Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

Blog for Choice

January 23, 2010

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.