As the Supreme Court deliberates on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, abortion advocates are working overtime to prove the false notion that abortion is necessary — even to the point of suggesting that abortion (deliberately killing a child before birth) is a better option for women than adoption (choosing a family to raise a child). The suggestion itself is jarring; after all, adoption exists to heal a wound. Abortion does the opposite.
Adoption as “mental cruelty”?
Recently, Business Insider featured an article containing the story of “Susan,” who placed a baby boy for adoption after she was sexually assaulted as a teenager in 1988. She gave birth in early January 1989. Susan said she was in such denial that she waited too long to talk to her parents. By the time she did, she was five months pregnant, which she said was too late to get an abortion. Abortion is legal through birth in the United States, but in 1989 in Wisconsin, where she lived, abortion was not (and currently is not) allowed after “viability” unless it is deemed necessary to save the woman’s life. (Read more here about why deliberately killing a preborn child is not medically necessary.)
While she said she chose adoption because she “wanted more for me and … more for the child,” Susan also called it “the most gut-wrenching thing.” The effects of pregnancy on her body were a constant reminder of the child she had carried and given to someone else to raise. “The darkness was a lot,” she said. “It was a few years before I didn’t think about it every day.”
Susan took offense to comments recently made by Justice Amy Coney Barrett — herself an adoptive mother — which suggested that women may want to consider adoption as a better option than abortion. “I don’t know if she’s just never been exposed to any situation like this that makes her think a mom could just walk away and return to her normal life as is, with no regard to what huge undertaking and stress has just occurred,” Susan told Insider. She said the connection between mother and child is strong and severing it through adoption is painful. But she also noted that it was “a chapter in my history that I draw strength from.”
Today, Susan has a relationship with the son she placed for adoption and she feels “a mother’s love” for him. But she is speaking out against Coney Barrett’s support for adoption.
“We’re supposed to just produce children and walk away?” she questioned. “It’s not that easy. It’s mental cruelty.”
The pain of erasure
It’s something that isn’t often discussed — what happens to the biological mothers once the baby has been placed with an adoptive family. Discussion is also avoided regarding surrogacy and egg donation, in which a child is created with the plan of purposely separating him from his mother. The biological mothers are often erased from the adoption story. But a biological mother doesn’t give birth, hand over her baby, sigh, and go back to life as normal. Even after the basic six-week physical recovery period, there are the stretch marks, the postpartum emotions, and the years of wondering about her baby.
In a guest essay for The New York Times, adoptee Elizabeth Spires said that because she was adopted, “I know the trauma it can inflict.” It is because of this trauma that she supports abortion — death for the child — despite the fact that she believes her birth mother “made the right decision.”
Death over difficulty?
Susan chose adoption and said it was the right decision; Spires was adopted and said it was the right decision — yet both are speaking out in favor of abortion because adoption is difficult. But adoption is not violent or inhumane towards a child, despite the pain of separation. Abortion, however, is both violent and inhumane, and kills a living human being based on the idea that life might be difficult.
While adoption trauma is real, adoption exists to heal the wound caused by the severing of the parent/child bond, and to give the child a loving home and parents when the birth parents are unable to care for the child. “Adoption should be sought only when all avenues to keep the child with their family of origin have been exhausted,” explained Katy Faust, author of Them Before Us. “The trauma a child faces when they’ve lost a relationship with their biological parents should not be minimized or ignored.”
But adoption, while traumatic, also keeps the door open to the future. Abortion leaves nothing for the future except the memory of a child’s death.
The trauma of abortion
Tori Shaw and Leah Outten both became pregnant at age 16. One chose adoption, one chose abortion. Outten had support and carried her pregnancy to term. With counseling and help, she said she was able to process the complexity of her emotions when she placed her daughter for adoption. But Shaw struggled to cope with her decision to abort.
“Abortion seemed like the easy way out of a difficult situation, but it was far from it,” she told Live Action News in a previous interview. “When I exited the abortion clinic, it was as if I wore a shroud of shame and condemnation that could not be removed. I never spoke of what I had done, never allowed myself to deal the trauma, forced myself to smile when I wanted to cry, self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, and lived in fear that someone might find out who I really was.”
Abortion advocates blame pro-lifers for post-abortive women’s feelings of shame, but Shaw’s response to the abortion is not uncommon. A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that women who have had abortions experience an 81% increased risk of subsequent psychiatric issues including depression. A separate study found that women who underwent abortions required outpatient mental health treatment more often than women who didn’t have abortions. And teen girls are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide following an abortion in the last six months than girls who haven’t had an abortion.
Abortion is the direct killing of an innocent human being, and women who have abortions feel the loss and guilt that stem from that decision. But it is a different pain than that of adoption. In adoption, a mother and child can stay connected (such as in open adoption) or even later be reunited. With abortion, there is no hope of that in this lifetime.
While abortion advocates paint abortion as a neat and clean experience, women who have survived abortion have a different story to tell. A woman named Salome explained her experience with the abortion pill:
After hours of hurting, I finally felt a huge physical relief, and the pain was immediately gone. I managed to get up. When I turned around, I saw the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen [in] my entire life. I saw my child.
It was at that moment that it finally sunk in properly. I really had been pregnant. I had been carrying the life I created inside of me until that very moment.
[…] Right after that, I cried and cried for hours. I put my child in a little box and kept saying I was sorry for what I had done. I was weeping and screaming, but nothing could turn back time….
Angele, whose baby Rowan survived abortion but was denied medical care, shared these heartbreaking words:
I stayed beside Rowan talking to him, telling him how strong he was being and how proud I was of him. I told him God must really want us to be together for him to make it through everything he had just been through and that Mommy was so sorry but so happy to have a chance to love him. I told him he was a strong little miracle and that I couldn’t wait for him to meet his brother and sister. I just kept touching him, trying to warm him with my hands and talking to him so he would not feel any more afraid than he already must.
But women who placed their babies for adoption share much different stories. Kristi placed her son for adoption when she was a teenager. Thirty-five years later, they were reunited. When she realized he had found her, Kristi broke down in tears of joy. “Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I prayed for this,” she cried.
Her son, Randall Cartwright told her, “I wanted to tell you… people have asked me, ‘What would be the first thing you would say if you saw your birth mom?’ And I always say, ‘The first thing I would say is thank you. Thank you for what you did because I have a blessed life. I can’t imagine what you went through and the decision that you had to make. I just can’t imagine, so I’m very thankful.”
While adoption is not an easy process, abortion leaves the child dead, and leaves lasting scars on the mother’s heart.
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