Where should I start with this article? Fox News Commentator: Stop Abortions By ‘Celebrating’ Teen Pregnancy‘
The entire story represents a collision of bad soundbites, all of which perpetuate myths about different reproductive choices — and the liberal Think Progress commentators are just as much at fault as the conservative Fox News pundits.
To sum it up for you: Fox News contributor Nina Easton says we should “celebrate young women who bring a baby to term and find an adoptive parent” as a way to reduce abortion (to Easton’s credit, she also says we should make birth control more widely available). Think Progress writer Aviva Shen responds by misrepresenting Easton’s words — which are really about celebrating adoption — into something about “celebrating teen pregnancy.” Shen then uses some alienating adoption language (using the term “birthmothers” to apply to young women who change their mind about adoption and end up parenting — they’re just mothers!) and rounds it would with some heavy stigma on young parents (misrepresenting data on dropout rates and poverty, for example, and portraying young mothers as “vulnerable” and “entrapped”), while simultaneously condemning Fox News for stigmatizing abortion.
Neither of these narratives are helpful.
Yes, stigmatizing abortion is bad. Abortion is common and necessary, and women who need and want abortions should not be shamed. Conversely, though, both the challenges associated with adoption and the flaws in the adoption system are routinely glossed over, as Easton’s comments illustrate. Adoption is not a choice that should routinely be vaunted as superior to abortion or to parenting without a very careful consideration of individual context.
And yet, stigmatizing young parenthood is just as problematic as either stigmatizing abortion or celebrating adoption. As we’ve seen in New York (and everywhere, really), portraying young parents alternately as scapegoat and victim serves no one well. It doesn’t prevent teen pregnancy, and it just makes it less likely that young families will receive the support they need to be successful.
Ultimately, both Easton’s and Shen’s messages, though counter to each other, are problematic in the same way: they attempt to paint one reproductive choice as inherently better than another, which serves to stigmatize those “lesser” options. We cannot argue that adoption is always better than abortion any more than we can suggest abortion is better than parenthood. Instead, we must work to make sure all people have the freedom and resources at their disposal to freely choose the best option for themselves — and stigma of any stripe will only work to diminish such freedom.