about how they can keep from doing that are terrifying.

There are some people who think it’s a compassionate and medically safe option for women to have no pre-natal care, no ultrasounds, no vitamins or anything else, and then show up at the ER in labor not knowing what they’re going to find and be billed for the emergency surgery later. Thankfully, I’ve only met a couple of these.

Daily, I read from multiple internet commentators that “there’s always adoption!” as if this is relevant to anything. They just write that comment and leave– I like to imagine them brushing off their fingers with a satisfied smile, having solved the issue in their own minds. Once I had a commentator inform me that “Adoption and also birth control” were the answer to a poor woman’s pregnancy, and I’d like to point out that, just barring the moral issues associated with birth control for the moment, suggesting birth control for a woman who’s already pregnant is about as crass as rolling down your window to scream “you should have had snow tires!” to an overturned car in a snowdrift.

The “there’s always adoption” people never elaborate on their ideas, but as far as I can tell, they’re saying that a poor woman who is pregnant without insurance ought to find a rich family willing to pay the thousands of dollars in medical bills in exchange for being allowed to take her baby after the pregnancy. That a poor woman ought to consider herself obligated to give her baby away to a financially comfortable family willing to do her a kindness. That this is the responsible choice for a poor, pregnant woman and a charitable act from the rich family– whether the poor woman wants to parent her own baby or not.

I’ve been unsure how to respond to something that, as far as I can tell, is kindly meant but is so oblivious and brutal. Thankfully, I have friends who are smarter than I am. Today, my friend Mary Balmer addressed these comments:

Perhaps it is that I am just a few days off from giving birth myself, but what is it with the “there’s always adoption!” crowd in this thread? How damned cold and heartless do you have to be to tell an expectant mother that in exchange for prenatal care (which every unborn baby deserves) she should have to turn over the child upon birth? The baby whose every kick/flutter/ movement she knows by heart, the baby whose name she has whispered every night as she huddles over the toilet vomiting, the baby who fills her every waking thought and dream at night. Maybe that baby was unplanned. Maybe she was unsure about him at first. But a woman who chooses to remain pregnant for nine months, is a woman who loves her child. Fiercely.

You would tell her that because she is poor, because she wasn’t careful enough, because she dares to want her child to receive healthcare while in utero, she should pay for it in blood–turning that baby over to strangers upon birth, leaving her with engorged breasts, empty arms, and a broken heart that will never heal.

How is that good for society? How is that good for the child?

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. How is it good for society? How is it good for the child?

For that matter, how is it supportive of the family in our society? Aren’t we pro-life Catholics supposed to be the ones who are most defensive of families? Don’t we talk about “attacks on the family” all the time? Don’t we cover our houses and cars with devotional pictures of the Holy Family– a poor family with a surprise pregnancy and no good plan on where and how they were giving birth, who raised the baby themselves? Don’t we use them for the model for everything we do? Have we thought through the demands this devotion makes on us, when we encounter Christ in the disguise of a poor mother? How can we conscience the idea that mothers and fathers whose income falls under a certain line should not be fruitful and raise children themselves, but should be relegated to being surrogate parents producing adoptive children for the wealthy? That marriage and childbearing are not a vocation from the Lord, but a privilege for the wealthy? Does everyone fully realize that that’s what they’re saying, when they say “there’s always adoption?”

Being a birth mother is a generous act, and women who choose to give their babies up for adoption deserve all the support we can give. But being a birth mother is also an extremely difficult and traumatic choice. It’s not something we can ever be casual or precious about. It certainly isn’t a band-aid we can plaster over the terrified heart of a woman faced with a crisis pregnancy and considering abortion. A lack of finances does not turn a pregnant woman from a human being with rights into a surrogate for somebody else’s charitable act. That woman has every bit as much right to raise her own son or daughter as a rich woman does.

If, God forbid, the Republicans get their own way in the coming weeks, we as Catholics are going to be forced to confront a huge number of pregnant women in increasingly difficult circumstances. And whatever we do, we cannot meet them with the glib remark that “there’s always adoption.”

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)



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