Saturday, 17 March 2012

About Adoption: in which I am profoundly stupid and a ********* liability

There has been a bit of noise on Twitter about adoption and abortion.

According to one contributor I am profoundly stupid and a (expletive deleted) liability to the pro-life cause, because I insist (her word, not mine) that ‘adoption is a pro-life option.

She has been very vociferous about this over the last few days, but not given much reason for it.  

However yesterday, she has explained herself a bit: “Where to begin? It's not an option anyone would freely choose with an intended pregnancy. The idea would be unthinkable.” she tweeted, and then: “I can't begin to imagine the agony of a woman who gives her child up for adoption.” and finally: “I am pro life. I am not pro suffering.”  Another commentator wrote: 'Offering adoption for unwtd pregnancy, in reality, does not buy time, but reinforce need for abortion. IMNSHO .'  Another comment offered was : Pushing adoption to those that who do not see abortion as a moral evil, with hope future hope that it will buy time for mother to change mind is, it flawed reasoning and lends weight to abortion option. IMO. (sic). Note the jump: Nobody was claiming that adoption should be pushed: merely that it should not be ruled out a priori as 'not an option.'  But that's Twitter...

If anything is profoundly stupid, I think it is comments of this nature.  I am always wary of people making absolute statements, unless we are really dealing with absolutes (as I posted here).  Good for rhetorical effect, perhaps, but poor as intellectual arguments.

So why do I differ from these people?

Because clearly, both as a matter of theoretical analysis, and as a matter of historic fact, adoption is a pro-life option. Many children who might otherwise have been aborted have in fact been given up for adoption.  I know a number of people who have been adopted and a number who have adopted.  So those claiming it is not an option are, quite simply, wrong.

I suspect what they mean is that it is not helpful to mention adoption as an option to someone facing a crisis pregnancy (or possibly it is not helpful to mention it in the course of debates about abortion).  I have more sympathy with those views; but I revolt when it is expressed in absolutes: ‘adoption is not an option.’

It is not an easy option, nor a quick fix: but nobody is saying that it is.

It may be that in many situations, mentioning adoption might be unhelpful.  But to have it as a mantra, an iron law, strikes me as stupid. In some cases it may be a helpful thing to discuss.

In my initial counselling training (some 30 years ago, now, for voluntary work in another context), we were taught that helping people in a crisis to identify a number of options is generally helpful: people feel  powerless when they believe they have no choices.  That made sense to me.

I have since counselled literally hundreds of people and undergone further training in a range of counselling and therapeutic techniques, and that experience bears this view out.  I have also been closely involved in the pro-life movement for decades, founding a branch of one pro-life group in London, working at a national level, and supporting my wife in establishing another pro-life group where we now live. I have spent a lot of time with pro-life counsellors: so one commentator's view that my position is purely academic was way off the mark.  But that's Twitter...

One of the pressures women are under when contemplating an abortion is the terrible time pressure that can lead to a quick decision which is regretted for life.  If at the moment of crisis, they see their choice as: abort now, or be burdened with a child for life, that is pretty stark.  If they see that there is a third option, however difficult to contemplate, which removes the immediate time pressure, that could, in some cases, be helpful.  Indeed I know of cases in which it has been. I think the counsellor with the woman is best placed to judge that, not commentators on Twitter.

Further, I was called patronising for mentioning it, but sometimes women have decided not to have an abortion, with the intention of pursuing the adoption route, but then ended up deciding to raise their baby themselves.  Given that it has happened, I cannot see why it is patronising to mention it in the context of this discussion.

Of course, I am not advocating counselling a woman with a problem pregnancy along those lines, but that does not mean the issue is not discussable in principle.

Another problem with the way the  'not an option' argument has been proffered has been the offence and upset it causes to those who have been adopted, or have given children for adoption. I know at least one person who was understandably extremely upset about this; and I see no good reason for causing such upset.

I don't particularly mind being referred to as a ******* liability, but I do think that Tweeters of good will have a responsibility not needlessly to cause distress to others.

And there's something else.  At the heart of the abortion industry is a series of lies. Two of the worst are: it's not really a human being, and an abortion will make it as though you were never pregnant.  By discussing adoption, both of these lies are implicitly, or even explicitly, confronted.  The expectant mother is able to contemplate what it might be like to give her child away: a terrible prospect.  Implicit in that is, how much worse to kill it...  

I think we owe it to expectant mothers to confront these lies before they make the fateful decision to kill their child.  Because someday they will wake up to them, and that will be terrible indeed.  And even more terrible if they have spoken to pro-life people and fling at us the accusing question: 'Why did you never tell me...?'

As I have had cause to mention before, I think Twitter is a very poor medium for any intelligent debate, (which is why I have chosen to take up the discussion here) which may mean I have misunderstood or misrepresented others.  As ever, I am open to correction.

But for me, the bottom line is that anything which:
a) does not contradict charity or truth and
b) which may help save the life of an unborn child, and 
c) save the expectant mother from living with the reality of having had her own child killed...

should be available as an option: and setting up absolute rules that limit the scope of counsellors in this vital work is profoundly unhelpful and misguided.

Feel free to tell me where I've got it wrong: but this is my blog and I will not publish profane language on it.


blondpidge said...

Excellent. Agree 100% with all of the above.

DM said...


adopted as a result of a crisis pregnancy.

thank you.

Patricius said...

From my student years back in the 70's I recall a pro-abortion poster which rubbished the adoption option on the basis that, having carried the pregnancy to term, the mother would feel love for the child and distress at the prospect of giving the child up. Seriously. I saw the poster once but it left an indelible impression upon me as exemplifying that fundamental refusal to love which is the essence of the worst sins. We can all conveniently overlook the evil we do but some sins involve a deliberate self-blinding.

Good Counsel said...

I agree with you. There's an excellent article from about 15 years back that deals with this:

When ... women evaluate the abortion decision, therefore, they do not, as a pro-lifer might, formulate the problem with the radically distinct options of either “I must endure an embarrassing pregnancy” or “I must destroy the life of an innocent child.” Instead, their perception of the choice is either “my life is over” or “the life of this new child is over.” Given this perspective, the choice of abortion becomes one of self-preservation, a much more defensible position, both to the woman deciding to abort and to those supporting her decision.

Even those women who are likely to choose life rather than abortion do so not because they better understand fetology or have a greater love for children, but because they have a broader and less fragile sense of self, and they can better incorporate motherhood into their self-identity.

Adoption, unfortunately, is seen as the most “evil” of the three options, as it is perceived as a kind of double death. First, the death of self, as the woman would have to accept motherhood by carrying the baby to term. Further, not only would the woman be a mother, but she would perceive herself as a bad mother, one who gave her own child away to strangers. The second death is the death of the child “through abandonment.” A woman worries about the chance of her child being abused. She is further haunted by the uncertainty of the child's future, and about the possibility of the child returning to intrude on her own life many years later. Basically, a woman desperately wants a sense of resolution to her crisis, and in her mind, adoption leaves the situation the most unresolved, with uncertainty and guilt as far as she can see for both herself and her child. As much as we might like to see the slogan “Adoption, Not Abortion” embraced by women, this study suggests that in pitting adoption against abortion, adoption will be the hands-down loser.
See the rest of the article here:

Clare@ BattlementsOfRubies said...

Thanks Ben, a very helpful post. Unfortunately the tweeter concerned appears to have assumed too much about the views of everyone else.
When I asked her a question about her view, I had actually hoped that she would CLARIFY her objection. Because I optimistically suspected that it was rather closer to my own than it maybe appeared.
Unfortunately, Instead of responding she told me to "stop talking crap and start thinking" and, well, the discussion just careered out of control from there.
A case of more heat than light.

One of her objections was that 40Days4Life "push" adoption. I'm unclear as to where she gets that idea from but that has not been my impression at all.
I was pleased to see the GCN link to this excellent article as it makes it plain that they are very alive to the issues discussed here, and therefore likely to be far from the 'adoption pushers' that they have been caricatured as ( Because I assume that when RedMaria was talking about 40 Days4Life 'pushing' adoption, she was really referring to the Good Counsel Network.)
For the sake of clarity, it might be worth repeating that the mission of 40Days4life is really to pray and fast to end abortion. The Good Counsel Network do the counselling.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks, Good Counsel, for this very interesting link. Clearly all will agree that trying to persuade someone to give a child for adoption is a poor strategy.

However, that is very different, in my understanding, from a counsellor exploring all the options with a woman facing a crisis pregnancy.

Clare, thanks for your comments too. I should clarify that the remarks I quote above were made by more than one tweeter. And your clarification re who does the counselling is helpful.