Every summer, I leave my home in the town of Tromso in northern Norway and travel to Bemidji, in northern Minnesota. Though I enjoy the exotic Norwegian midnight sun, I sleep better during the dark nights of the North Woods. And, much as I love the Norwegian mountains, I breathe better among the rolling forests and clear lakes of my childhood.
I breathe better, that is, until I'm driving with my son, and we see a billboard showing a fetus which seems to be uttering the slogan, "Adoption. We can live with that." My son is adopted and I gasp, dreading the day he reads that sign and asks me if he would have been aborted were he not adopted.
about this sign isn't because I believe that legislation is the wrong strategy for eliminating some abortions. It's because I'm a father. That sign triggers in me the instinctive urge to protect my child, in this case from the painful rhetoric of the flawed idea that promoting adoption can stop abortion.
Adoption and abortion are not two sides of the same coin. It's not a real dichotomy. Abortion, like birth control, is about keeping a sexual encounter from resulting in a birth; adoption is about establishing a family for a child. The real dichotomy is between giving birth or not.
If my son's birthmother
hadn't placed him for adoption, she would have reared him herself. Her choice was not "abortion or adoption." Her choice was between parenting
her child, or choosing adoptive parents for him -- a decision which itself surely rivals the ultimate selfless parental act. Adoption is not the alternative to abortion, it's the alternative to rearing your child.
Legislation making abortion illegal would not entail requiring a pregnant woman to place her child for adoption. It would mean, however, that a pregnant woman must deliver a child. The question of who will parent that child -- the question of adoption -- is entirely independent.
This is played out every day in the decisionmaking process that potential adoptive parents and adoption professionals see in those with unwanted pregnancies. There are two separate questions to face. The first is whether to abort the pregnancy, a choice about delivering a child or not. The second is whether to choose adoption, a choice about raising your child yourself or making a plan for someone else to.
It often takes months to decide to place a child for adoption. Ask anyone involved: Scores of women decide only weeks or even days before delivery, months after the abortion question is moot. "Abortion or adoption." These are two completely different decisions to make.
The logic of antiabortion rhetoric is flawed, but it isn't the logic that I care about -- it's my son. How will I help him understand that, no, he wouldn't have been aborted if his birthmom hadn't chosen adoption? Why should he face billboards selling lies about his story? And why does a group advocating adoption write slogans painful to adopted children?
The point may seem subtle, but it's important to me as an adoptive father. If my son hadn't been adopted, his life would be different. But he would still have a life. That life, as with anyone's, has been profoundly affected by the choices of others. And often, like the slogan on this billboard, these choices are not logical. But at least they're real.
-- Curt Rice, Bemidji, Minn. Teacher.
This piece was originally published in the Minneapolis Star & Tribune on August 6, 2000. It was also printed in Adoptive Families in their
Jan/Feb 2001 issue.
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