Blog for Choice

In my thirty years as a pregnancy counselor at adoption agencies, I met many women who had been forced (by social convention, by family members, by partners) to place their babies for adoption. Because of their stories, I developed a renewed support for keeping abortion a legal option for women.

Before Roe V Wade came along there were maternity homes, and a general attitude of 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 Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler. )

My own interactions with birth mothers from the years before Roe V Wade:

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.

As soon as Roe v Wade was announced in January of 1973, the adoption rate dropped dramatically. If they opted not to terminate the pregnancy but to give their child life, these pregnant women were faced with another decision: whether to raise the child or to make an adoption plan. None of their options was easy to take, but being in control of their lives and their bodies, made a difference to their psyche. They had an active role: to choose their outcome. And having the power to make the choice made all the difference in the world about their feelings when they chose adoption!

And that’s why I don’t want to return to the days when abortion was an illegal and criminal act and adoption felt like a punishment to mother and child.

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6 Responses to “Blog for Choice”

  1. finefroghair Says:

    Yes I hear you 100% the political football that is abortion is just pathetic and so counterproductive. The troglodytes on the other side of this issue frankly don’t care about the children or the mothers it is just a way for them to feel superior. Have you seen or read the movie/book “Cider House Rules” it poignantly points out the necessity for abortion and the heart wrenching consequences of unwanted pregnancies. I was hopeful that RU-486 or plan B basically chemical abortion would eventually preclude the surgical procedure of course the FDA is dragging it’s feet just another in a long line of politically compromised entities.

    • bethkoz Says:

      Thank you, finefroghair, for reading and responding to my blog today! Cider House Rules was a very good movie and an even better book. I used to have quotes from that book pegged to my Bulletin Board!

  2. Sallie Says:

    Adoptions today are rarely, if ever closed. They are nothing like the adoptions from 30 years ago. There are very few secrets. The birthmom gets photos of their child, and usually knows the child later in life. But they are more like an Aunt, rather than a mom.

    It is a win-win! The adoptive family is blessed, and the birthmom knows she blessed this family. Unfortunately the media still perpetuates these myths of closed adoptions, argued here.

    Why would anyone want to chemically destroy a baby? Who in their right mind would ever find PEACE in that? Or ripping their baby apart. I would think that would cause more pain and guilt than any other option known to man. What happend to the baby’s rights? He or she didn’t get to choose?

    As someone who has waited YEARS to adopt a baby, I find it insulting that abortion is considered a loving choice. I will take your baby!!!

    • bethkoz Says:

      Thank you for your comments, Sallie. You are right that many of today’s adoptions are open or semi-open. However, there are still closed adoptions being done. Usually it is because the birth mother makes the decision not to meet the family, or not to have contact, because she does not realize the benefits to herself or her child in having an open relationship. These are often women who have kept their pregnancy secret, and deliver without prenatal care; many of them are from cultures where they don’t believe they will be supported in their decision for adoption.
      As a prospective adoptive parent, I invite you to join in efforts to educate the public to adoption today, which you have endeavored to do in your answer. We all should work together to educate others.
      Again, thank you for your response.

  3. Laura Says:

    This is all very confusing. I don’t really know what is the way to go, really. I want to adopt and I still don’t know what would be best. It’s such a delicate and emotional subject. I don’t know whether an open adoption would have the child more confused or it would bring the child even more love into his life.
    I’m reading articles, blogs, checking sites, talking to people to make the right decision for the child.
    http://www.adoptionservices.org, so far has helped a lot but I still have a long way to go to reach a conclusion.
    Thank you for your blog post!

    • bethkoz Says:

      Laura, thank you for writing. I can’t tell from your msg if you are a pregnant person or a hopeful adoptive parent. In either case, you are to be applauded for educating yourself via the internet and other sources. I do decision counseling and education for both situations. You can write me at beth.kozanlpc@yahoo.com. Perhaps I know someone in your area who can work with you directly. Since I also write reviews of adoption related books, you might check my other blog: http://www.bibliotherapy4adoption.wordpress.com. No matter which side of the adoption puzzle you’re on, you could probably benefit from reading “Making Room in Our Hearts”, by Micky Duxbury. It is (in my opinion) the best new book on open adoption, and I think you will find an answer to the questions you raise (about the child feeling confused and about his/her feeling loved through the years) in its pages.

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