“Would you prefer were aborted? » This is the question some asked me when I publicly expressed my horror at the June 24 reversal. Roe v. Wade.
This question is not only petty and presumptuous, it is a logical error. The idea that adoptees shouldn’t or can’t be pro-choice just because we were born ignores the possibility that we can value being alive at the same time that we value the right to make decisions. about our body, our life and our future.
I was born in 1967, before Roe vs. Wade. My birth mother was 18 and halfway through her freshman year of college when she found out she was pregnant. Her parents arranged for her to go to a home for single mothers once she started showing up.
My biological mother had limited choices; abortion was illegal, so her options were to keep or abandon her baby. And it may not have been her who decided; maybe her parents made that decision for her. Maybe she had no choice at all.
Either way, the right to choose to have an abortion has nothing to do with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crudely characterized in 2008 as the need to maintain a “national supply of infants” available for adoption, a notion that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mentioned in the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade.
I was born in a home for single mothers, taken into foster care in one day, then adopted by another family three weeks later. I was split between three families during the first three weeks of my life.
The logic of the anti-choice, pro-adoption crowd is that I should be grateful that I didn’t have an abortion. After all, I haven’t languished in foster care for 18 years. And my birth mother was able to graduate from college and pursue a career, having children when she was ready. It was a win-win, right?
Not by far. Psychological research shows that women who abandon their children frequently show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. And children who have been abandoned frequently develop abandonment trauma – a kind of a trauma that “alters an individual’s brain chemistry and function…and can increase adrenaline and cortisol and reduce serotonin, making adoptees hypervigilant, anxious, and depressed.”
Additionally, the adoptive institution denied me the right to know anything about my heritage, ethnicity, or medical history. My birth certificate has been whitewashed, amended to say I was born to my adoptive parents, in “the hospital”, issued by “the doctor”.
As a child I was anguished over what I had done wrong, and worse, how as a baby I could have been seen as so inherently deficient that it was not worth keeping. by my original parents.
My life has been marked by doubt. An early example of this was thumb sucking, which I continued to do until I was 9, my way of soothing myself. Nearly a decade of sucking my thumb caused serious dental issues that required me to wear multiple corrective braces in my mouth. I also have a constant and permanent fear of abandonment. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I have spent countless hours and several thousand dollars in psychotherapy.
And I’m not the only adoptee who has had such feelings. A 2013 study from the University of Minnesota showed that adopted teens were 3.7 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted teens.
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett says “safe haven” laws allowing women to relinquish their parental rights after birth are sufficient to alleviate the burdens of parenthood discussed in Roe vs. Wadewhich implies that providing a ready avenue for adoption replaces the need for a safe and legal abortion. His assertion is also a logical error. Adoption does not replace choice.
I am now past childbearing age and have no daughters, so the reversal of Roe vs. Wade will not affect me directly. But I think of my beloved nieces and the students of the great university where I teach. I am furious that they no longer have the constitutional right to bodily sovereignty, and I am terrified that their lives will change for the worse if they are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. I have a young adult son, and if he got his partner pregnant, I would like them both to be able to decide which option would be best for them. The circumstances that dictated my birth have no bearing on their rights.
No, I don’t wish I had an abortion, but I wish that all those years ago my birth mother had the right to make her own decisions about what to do with her own body, the same right that we all deserve.
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