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January 25, 2007

Why Not?

Today's BreakPoint commentary, about the 43-year-old college professor who had two surprise pregnancies--numbers 5 and 6--evoked two memories from 20 years ago. First, I'm reminded of how strongly I felt my privacy was violated when I sat in my obstetricians's office for the first time, married and newly pregnant, while a nurse asked one unnecessary question after another--such as "Was this pregnancy planned?" Well, what business was that of anyone but my husband and me? It became clear that many of these questions were being asked, not because they had anything to do with my care, but because someone--the government, reseachers, whoever--liked to keep track of these things. I resented having my marital privacy pried into (and my time wasted--these questions were asked more than once by various other people involved in my care).

Second, the commentary reminded me of a newspaper column written more than 20 years by an Idaho columnist whose name I no longer remember. She was pro-abortion and, I believe, making some comment on Roe v. Wade, and of how pro-life counselors urge young, unmarried women to consider adoption. She herself was an adoptive mother, and her question was: Why is it considered socially unacceptable, even shocking, for married couples to offer babies for adoption? After all, she noted, married couples (like unmarried teens) are sometimes too poor to add another baby to their families, and there are plenty of couples who would love to adopt these infants. Like her.

I'm sure (and hoping) bloggers will weigh in on the theological implications of doing this (J&K--looking forward to hearing your thoughts!). The Idaho columnist's point was that since married couples offering their babies for adoption is not socially acceptable, some couples--already feeling overwhelmed by four or five kids--quietly abort rather than shock the neighbors with their "heartless" decision to give away their baby. As an adoptive mom, she thought that was a pity.

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I think a lot of the concern about married couples making an adoption plan is that their other children might fear that if things get bad, mom and dad might give them away as well.

There's no easy answer. Though abortion, it should go without saying, ought to be out of the question.

Katharine Eastvold

That's a GREAT question, Anne! I agree that it's ridiculous and embarrassing how all sorts of practitioners insist on knowing about the circumstances of conception. Having been asked by so many people so many times, I'm not ashamed to say that my first was a "wedding present" and very much unexpected. From the ob/gyn who refused to believe that the conception date couldn't have been prior to June 19, 2004 (our wedding day), to the (pro-life and I suppose well-meaning) acquaintance who relentlessly teased me about how I could be smart enough to get into law school but not smart enough to understand the instructions on the birth control pills, I've taken all kinds of flak for that. Our second child was also unplanned, though not entirely unexpected. I was very happy to hear the Breakpoint commentary this morning, because it actually acknowledged the pain that can be caused by unexpected/unwanted pregnancies and emphasized that women experiencing these situations need our support and understanding. The commentary mentioned the two groups of people unexpectedly pregnant women often face: social conservatives who don't understand what the problem is and expect you to be happy about the pregnancy, and social liberals who don't understand why you don't just have an abortion. I've certainly encountered both attitudes and know that both can be hurtful.

To your question, I did think briefly about adoption when I was pregnant with my first - not because we were too poor to take care of him (although it wasn't easy either, on a grad student stipend) or because I wanted to continue my career, but because I was so afraid I'd be a terrible mother. (I probably am, but the children are still alive and seem reasonably happy, so I must be doing something right...) My husband quickly talked me out of thinking like that, and I'm so glad he did, but no, I don't think there's anything wrong with a married couple putting up their child for adoption.

The Bible makes it clear that children are a gift from God, but if I'm not mistaken, nowhere does Scripture mandate that children must be raised by their biological parents. Children are "an inheritance from the Lord," but since adopted children have been able to inherit from their parents throughout most of history and in most cultures (just look at the succession of Roman emperors for an example!), I wouldn't consider that verse to be a reference to biological children only. Further, the ancient Hebrews (and also people in New Testament times) lived in community to a much greater extent than we do. In other times and places, when a mother could not afford to care for a child (either financially, physically, or emotionally), the child could often be raised by a live-in or nearby aunt, grandmother, or other relative. Now, adoption is far more necessary because of individualism, the prevalence of the nuclear (as opposed to extended) family, and the fact that people move so much and are thus usually far away from family members. So, I definitely think that in this society, it would be perfectly acceptable for a married couple without family living nearby and able to care for the child to put the baby up for adoption. And whether you think it's acceptable or not, it's certainly a better alternative than abortion.

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