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Adoptees and Abortion

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Over the past year or so I have gotten to know quite a few of my fellow adult adoptees. In most respects, they seem to vary about as much as a group randomly chosen from the general population. There are great differences in age, education, occupation, income, lifestyle, political and social views, etc. Some of us were adopted as infants, others were older. Many became part of functional, loving adoptive families; many others fell into disaster. Some are searching; some have found; some have given up. Some of those who reunited have had successful reunions; others found only pain. Do we really have anything significant in common?

An examination of many adoptees' special passion and even obsession with the abortion issue, whichever side of it they take, may be worthwhile. I think it can reveal subtle similarities in the way in which at least those adoptees who were unwanted or illegitimate, even those whose childhoods turned out to be everything one could hope for, may experience life differently from other people.

Life is precarious. It is true for everyone that the odds against his or her particular existence are enormous. On the one hand, they would not be here, if, going back a hundred generations or more, any one ancestor had died in childhood, or chosen a different mate, or if any of the ancestral couples had squabbled or if someone had had-a-headache-been-too-tired on a particular night, or if, on any one of those hundreds of separate occasions, any one of millions of sperm had out-competed another ancestral sperm.

On the other hand, we humans are all jerks one per cent of the time (more or less). We can each point to many instances where, but for the alertness of another person, or sheer dumb luck, we would not now exist. Every single one of our ancestors could no doubt have done the same.

People don't talk about this much, but why should they? The chanciness of anyone's coming-to-be is part of the human condition, like mortality. It's ordinarily not interesting: it's not news; it's the same for everyone; there is no possible action to take. It's also unnerving to consider the matter closely - it is like looking into a void the size of the universe. Sensible people turn away. Besides, it's natural to blame bad things on bad luck, but to blithely accept good fortune as just the way things ought to be. For adoptees, as for everyone else, the magnitude of the odds against our personal existence recedes beneath our level of awareness.

We adoptees, though, either know, or have surmised, how close we came to ending up on the cutting room floor. Looked at objectively, the odds against our personal existence are so great -octillions or more to one - that this bit of history hardly adds to them. Subjectively, though, perspective is crucial. This is not, after all, some unknown distant ancestor whose demise would have precluded our existence. It is ourselves. Like everyone else, we have turned away from the void, but that knowledge is like a mirror, close to us and always within our field of view, in which we cannot help but glimpse the void behind us.

Credits: Jonathan Marin

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