Thursday, July 15, 2010

Abortion, Adoption When Do Women Feel Regret?

Pro birth activists go out of their way to tell women that if they have an abortion they will regret it for the rest of their lives.  They continually suggest that depression sets in the moment the abortion is over because we have not lived up to our essential purpose and in the process have committed murder, never mind that this is just a group of cells that could not live outside of its host. Let's just be clear about one thing, the potential to become a child and actually being a child are two very different things.  The idea is not to give women a choice and physical control of our reproduction.  One lucky sperm does not a life or a mother make.

When women talk about not being ready for motherhood, adoption is always the next suggestion.  Before I get into this, let me say unequivocally that I am not against adoption and do believe that it is a legitimate choice that some women chose to make.  My concern is that adoption is almost always constructed as uncomplicated and this generous loving gift to strangers.  If the child just happens to be a White baby with no disabilities, ze will be scooped up and treasured; however, the minute the baby is considered flawed, ze has a very high percentage of  finding themselves a ward of the state until ze ages out. Age will often work against a child, because perspective parents are more than aware that the older a child is, the more baggage they come with.  A child with issues is not something many people consider as completing their perfect little White picket fence home. Adoption is not always the perfect solution for the child, no matter what these pro life zealots say.

The issue that I want to explore in this post is adoption regret. I know what it is like to carry a child for nine months and to feel life moving within your womb.  This child becomes a part of who you are and you find yourself talking to hir. I was absolutely fascinated with my swollen belly as my body began to change, and in fact, I constantly rubbed my stomach.  I am quite sure that a huge part of this was the anticipation of meeting my child for the first time. My pregnant stomach allowed me to look far ahead into the future, as I pictured the life my unhusband and I would have with our precious boys. My reaction to pregnancy would have been completely different, if the end result of my nine month relationship with my baby was to hand hir over to the state or another family.

Why are we not talking to women who have regretted giving their children up for adoption?  Why are their voices so silent?  Why is the ache of their empty arms so impossible to grasp let alone acknowledge?  What about the women that would have loved to keep their babies, but knew that because of their poverty or disability, that life would simply have been to hard? What about the teenage mothers that are forced to give up their child?  What about the mothers that have their children taken away by the state and the bonds forcefully broken? There are so many situations in which regret is a real emotion and yet the pro birth people only want us to see the joy and happiness of the couple that receives the perfectly healthy White baby. 

It's interesting that in this society -- that supposedly respects and honours mothers, that once again their voices are muted to push an ideological position.  We don't respect motherhood unless we can use it to enslave a woman and enforce gender performance.  When it comes to dealing with  real issues that cause motherhood to be a hardship, we are more than willing to turn our back.  If I didn't have the support of a partner that is more than willing to go above and beyond for this family, motherhood would be a terrible experience for me. I am a good mother in part due to him. My concern is for the women who do not have the support that I have.  The women that are forced into making a decision that fills them with a lifetime of regret.  Where is the space for these women to have their pain validated?  Even in spaces that are supposedly women friendly, the conversation is overwhelming about preserving abortion rights, rather than giving even the most minute space to women who experience adoption regret.  This silence also enforces the lie that all adoption is unproblematic, thus doing the masters work for him. I think that if we are going to talk about reproductive rights, we should look at it critically at the various ways women are impacted and not focus solely on the right to abortion as though this is the only option that counts.