My criticism of the 'adoption not abortion' approach to abortion discussion does not win me any popularity contests among those who promote it, however everything I know about both adoption and abortion compels me to dispel some misconceptions.
I see banners, flyers and memes, such as the one depicted here all over social media and every time I read them I cringe with the message this sends about how little people understand either option.
Having worked in research, education and advocating for the needs of women experiencing challenging or unintended pregnancy, and post abortive women, I understand that the issues women face in decision making are extremely complex. Added to the complexity of sifting through personal circumstances, trying to meet the needs of all the people involved, and the woman's own personal values, are the social pressures that often drive women toward decisions they may not necessarily want.
Research tells us that 95% of abortions are undertaken for psychosocial reasons including economic concerns, relationship issues, career and education goals, fears of not being 'ready' for motherhood etc. What we shouldn't read into this is that these women are making 'lifestyle' decisions purely for their own benefit and selfish happiness, as some seem to think. Our professional, educational and social structures are for the most part constructed around the biology and needs of men, not women. Our universities still fail to provide adequate child care facilities for new parents. Women in workplaces still face discrimination, and sometimes threats of losing jobs when they become pregnant or take time off to parent. New mothers are sent home from hospital on day 2 after giving birth to their first child, often unprepared, frequently isolated and unsupported. Public breastfeeding is still maligned and places to be in comfort to care for an infant when out and about often inadequate.
It is absolutely necessary to address these issues of inequity however what sixties feminism did for women in fighting for, and gaining abortion rights simply exchanged one form of female bondage for another. Women now have the 'freedom' and 'autonomy' to 'choose' abortion so that they can continue their education and careers, unencumbered by their biology and reproductive capability. This has turned out to be a much quicker, cheaper and less time consuming solution to the 'problem' of pregnancy and children than many seemed to anticipated. So much simpler in fact, that it is easier to promote abortion as the best solution to an undesired, mistimed or complicated pregnancy than it is to walk alongside the woman and ensure that she receives the best possible care and faces no discriminatory practices.
Abortion advocates say women NEED abortion in order to experience equality. To me, this statement says that women must change who they are in order to fit a male structured world if they want to be perceived as equal. If a woman was considered truly equal she would have the freedom and autonomy to birth as many children as she wanted without facing lost opportunities because the social world would be forced to accommodate her.
When prolife advocates say to women you should choose adoption not abortion, they are failing to understand that few women considering or having abortions are even thinking about the reality of being pregnant with a baby. They are generally reacting, often in a state of reasonable anxiety to a high pressure situation for which they are being offered a seemingly quick and easy solution; one which leaves them no longer pregnant. For it is being pregnant at that stage that women are seeking a solution for. They are not usually saying 'I don't want my child'. They are not usually saying 'I don't want to parent'. They are saying, "I have no money, no resources, no support, no confidence, too much fear, not enough help" to continue this pregnancy.
Waving 'adoption not abortion' banners at this time completely ignores and diminishes the very real circumstances of her life at that time.
This approach also fails to understand the experience of adoption for mothers. We see lots of rosy stories of happy 'birth mums' who 'loved their child so much they gave them a better life'. What we see less often is the genuine, absolute and lifelong heartbreak of many mums who felt compelled to see adoption as a solution to their inability to parent for many of the same reasons some women consider abortion. When I hear a women praised for giving her child 'a better life' or being 'selfless' or doing the 'best for her baby' I have an almost physical response. How dare we suggest that a woman's child is better off with a non biological family, or that a woman is more selfless by relinquishing her motherhood than walking through it?
I was 17 and single when I had my first child, a daughter. I know that had I been forced, pressured or felt compelled to give her to another family, a piece of me so large would have shattered that I would have spent every waking second of my life trying to fix it. I see this experience in mothers who did take the adoption path. I see some who truly believed it was the right thing to do at the time, who were convinced someone else would be better for their child, and who only weeks, or months, or sometimes years realised that wasn't true. Then it is too late.
Adoption is a decision made between the option of parenting or not. The United States has about the same abortion rate as Australia, but a significantly higher adoption rate. This has to tell us that women and babies are not 'saved' from abortion because of adoption availability. Women in the US are adopting in higher numbers for a whole lot of reasons that we don't fully understand, but they are not all rosy stories.
Before a woman makes an adoption decision we want to be darn sure we have provided her with every possible means to raise her own child so that she is not left wondering how she could be so abandoned some time down the track. For some, adoption may be a preferred option, but confusing the two does nobody any favours.