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May 2014

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Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

Anyone who doesn't perceive what Pope John Paul II called the "Culture of Death" needs to take a look at this article by a woman who says she wishes her mother had made the "selfless" act of aborting her.

In many ways it's helpful to see the logic of the pro-choice position drawn up to its conclusion: Although I now live a happy life with a family, I was poor and abused, so I never should have been born.

Note well how hastily and superficially she dismisses the idea of adoption. "Oh, my mother could never have given me up for adoption!" (What happened to the virtue of selflessness?) This is not some minor point: It's a testament to the strength of the abortion ideology that adoption has to sit in the corner with a blanket over its head and not be seen nor heard. There is no solution but death!


Note well how hastily and superficially she dismisses the idea of adoption. ... (What happened to the virtue of selflessness?)

Did we read the same article? The author doesn't pooh-pooh the idea for no particular reason; she says that given a long list of exacerbating factors (which she details), her mother was emotionally incapable of giving up her child for adoption. And the failure of selflessness is exactly her complaint: she holds that it would have been selfless for her mother to choose not to have a child, rather than to selfishly raise a child under conditions of abuse and poverty to assuage her own emotional wounds. And that's not what happened.

I don't think the article presents its argument particularly well, and while there are some elements in it that I agree with, there are plenty that I don't. But I also think you've let zeal and emotion come between you and a clear reading of it. As a result, you've got some misrepresentation going on in this post, and I don't think it serves you or your position particularly well.
Huh. Well, here’s the only paragraph where she talks about adoption.

An abortion would have been best for me because there is no way that my love-starved, trauma-addled mother could have ever put me up for adoption. It was either abortion or raising me herself, and she was in no position to raise a child. She had suffered a traumatic brain injury, witnessed and experienced severe domestic violence, and while she was in grade school she was raped by a stranger and her mother committed suicide. She was severely depressed and suicidal, had an extremely poor support system, was experiencing an unplanned pregnancy that resulted from coercive sex, and she was so young that her brain was still undeveloped.

Rereading it now, I guess I see why you feel I’ve mischaracterized her. When I first read it, I honestly didn’t think anything after the second sentence was meant to apply to the question of adoption, but rather was meant to be proof of her incapacity to be a mother in general. Did you take it the other way?

If that’s what’s intended, then fair enough: she wasn’t as hasty or superficial as I thought at first (although I would still think when you’re contemplating your own inexistence, an alternative of adoption warrants much more consideration).

I guess I thought that paragraph was making two different points because the horrors she catalogs don’t seem directly relevant to whether a woman would ignore the choice of adoption versus abortion or raising it herself. Clearly these things have immense psychological and emotional effects—I’m certainly not saying they wouldn’t. But why in particular do they preclude adoption entirely while leaving birth or abortion as the only options? Of course, I have far less insight into her mother’s mental state than she does (even if we’re talking about before the author was born), so I’m loath to second-guess her, I really am--but enough in the piece rings of ideology to me that I don’t exactly trust her judgment either. Ultimately, I don’t think she’s proven anything except that her mother could have been pressed by these awful events into nearly any delusional belief we could imagine. And in general it smacks of protesting too much… WAY too much. It’s like she brought out the heavy artillery, not to destroy some great enemy fortress, but just to drown out the sound of any voice of objection. “Why didn’t she consider adoption again?” “SHE HAD A BRAIN INJURY!” “Yeah, but…” “RAPE! SUICIDE!” Isn’t it kinda close to the emotional blackmail she criticizes at the beginning? It feels like she’s covering up an argument more than making one. I dunno. If you say it sounds like an honest argument to you, then I will certainly have to reassess my opinion.

My point about selflessness was that at the end of the piece, like you said, she wishes her mother could have made the “courageous and selfless” act of abortion. If she’s wishing for any kind of counterfactual scenario, why would she not wish for her mother to overcome her “love-starved and trauma-addled” nature and choose adoption? Is adoption less courageous or selfless in her situation? I don’t think so.

Thanks for weighing in and letting me know I might have been mistaken in my reading.
I took the list of reasons as applying to both of the first two sentences in that paragraph. She doesn't quite say it explicitly, but the construction of the first sentence strongly implies that being "love-starved and trauma-addled" are the reasons adoption wouldn't have been an option, and then the final two sentences detail the causes of that sorry state.

But I can see where your reading would come from; it's not the most felicitously composed piece in the world.

It seems quite plain to me that someone that traumatized could contemplate abortion or birth but not adoption. Pregnancy is hard and childbirth is harder. An abortion avoids them entirely. Raising the child, while also hard, holds out the hope that A Baby Will Fix Everything and Motherhood Will Make Me Whole, thus redeeming the prelude of suffering. (Because it's not like we don't hear those kinds of messages all the time in our culture.) But adoption? That requires all of the pain with no payoff whatsoever, plus the added trauma of giving up the newborn. And maybe you know logically you can't properly raise a child, but all that postpartum oxytocin certainly doesn't think so. So I don't think it's an unreasonable or excessive to assert that it just would not have been a realistic option.

Wishing for counterfactuals is always weird, because where do you stop? She could also wish away the litany of horrors, or for a mysterious benefactor to miraculously put it all right. I think her point is to look at the possibilities that would have been realistic at that point in time, and to say, yeah, if I ignore my own personal stake in it, objectively speaking, the other one would probably have been better. My read on the author is that she would probably say, sure, adoption would have been even more courageous and selfless -- impossibly so, so why bring it up?


lol topics like these are bound to bring out the opinionated person! Stuff like this is always going to stir up at least one hornet nest and maybe a couple bee hives. So on that note, lets get this ball rollin with opinions that are guaranteed to conflict with others! heheh :D

My view on this is, if ever I am placed in a position where abortion is something that needs to be considered, there will be 3 people I will allow to speak their minds when they are blatantly judging a decision that is strictly mine and my significant other, and not theirs.

1. The person that would be willing to adopt the child immediately when it's born, if the abortion is not due to medical reasons.

2. A person who has adopted children themselves.

3. A person that grew up in an orphanage and was never adopted or adopted at an old age. (I'm assuming there are a lot more kids that aren't adopted than are, and these kids would have lived through all of the hardships of that kind of life)

ANY OTHER person who does not fit under either of those categories would have most likely spoken to me for the last time if I were in that position. If someone is going to judge someone else's choices in life and try to tell them what is best for them, they better have something backing up their involvement with something that is BLATANTLY none of their business.

I simply cannot stand how so many people are quick to judge someone considering an abortion for any number of reasons, and yet have/would never consider the idea of adopting a child themselves.

(Let me be clear I'm not directing this at anyone in particular! :) I'm just saying exactly how I would feel / act if I were in a position of having to consider an abortion, and some ass-hat is trying to get involved in a devastating moment in my life that has nothing to do with them.)

I seriously wonder how many wars throughout the world's history would have never happened if people minded their own business. lol

From my understanding of the situation, #3 would be very, very hard to find. Babies are in such high demand that the adoption process takes tens of thousands of dollars per child. That's legal fees, lots and lots of legwork, and so on. Apparently, there's even a waiting list for people who want to adopt special needs children, such as Downs Syndrome kids. But there aren't very good numbers on the costs or the process because there are no central agencies dealing with this. Instead, there's a patchwork of agencies and organizations, each with their own processes, open adoptions, closed adoptions, even legal surrender babies.

However, the place where you will find lots of kids who weren't adopted or who were adopted at a late age is through the foster-care system. There are a number of reasons for this, including the difficulties of adopting a child who is, often as not, suffering from some emotional trauma. (One set of friends who adopted a two-year-old through foster care had several years of his food insecurity, which is a terrible thing to see in a toddler.) There's also the fact that there are often parental rights involved, and sometimes the parents don't want to terminate them. Or they try to fix the issues through the courts, go to their mandated treatment, and fail. So there are a lot of adoptions that get started and stall out or take years to process.

At any rate, I know many people who have adopted (some through direct contact with the mother), and many people who have been adopted. I know a mother who actually gets comments about her severely retarded daughter along the lines of "don't you wish you'd known before she was born (so you could have had an abortion)" and who gets to reply with "I adopted her." I probably know someone who has had an abortion, though that would be rare in my particular circle of friends. I do know several people who were directly threatened with abortion, including my older sister, who had a greater than 50% chance of being brain-damaged from prenatal rubella, and for whom doctors recommended a therapeutic abortion. Thankfully, she was in the minority, but at that point, prenatal diagnosis was all but non-existent. So you might well say I have a stake in this sort of discussion.
I agree that this article is an illustration of the "Culture of Death" that JP2 was discussing... but I also agree with the good doctor that your post mischaracterizes what she's saying about adoption. I agree with your point (as I understand it) that adoption is often dismissed as an option using logic and a values weighting that I find unfathomable, but I don't think that's what she's saying here.
Yeah, maybe I misread it a bit. See my reply above and let me know if you think I'm still off-base.
I can see why you would read it that way, and I agree that her argument is no less emotionally loaded than those she criticizes. I understood the paragraph to be a litany of her mother's incapacity to make a choice as emotionally complex as adoption, among her mother's many incapacities.