Adoption, Abortion, or Parenting : What Matters Is Access and Choice

19 Jul

Last week, MTV aired another “16 & Pregnant” Special, but instead of following young women that elected abortion or parenting, this special focused on adoption. The hour-long program followed three young women as they shared they heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories about how they came to choose adoption, what form of adoption is available and how their lives have changed as a result.

Previously, we’ve posted on how important it is that women have agency, have a choice – that includes abortion, adoption, or parenting. What’s key here is the choice is not a reality unless you have the ability to make the decision for yourself. Forced abortion is wrong, forced adoption is wrong, and forced parenting is wrong. Additionally, some of the  amazing bloggers here have shared their personal stories about the egg donation process, child rearing, and abortion. All of that is to say we here at Abortion Gang aren’t just “talking the talk,” we as women and men have been through the struggle, know the peaks and valleys of reproductive justice, and don’t just walk around pointing at young women thinking, “she should abort!”

Back to the adoption special on MTV. Three young mothers chose adoption, but perhaps the most familiar of the three is Caitlynn. Her case is an interesting one because of the three young women profiled, Caitlynn is the only young woman to not come from an affluent and privileged background. Her access to resources was limited, but with the help of the show, she was empowered to choose adoption. She was able make the best decision for herself.  The other women were aided by their families in both the decision making process and financial considerations. Navigating the landscape of abortion, adoption, or parenting is hard for anyone, but can be especially intimidating for a young woman without access to emotional and financial support.

The point here is that adoption isn’t something that is accessible to everyone. For adoption to be successful, from selecting the right parents, access to pre- and post-birth counseling, and coping with the bevy of emotions in healthy ways, the sheer amount of financial, social, and cultural support is absolutely crucial. Without support, the ability for a mother and the adoptive parents to find success  becomes much less likely.

Of course, this goes for abortion as well. But the emotional needs after an abortion are different than those after an adoption, and of course, both differ from those when parenting. In each case, however, a complex combination of social support, cultural support, and financial assistance are required in order for a women have all reproductive options available to her. In many cases, however, women do not have access to enough resources to make the reproductive decision she wants to make.

Far too many women in the U.S. don’t have what Caitlynn or the other women on MTV’s adoption special have. There are so many barriers preventing them from making the choice they want to make, and so, they are forced into an option they otherwise wouldn’t chose, trapped, alone, and suffering. Any piece of legislation or pop culture phenomenon that supports limiting a woman’s access to cultural, social, or financial resources, I am going to call out for doing just that: restricting a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about her body and her future.

It’s not about whether a woman decides to parent, abort, or place for adoption. It’s about whether she has the ability to make the decision at all  that really matters. MTV is trying to make that point clear, although many times they fall short of projecting the obvious: that without their help, many of the women featured on their shows and specials would not have the ability to make the choices they have made. It would be another positive step forward for MTV to make that point aggressively, because  it is no longer enough to help  the women on their television programs get to a position to make the best choice for themselves. If MTV, Dr. Drew and others affiliated with the “Teen Mom” and “16 & Pregnant” projects really care about advocating for increased awareness and options for the reproductive rights of women, their next step has to advocate for increasing reproductive health access in all communities,  not just project a story of modern teen pregnancy on our TV screens.

4 Responses to “Adoption, Abortion, or Parenting : What Matters Is Access and Choice”

  1. Mirah Riben July 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    You miss one really significant difference between adoption and the other two options: parenting or abortion.

    Of the three options, only adoption produces a “marketable” product/child and a great deal of money for attorneys and others those who arrange adoptions!

    Adoption is a multi-BILLION dollar industry. This creates pressure on expectant mothers who the industry spends millions marketing.

    Mothers are coerced and deceived. They are told that their child would be “better off” being adopted as if there is a guarantee. They are not told that parents who adopt divorce and die and the child can wind up being raised by a single parent. They are not told, that whatever financial, age or marital issue she is faced now is temporary and will no doubt improve. They are not told that adoptive parents have abused children and abandon them – terminated adoptions.

    They are not told that open adoption contact agreements are unenforceable and are often broken. If the promised openness ends, you and your child are in a CLOSEd adoption with no way to know if your child is alive and well cared for and you have little to no recourse.

    Expectant mothers are not told that despite openness, their child may feel rejected watching their mother be able to visit and possibly seeing subsequent (or former) children she is able to parent. They do not tell mothers that there is a higher rate of secondary infertility among mothers who have lost children to adoption compared to the general population and thus she may be relinquishing the only child she may ever have. They are not told that they may likely suffer a lifetime guilt and grief and the loss can affect every aspect of her life: relationships, career. They are not told it will effect her parents and all other children.

    Mothers need to be informed of these facts in order to make an informed choice, but they are not! They are sold a bill of goods by people who see their child as a way to fill a demand and make money in the process.

    Abortion or parenting leads to no benefit for others. Thus they are not pushed as enthusiastically.

    The three choices are not presented equally at all. One is put forth as the most unselfish, mature and best for the child.

    Until this dichotomy is rectified, until the profit and demand is taken out of infant adoption – it will never be an equal, free choice.

    If you are for CHOICE, you will fight to remove the money from adoption – and all the lies.

    Mirah Riben, author, THE STORK MARKET: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

  2. Mirah Riben July 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    What is particularly ironic is the subtitle of this article “What matters is access and choice.”

    Those are exactly the two things that are missing in adoption! Expectant mothrs do not receive NEUTRAL counsling that is geared to help them find the best solution for them. They are not encouraged to include their parents and the baby’s father in that decsion making – not in the real world outside of MTV.

    Instead, any mother considering adoption is “counseled” by those who profit from adoption and all her “counseling’ involves brainwashing her toward relinquishment.

    As for ACCESS – adoption denies mothers and chidlren access from one another. Upon an adoption – even open adoption – being finalized, the original birth certificate is sealed from the parties involved and a new falsfied birth certificate is issued. This false certificate not only changes the child’s name, it also often changes the date and place of birth, Adult adoptees in all but 6 states are fighting to reverse these antiquated laws and restore ACCEES equal to that their non-adopted peers.

    Access and Choice: that is exactly what it is all about. Adoption denies both.

    Mirah Riben

  3. Susie July 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    You state:
    “The point here is that adoption isn’t something that is accessible to everyone.”

    Where in the US is adoption not accessible? There are adoption agencies and PAP’s everywhere trying to convince a mother facing an unexpected pregnancy to give her child up. Clinics, Dr offices, newspapers, bulletin boards, even billboards and buses now carry ads for newborn babies.

    What is not accessible in adoption is the truth of adoption loss as Mirah has already stated above.

  4. Backline July 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    An interesting piece – thanks Abortion Gang! Somehow we did not know about the 16 and Pregnant episode on adoption, so thanks for this. We will check it out.

    Backline provides unbiased and unconditional support for women’s decisions, experiences and feelings about pregnancy, parenting, abortion and adoption. We agree 100% that the point should not be which choice a woman makes, but rather ensuring that it is her decision to make, AND that she has the support and resources she needs to make the decisions that are best for her life.

    In order for adoption and abortion to be real options for women – with dignity and respect, and without coercion – we must make sure that as reproductive justice advocates we are also doing everything we can to support mothers and families. Just as no woman should have to have a child because she cannot access an abortion, no woman should have to have an abortion or place a child for adoption because society will not support her in raising a child. This is an area where the pro-choice movement has not always been active enough.

    Now, how we get there is another story… but we can move together! As Marlene Fried said, “The arc of history doesn’t bend toward justice all by itself – it takes a lot of hands!”

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