Informed Consent: Ignorance vs. Alternatives

Recently a co-trainer in adoption education mentioned that at a recent training she encountered participants who said that merely mentioning adoption to a pregnant person was trying to ‘sell it.’
I’m of the opinion that all options should be discussed so that the person facing the choice has a clear understanding of the options.

In the 1980s the Reagan Administration instituted a ‘gag order’ that declared health care workers at pregnancy clinics receiving government funds were absolutely prohibited from discussing abortion with a pregnant patient, even if she asked about terminating her pregnancy. In an op-ed piece at the time, the writer said that by not mentioning any option, there was an implied negativity associated with that option. If it’s so bad that you can’t even say the word, then there must be something wrong with abortion even if it was her legal right to know about terminating her pregnancy, the writer said.

Something clicked inside me. As a pregnancy counselor at the time, I had pondered how rarely the word adoption was mentioned by health care people, while abortion was frequently offered as a solution to an unplanned pregnancy. By mentioning ONLY abortion as an alternative to carrying out the pregnancy, it was implied that abortion was the preferable choice.

Once there is an unplanned pregnancy, there are no outcomes without heavy residuals: Abortion, often a secret to the outside world, still weighs heavily on the person who experiences it, just as adoption may, particularly because it is harder to hide adoption than it is to hide abortion. Even parenting as a choice has its drawbacks, like the pain felt by the mother who cannot provide an active and loving father for her child. In my opinion, knowledge of all her options is the best approach to counseling a woman facing this difficult turning point in her life and the life of her child.

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