One Good Reason to Keep Roe v Wade

As an adoption worker who worked as a pregnancy counselor with women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, I have a strong opinion about keeping abortion a legal option for women.

Because two of the agencies where I worked have been in business for many, many years — including those days of secrecy in adoption before the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s — I also got to know birth mothers from the days of maternity homes and forget-this-happened-you’ll-have-other-babies-who-will-take-his-place.  (For a great read about those days, see The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the DecadesBefore Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler. )

My own interactions with birth mothers from that era include:

1.  One day in about 1981, a hesitant voice on the phone said:  “Ten years ago I gave up a baby for adoption through this agency . . .”  When she didn’t continue I said, “Yes, how can I help you?”  “You mean you’re going to talk to me?  I expected you to slam the phone down!”  Tears of relief flowed as she realized she was going to be listened to. 

2.  A woman who called from Florida on her child’s 21st birthday, said that she didn’t know if she’d had a boy or a girl, so she and her family always spoke of “the baby.”  “It feels weird to say ‘The Baby’ turns 21 today,” she said.  I asked her if she would like to know the first name of that baby, and she was amazed that I offered to tell her.  I took her phone number, looked up the information and called her back to let her know it was Linda who turned 21 that day.  “You don’t know what a gift you’ve given me!” she said.
3.  About six years later a woman called and said that fourteen years earlier she had placed a baby for adoption through the agency.  The day she signed papers, when he was only three days old, her worker told her they didn’t have a family for her baby because he was mixed race.  “I’ve never forgotten him and I have worked hard to better myself, and if my child is still in foster care, I could take him back now.”  I was startled; for one thing, it wouldn’t be that easy, but I wanted to give her some information.  I took her phone number and went to the files.  Her baby had been placed in a loving adoptive home the next day after she signed relinquishments, but no one had told her this.  I called and apologized profusely for the lack of courtesy that she had been subjected to.  “I thank you for letting me know that he has a good home,” came her response.  I invited the birth mother to write a letter to be placed in the file in case her child contacted the agency.  I don’t know if she did, or if he did, but I hope so.

We started a Birth Parent Support Group in 1983.  As these older birth moms called, I invited them to attend.  A few came once or twice, but it was a poor fit for them.  Their grief was not alleviated by the positive descriptions they heard from women of current times who had choices.  Unmarried women in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s felt they had no choice; society made the choice for them, and that choice was adoption.  Because they were unwed, they would be ostracized if they kept their babies.  And abortion in those days meant a trip out of the country or to a back alley in a seedy part of town.

As soon as Roe v Wade was announced in January of 1973, there was a new element of choice in the equation.  If they opted not to terminate the pregnancy, they were making a choice to give their baby life.  Then they could also choose to parent or to release for adoption.  None of these options were easy to take, but being in control of their lives and their bodies, made a difference in their world and to their psyche. 

We’ve learned a lot since 1973, and the sudden swing from adoption to not-adoption —  did they parent?  did they get married to keep the baby?  did they abort?  — we don’t know for sure, but they had a choice.

And that’s why I don’t want to return to the days when abortion was illegal and a criminal act.

Beth Kozan, Phoenix, Arizona

Surely some one out there wants to Talk Me Down.  Bring it on. 


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3 Responses to “One Good Reason to Keep Roe v Wade”

  1. ron Says:

    Moving stories…. you write well…

  2. Beverly Seyler Says:

    One of the best I’ve read on a very complicated issue.

  3. bethkoz Says:

    Thanks, Bev. It’s good to know you’re out there, reading. Thanks for leaving a comment.

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