Guest commentary by Amanda Lord
We often shake our heads at the prevailing cultural attitude that sees adoption as somehow worse than killing a preborn child outright—but are we pro-lifers partially responsible for propagating that myth?
I became pregnant at 18 years of age. I was terrified, I had very little money and even less knowledge about how to raise a child. When I was about seven months pregnant, I moved into Sunlight Home in Naples, Florida. Sunlight is an amazing maternity home that helps women in crisis pregnancies.
The day I moved in, Miss Linda, the director, asked me about my plans for my baby. I didn’t have an answer. To this day, I thank God for Miss Linda, a wise lady who cared enough to suggest adoption to this confused 18 year old. Although there was nothing easy about the decision, I placed my beautiful son William Martin for adoption two days after his birth.
Even before making the final decision, I was berated with negativity. I was told, “a woman who loves her baby wouldn’t give him away” and even told that my son would “surely hate me for giving him up.” Shortly before signing the papers that would legally relinquish my parental rights, a social worker confided to me: “If a girl decides to have sex, she needs to deal with the consequence of raising her child.”
Despite the negativity, it has been almost five years since I placed William into the loving arms of his adoptive parents. To this day, I still face criticism and false stereotypes from those inside and outside of the pro-life movement. It is imperative that pro-lifers distinguish the facts from the myths surrounding adoption. If not, adoption will continue to be clouded in negativity and many women will decide it is easier to abort instead of considering the loving act of adoption.
Myth 1: Birthmothers have long been stereotyped as uneducated and helpless.
In fact, a 1988 study by Steven McLaughlin showed that unmarried birthmothers who placed were more likely to continue their education and were less likely to receive public assistance than women who chose to parent their children.
Myth 2: Birthmothers don’t love the child that they place for adoption.
This statement is simply not true. As a proud birthmother, I can say that I don’t believe I could love my son more. Even though I have not seen my child in almost five years, his life brings so much joy to me. The poem “All I Have Missed” by Amy L. Chenault expresses the love a woman feels for her child perfectly:
“Through all I have missed
my love still abound(s)
I thank God each day
for you, Mom and Dad, I found.”
Myth 3: Birthmothers suffer irrevocable damage from placing.
“Contrary to popular belief, mothers don’t go on in this world after ‘giving up’ a child, enjoying their lives and forgetting the child ever existed. Even though people would love to think this is true, it’s not the reality of the situation for most of us. Our lives are colored by the traumatic event and we are never the same afterwards. Most of us grieve for years ….” said Jaymie Frederick, who prefers the term “natural (first) mother” and is now a professional searcher and private investigator. It is true that some women feel like “exiled mothers” once they place their child for adoption, but that is not the norm now. Ms. Frederick’s experience echoes that of many women who placed children during what has been called the “baby scoop era” of the 1940s through the early 1970s, when unmarried mothers were basically shunned by society and forced into adoptions.
These days, you are more apt to hear a birthmother say, "It was not an easy decision any way I decided. I chose adoption. Looking back, it was the right decision and I have no regrets, not at all” (anonymous). The key is that she “chose” adoption. There are many web sites started by women who have found peace and joy in the choice of placing their child for adoption: http://birthmotherofadopted.blogspot.com and http://www.birthmothersunite.com.
However, if you encounter a woman who continues to feel an intense sorrow from placing her child long after she relinquished her parental rights, it is our duty as pro-lifers to help her gain the peace of mind she deserves by sharing the love of Christ with her.
Myth 4: Placing a child for adoption means a woman “gave up” that child.
First off, the term “giving up a child for adoption” is not at all helping the pro-life movement. Using the term “give up” likens the act to giving up sweets when on a diet. To change minds, one must use the correct wording and remove the false rhetoric. No one gives up a baby. If a woman chooses adoption, she is placing her child into the adoptive parents’ care. And actually, many adopted children are thankful that they were given a life they may not have been able to have if their birthmother hadn’t decided to place them for adoption: “I often receive calls from adult adopted children who ask our agency to locate their birth mother so that they can say ‘thank you’ for placing them for adoption. Placing a baby for adoption can be a self-sacrifice of heroic proportions,” said Susan Sedensky, J.D., an adoption coordinator with the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut.
If you speak with adoptees, they will almost always tell you that they don’t feel that they were “given up.” They recognize the blessing it is to have been placed for adoption. An adopted friend of mine had this to say about her birthmother and adoptive parents: “I am so thankful to both sets of my parents. They selflessly gave me a gift that cannot be equaled. The love that they shared is incomprehensible. And I know how special and loved I am because of the sacrifices my parents made for me. An adopted kid is one of the most loved kids because of the humongous sacrifices of the biological parent,” said Krista Fagan-Cox, adopted two months after birth.
Myth 5: Abortion is easier and “a lesser heartache” than adoption.
“[Women considering abortion] will say, 'I know it's killing my baby,' but they still think that it would be worse to have the baby, see the baby, know they have a baby, and then give it away,” revealed Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International in a recent article about the dwindling number of adoptions.
It’s hard for many in the pro-life movement to understand this frightening mindset, but it’s literally a matter of life and death that we try. For many women, abortion seems easier; it ends the turmoil of pregnancy right away: One short “procedure” and normal life can commence without the “stigma” of adoption. You don’t want to coldheartedly hand over your baby, do you? It will all be over soon, one can imagine Planned Parenthood telling vulnerable women. We know this is a dirty lie of the worst kind, but nonetheless, this is the mentality of many women who choose abortion over adoption.
Counseling and birthmother support services can change the longing for a beloved child into joy that, because of the selfless act of adoption, a child is alive and thriving. I truly believe the reason I recognize the blessing of placing William for adoption is because I received Christ-centered counseling and surrounded myself with people who not only love me but also my son.
Myth 6: Adoption is against God’s will.
There is no question that most pro-life activists see the importance and beauty of adoption. They understand that if a woman feels as though she is not yet ready to parent, she can place her child into a pair of loving arms instead of killing that child through abortion. But there is a prominent mindset in the movement that views adoption as an ungodly alternative to abortion. Teresa M. McDonough, the director of the adoption program at Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has come across such pro-lifers: “[W]e have occasionally encountered people who are pro-life activists who do not support adoption due to a belief that the pregnancy is God's will and, therefore, it is God's will that the woman parents the child.”
If you are a believer, God has become your heavenly Father. In a sense, you were adopted into the family of God. And did not Joseph adopt Jesus into his own family? Can we deny that the child Moses was adopted? Then how can it be said that adoption is against God’s will if the Bible is overflowing with stories of babies being parented by those other than their own flesh and blood? Declaring that adoption is not the will of God is not only causing indecision in the minds of women who are considering adoption but it belittles the beautiful sacrifice a birthmother has made for the child she placed.
Women who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies often feel trapped into either parenting the child in circumstances that they don’t see as ideal or aborting. If we as pro-lifers would work to break the stereotypes that negatively categorize birthmothers, I believe there would be a dramatic decrease in abortions.
I have a picture of William on my desk. While writing this article, I found myself looking at his picture with such joy. I want to do everything in my power to end the needless killing through abortion. And when a woman feels like she cannot possibly parent a child, she and her child deserve to learn of the selfless love and beauty of adoption. Breaking stereotypes and debunking the myths about adoption very well may save the lives of some of the most vulnerable human beings among us.
Amanda Lord is American Life League’s communications assistant.