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.