Last week, TLC aired a special called Birth Moms in honour of Mother’s Day, documenting the experiences of three young pregnant women considering adoption. When I first heard about this show I, being an open and proud adoptee, was thrilled; in the current political environment where abortion is constantly in the hot seat, many other important social issues, including adoption, are generally overlooked.
Sadly, in typical TLC fashion, drama and overt generalizations equates to good television. The show presented obvious digs at everyday adoption stereotypes for TV ratings – three women were depicted as ‘damaged’ and neglectful. While the show did accurately depict the painful decisions the young women had to make, they chose only to document those living at an adoption centre – supplied with social workers, housing, and many other necessities the young women could need. They ignored the thousands of young women who, everyday must make similar decisions without help. Put bluntly, they depicted three of a small number of women who received support when they need it most. In the end, the show did little to change the way society views adoption, birth mothers, or adoptees.
However, what the show did do is raise another important issue; that adoption is seen as a pro-life entity. To some, to support adoption means an automatic enrollment in the pro-life movement. Far too often have people assumed that because I’m adopted that I therefore must see abortion as immoral. Why? Because, as was once so boldly explained to me, ‘if you were given a chance to live, who are you to say others can’t?’ Without my consent, I am thrust into the position of the unofficial anti-abortion, pro-adoption poster child.
The reason this particular TLC show made me so angry is twofold. It made me angry because it showed the lack of choice that women have today, due to systems of oppression. It also made me angry because it minimizes the importance of adoption as a choice; the fact of the matter is the adoption process represented in this show seemed to lack the availability of choices that all women should be entitled to. If one feels forced to give up their child for adoption, is it a choice at all?
Sadly, access to abortion is severely inhibited, even in countries where it is legal. Without getting into the politics of the matter, what this represents is the fundamental barriers that women who have become pregnant face every day. This is exacerbated by societal attitudes that see adoption as the antithesis to abortion. In the eyes of the anti-choice community, adoption is seen as a reprieve from immorality. For many the choice to put a child up for adoption is the moral alternative to abortion. What many fail to understand is that adoption is not a pro-life substitute to abortion. Both adoption and abortion are choices; both are responsible choices, and both should only be made by the women who are living through the experience of having to make them.
The anti-choice movement has latched onto adoption, in some cases calling themselves pro-adoption, as if to assume those who choose abortion are not. This again represents how women are not being given the efficacy required to choose; that is, society doesn’t provide for women the financial means, or intentionally inhibits their ability, to make choices in regard to their own reproductive health and family.
I am adopted and actively pro-choice. Choice for me means that when I am presented with determining how I take care of my own reproductive health and how to, one day, plan my family I am free to do so in a way that I feel is right for me.