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Let's Be Real, Adoption Is Not the Solution to Abortion

Photograph by Twenty20

Abortion has been in the news a lot lately, mostly because the makers of those controversial Planned Parenthood videos from a few months ago have been found to be frauds, with indictments brought against them both. As a long-time Planned Parenthood supporter, I find what they did to be reprehensible.

Abortion only represents 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides (all within their legal rights to do so) and I truly feel that if you have to lie and commit crimes to push your own agenda forward—you're doing it wrong. And you may just be on the wrong side of that fight.

But my feelings about abortion are also slightly more complicated than that; they're intricately woven within my own personal experiences and beliefs, as I have to believe is the case for most women.

RELATED: I Don't Regret Having an Abortion

For starters, I am infertile. I will never carry a child beneath my heart, and the simple fact that there are so many women who get pregnant when they don't want to, while I so desperately wanted to and couldn't, crushes me. Something about that scenario just points to how devastatingly unfair the world can be.

Beyond that, I personally believe that life starts at conception. So much so, that when my own IVF cycles failed, I mourned the loss of those embryos as though I had lost my babies. It hurt. They were mine, and they were gone, and it broke me.

Then, there is the fact that I am an adoptive mother. I can't think about abortion and not think about my daughter's face—about the little girl who very easily could have never been if her other mother had made a different choice.

I am thankful every day that she chose adoption instead of abortion.

But I don't believe for one second that same choice should be a choice forced on anyone else.

And that's where my feelings get complicated.

Abortion breaks my heart, but I understand the cold necessity of its availability.

I have worked within populations defined by an extent of poverty most of us will never actually see. I have spent time volunteering in abuse shelters and speaking to women who have lived lives I sometimes have a hard time even wrapping my head around. I understand that not everyone shares my same beliefs about life and conception, and that perhaps even more importantly, not everyone has the same opportunities laid out before them that have always been available to me.

So while I have always known that abortion would never be a choice I could personally make, not under any circumstances, I still support a woman's right to choose. And I refuse to judge any woman for making that choice.

Abortion breaks my heart, but I understand the cold necessity of its availability.

So when I read a comment on a piece about abortion recently that seemed to paint adoption as the solution to abortion, I had a very difficult time not responding. The comment itself read:

"I do believe if funds were diverted to making adoption more financially attainable (who has $20-30k?!) these babies could have great homes and lives. The difficult-to-conceive woman in me breaks when I hear of other women making this hard choice."

I read that comment several times, imagining in my head the responses I could compose to gently educate the poster on how misguided her words were. But ultimately, I chose not to say a thing. I didn't know this woman, and she didn't seem to be coming from a bad place—just a place of self-interest, something I know all too well can happen when in the depths of infertility.

Still, it wasn't the first time I have seen adoption thrown around as a solution to abortion, so I thought it might be time to share my thoughts on the subject here—as a mother through adoption and a woman who is still decidedly pro-choice.

Rallying for a reduction of adoption costs really only serves the needs of adoptive parents.

One of the biggest issues with that initial comment was mostly just the tone-deaf nature of it. The woman commenting seemed to think that reducing the costs of adoption would make it a more viable option for birth families. But the reality is, birth families don't care how much adoption costs. They aren't affected in any way by those fees.

Rallying for a reduction of adoption costs really only serves the needs of adoptive parents.

Then there is the fact that there is no shortage of adoptive parents out there looking for babies. When a healthy newborn is placed for adoption, there is never an issue with finding a home for that child. In fact, those within the adoption industry have been known to discuss an "infant shortage"—the term used to define the growing number of adoptive parents just waiting for babies to adopt.

Reducing the costs of adoption would in no way improve those dynamics.

This doesn't even touch on the fact that adoption doesn't have to be that expensive. For those willing to adopt through foster care, adoption can often be free. People typically pay the higher fees because they want healthy, white infants, which is fine (I am not here to judge anyone else's adoption choices). But … those types of adoption certainly aren't in any way connected to abortion. The birth mothers pursuing adoption through the agencies that charge those types of fees are often long past the point of considering abortion anyway.

It's not an either-or decision to them.

Which brings me to the overall naivety of assuming that the option of adoption should be an automatic trump to anyone considering abortion. There was recently an article in the National Review that was unmistakably a pro-life piece, but it took a compelling look at the women who choose abortion. Most notably, it sympathized with those women who feel as though they have no other choice to make.

The thing about abortion is, it provides an immediate solution. Adoption, on the other hand, requires a woman to remain pregnant for nine months. It forces her to out her circumstances to her friends, family, peers and co-workers. It necessitates her putting her life on hold (in some cases, even in danger) in order to endure those miseries of pregnancy that most women only go through because they know they will get a baby out of it in the end.

The wounds of adoption can endure for a lifetime.

I was in the delivery room when my daughter was born. I saw the agony her other mother went through, and we cried together over the complicated mixture of joy and grief that followed us both. There is a 2010 NY Times Piece, "Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math," that poignantly describes the heartache that can haunt a biological mother after the birth of a child she plans on placing for adoption. And none of that ends in that room. The wounds of adoption can endure for a lifetime.

I would guess that many birth mothers go on to regret their choice to place their child for adoption at least a handful of times after that decision has been made, just as many women who pursue an abortion may one day find themselves mourning that choice. The difference is, for women who choose abortion, there is no physical reminder forever facing them down when it comes to that decision. But for women who choose adoption, that reminder is always there—a growing, living, breathing little person who is being raised by someone else.

For women who choose adoption, they must forever confront and re-evaluate that choice. For the rest of their lives.

You might argue that that is what a woman should do if she finds herself pregnant, that only a selfish woman would choose otherwise. But I would tell you that until you have walked in another woman's shoes, you have no room to judge. Because the truth is, not every woman is built for the complexities of adoption. And even those who are will have their strength and fortitude tested and retested every step of the way.

In the end, it's my guess that abortion and adoption are never even really in competition in the minds of most women finding themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy. They are such drastically different routes, that I don't imagine most women who would choose the one path would ever seriously consider the other. Making adoption somehow more attractive won't end or even reduce abortions. Because women who choose abortion probably weren't ever going to be in the mindset to pursue adoption.

I find it utterly ironic that those who are most vocally against abortion are often the same people fighting the very initiatives that would have the potential of reducing those abortions.

So how can you reduce abortions?

Well, for starters—helping to prevent the pregnancy from happening in the first place seems like a pretty logical solution. Which is why it baffles me to see anti-choice protesters rallying so hard against Planned Parenthood. If you genuinely care about reducing abortions, we need places like Planned Parenthood to continue providing safe, reliable, effective and often free birth control options to the millions of women who are treated there. Planned Parenthood has likely prevented far more abortions than they've actually performed—and shutting them down only leads to more unwanted pregnancies.

RELATED: Why I Support Planned Parenthood

But beyond that, once those pregnancies have already happened, the key to reducing abortions lies in making parenthood a more feasible option—an actual choice women feel like they can make. That means advocating for affordable childcare, universal healthcare, college education options for parents and paid maternity leave for all. If we were actually making a better effort to support families, abortion might not seem like the only choice for the many women who simply can't see any other way.

So I find it utterly ironic that those who are most vocally against abortion are often the same people fighting the very initiatives that would have the potential of reducing those abortions.

You don't end abortion by encouraging adoption. You reduce the necessity of abortion by supporting families—no matter how those families may come to be.

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