Writer-Counselor-Wellbeing Coach

Category: Pregnancy & Parenting (Page 1 of 3)

Important conversations

... and how to have them with respect.

This post in which I dissect some of the reasons people use to advocate for abortion has been the catalyst for a number of interactions, not all of them very kind toward me.

That isn't however always the case. On my facebook page someone I know offered this alternative:

N: This one really resonated for me. My reasons are none of anyone's business. (Although I do support giving women assistance to raise and care for children they choose to have!)

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What followed was an important conversation.

Me:  I think this is part of the problem. If we all made it our business to be outraged when women are coerced to abort by boyfriends, parents or employers or when they felt no choice because they had no maternity leave or no support, perhaps women wouldn’t feel so abandoned by those who prefer to turn a blind eye to such injustices.

N:  do you feel a need to know my reasons? Do you think I was coerced?

Me:  This isn’t a post about you. I have no idea if you were coerced. Do you think we should ignore it when women are coerced? We know abortion providers do while they also spout rhetoric of choice.

Do you think we should ignore the social inequities that drive abortion as none of our business?

N: I’m all for helping women and I love the work you do at Real Choices. But I don’t think it’s my business if a woman - with the resources she has available to her - makes a decision to terminate a pregnancy. That is her decision and it’s not for me to judge if she’s “legitimate” in her desire for an abortion. It’s up to her.

Me: I guess the point is if we don't engage about the reasons how do we identify coercion? Do we ignore the coerced because if we speak about them it might endanger the perceived rights of others? If we ignore the fact that the majority of women seeking abortion are doing so due to a lack of supports (whether economic or other) will we ever be compelled as a society to address such inequities?

By holding the 'right' of abortion as an ideal in higher regard than the actual rights of women to equal participation in society regardless of their decisions (ie, motherhood) we are ignoring the fact that rights are not enacted, but subjugated.

Hence my breaking down of the original post, most of which has nothing to do with 'choice' even though it is disguised as such.

If you had been coerced, I would want to understand that, how it impacted you, what factors would have made a difference to you, what you needed. Then I would do what I do and talk about those things in the public arena (not your story personally unless with permission) because I would want the things you say you needed to be highlighted to others. I would want others to know the harm being caused by us taking a 'none of my business' approach.

This means being maligned and discredited and often abused for my work. This alone tells me how important it is. Women everywhere are silenced for fear of such treatment.

N: And if I was not coerced, but I don’t want to come forward with my reasons and be judged?

Me: Who is asking you? Who is judging you? There isn't judgement in me talking about the existence of coercion or the prevalence of regret or grief after abortion. It isn't a comment on those for whom the experience is different. It isn't a demand for information from anyone, including those who may have been coerced but don't want to talk about it.

If you are asking whether women should provide a reason for abortion at the coalface of an abortion clinic, at this time I would say why bother.. it doesn't matter given abortion providers will do abortions regardless.

If in fact the same standards of informed consent, no coercion and assessment of risk/benefit that is the gold standard in other areas of healthcare were applied to abortion then many more women would be screened, supported and continue a pregnancy. I don't have a problem with identifying real needs of women or identifying coercion and acting to address those things with real help.

I am grateful for this conversation as it reminds me that it is possible, and in fact essential that we be able to discuss such important issues even if we disagree on some aspects of it. This is rare these days on so many things. When you find this ability in people, value it. When you manage to do it, remember it.

Our relationships should not be measured by those things with which we disagree, but with those things we choose to connect on. This begins with a basic respect for the knowledge, experience, and value of those with whom we both agree and disagree.

Thanks N.

Briefing Paper: Promotion of Adoption as an Alternative to Abortion

Printable version

There has been increased media representation of Australia’s low adoption rates as a negative phenomenon along with calls to increase rates, ostensibly to provide children with security and stability, and also to provide infertile couples with a way to ‘create a family’.   Christian and prolife groups have also increased their ‘adoption not abortion’ sloganism, seemingly unaware of the damaging nature such an approach has on their positioning on abortion.

This paper will address four main arguments against the use of promoting adoption as a solution to abortion and is informed by research and experience working with both post-abortive women and those living with the negative impacts of adoption, including adult adoptees and the research into impacts of adoption.

 1. Adoption does not decrease abortion rates.

Countries such as the United States of America where adoption rates are significantly higher than in Australia continue to report the same rate of abortion as Australia.   This tells us that a) adoption is an alternative to parenting when a mother is not supported to do the latter and b) it is a decision made later in pregnancy, not at abortion decision-making time.

There is simply no evidence from any country that increased adoption means less abortion.

 2. Promoting adoption ignores the reasons the majority of women seek abortion

Approximately 95% of all abortions are undertaken for psychosocial reasons, which generally mean a lack of resourcing, whether financial, material, relational or emotional.  Promoting adoption as a solution to these social issues is no different from promoting abortion as the solution when it does nothing to address women’s real unmet needs.   In fact, such promotion weakens the evidence based position that women seeking abortion have unmet needs rather than ‘unwanted’ pregnancies.

3. Promoting adoption reinforces a woman’s feelings of incapacity and feels like a greater loss

When women think about having an actual ‘baby’ as opposed to being pregnant, they think in terms of the pain and anguish of losing that baby and may be more inclined to decide on abortion if the alternative is to give their baby up rather than be supported to parent.

  Messaging about ‘good’ parents, who have more resources and who desperately want a baby has the implicit and very powerful message that:

  • The mother isn’t good enough
  • The mother’s capacity to provide is as limited as she already believes it is
  • That the mother doesn’t want, and therefore couldn’t love her baby as much as ‘better’ parents

This messaging simply reinforces her sense of incapacity about her ability to parent and leaves her feeling that nobody will support her to parent, thereby making abortion seem much less traumatic than adoption.

4. Fails to acknowledge the adverse impacts of adoption

Adoption is not without significant, serious and long-term consequences for mothers, adopted children and adult adoptees.  There is significant and growing evidence of the detrimental effects of maternal deprivation on infants.  A baby knows and has already bonded to his/her mother during pregnancy.  He/she seeks comfort in her smell, her voice, her touch and when they are separated, trauma ensues and can have life-long effects.   Promoting adoption as a means to create families for those who struggle with infertility ignores the trauma of the severing of a first family in its wake.  

There are a number of groups established in Australia by both mothers who have lost children to adoption and by adult adoptees.   The common thread in their stories is the lack of acknowledgement of the genuine grief and trauma inherent in their lives due to the loss of biological connections.  For adult adoptees the sense that they were traded as commodities is prevalent, along with an understandable objection to the expectation they should be grateful for the ‘better’ life they were given.  This better life for many did not exist, as adoptive parents are also human beings who don’t parent well, who get divorced, and who die.   Even those who feel loved by, and love their adoptive families have lived with a strong sense of loss throughout their lives; a loss that they often feel compelled to be silent about in order to protect all parties.

For mothers who grieve the loss of their children to adoption, there are valid questions about why they were not considered ‘good’ enough and why people did not simply support them through a time of need rather than take their child.

Adoption as it is currently practised severs biological ties in a way that is not necessary for the provision of love, stability and security for life.  Adoption serves the needs of adults not of children, and promotion of this option at any time ignores the rights of mothers and children to adequate support and connection to each other.

Key Recommendations

  1. All promotion of adoption as an alternative to abortion should be ceased
  2. Access to information about supports available for women during pregnancy and parenting should be strengthened and promoted.

Stigma and teen parents

The way in which teen parents Jayden and Jenifer, and their daughter Aria are being treated and portrayed in the media is a tragic indictment on the many mixed messages our society sends teenagers today.   It is also a very sad reflection on how we fail to support parents, and particularly the crucial bond between a mother and her baby.

While we don’t know all the facts; the little that has been portrayed in the media demonstrates several ways in which we have seriously failed this family.

We have inconsistent laws which tell young people they can’t legally engage in sex before certain ages, because we understand that decision making around sexuality requires a level of developmental maturity that isn’t reached until a certain age. 

Yet Jayden and Jenifer, along with all other teenagers and children in our country have been flooded with sexualising messages since early childhood.   Many of them are subject to sex education in schools which emphasises pleasure and choice above responsibility and mature decision making.   

In spite of understanding this, when they do experience a pregnancy, we demand they be allowed to access abortion without parental notification or consent, which they can in most states of Australia.   This means that 13 and 14 year old children (and younger) are having sex, often times this involves younger girls and much older male partners.    When a 14yr old girl gets pregnant, she can have an abortion without her parents knowing anything at all.  Nobody investigates the nature of the relationship she is in.   It is as though nothing ever happened and she can be sent back for more of the same; her parents none the wiser.

If that same 14yr old chooses to have her baby, she can feel so threatened by the lack of support to parent that she ‘kidnaps’ her own child.   It does appear that Jayden and Jenifer may be lacking in some of their economic, social and family circumstances.   However, wouldn’t this pose all the more reason for government departments to look at strategic ways to help them and their daughter make positive changes in their lives? 

Instead, what occurred was that the very thing these young parents most feared, is what happened: separation from their newborn daughter.   A young mother, within days of giving birth is denied the crucial bonding time with her baby after nurturing her inside her body for 9 months.  A new baby denied the familiar and much needed bonding time with her mother.   A father, who while very young, seems determined to stand by the mother of his child and his daughter, yet is denied the right to demonstrate such admirable qualities.

The evidence does not support the contention that all teenagers are ineffective parents.  Quite the contrary, that with adequate support they can be amazing parents raising amazing children.   Of course if left to their own devices they would struggle and perhaps make some terrible mistakes, but why should they be abandoned in that way?   Why should any parent not be supported, nurtured and encouraged in their parenting journeys?

My own parents were 16 and 19 when I was born in 1964.    We were saved from a forced adoption by virtue of the fact that my father married my mother, thereby bestowing on her a certain respectability as well as legitimacy on me.   

One could argue that they failed as parents when I then had my first child at age 17, thereby perpetuating some terrible cycle of teen parenthood.   However it wasn’t like that at all.   My mother was an amazing role model as a career woman, even having had 2 children before her 21st birthday.

While I faced huge stigma as a single parent in 1982 and beyond, it wasn’t even a question for me that my daughter belonged with me and that we would work things out as we went along.  With the birth of my second child shortly after my 21st birthday, followed by many years of single parenthood, one could imagine stories of feral children of an uneducated mother, sponging off the government purse.    But in spite of its popularity as a portrayal of teen parents, this is not the story for all, or even most.

By the time I was 30 I had worked my way through university and had 2 Bachelor degrees; at 34 I added my Master’s Degree.   My daughter worked her way through university to become a nurse, then a paramedic.  My son loves and supports his own family of 4 (soon to be 5) children.   They are both amazing contributing members of society, as I am, and as my parents before me were.

These are the kinds of stories we can help the Jayden’s, Jenifer’s and Aria’s of our world develop.   One that says ‘we see you’ve had a bit of a hard time, what can we do to help you?’  Instead we have stolen a newborn baby from her parents, granting them a visit of a few minutes after 5 days of total alienation.

We have politicians, journalists and the public carrying on about how terrible it is they even had a baby, citing a lack of contraceptive access or abortion access as two of the main culprits.    When around 60% of all pregnancies occur when the couple is using contraception, access to it is hardly the issue in an unintended pregnancy.     

Abortion advocates often talk about the stigma that women face when they experience abortion, even though the evidence doesn’t support such a position at all.   In fact, as we see in the story of this young family, Jayden and Jenifer have been extremely stigmatised for having a baby because of their ages before they have had any opportunity to demonstrate any parenting ability at all.    That is true stigma.    This has also occurred in a way that may be irreparably harmful to all of them, unless they are now offered the assistance they should have been entitled to before such an unjust treatment was applied.

When we continue to demean the birth of any baby to any mother by suggesting abortion access would have been better, we have sunk so low in our value of life that it is hard to imagine it could get any worse.  Except perhaps the stealing of a young mother’s child. 

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