The Taboo Topic

I recently commented  on a post here, but nobody seemed to notice, and I think it’s something important that we should discuss, because it rarely gets mentioned.  So I deleted it and am posing a question so there can be more than just me joining in.  So yes, I am gaming the Post & Comment format so I can comment, but I AM truly interested in what adoptees have to say and would like to see this topic get some daylight.

Adoptees – we are supposed to be grateful we weren’t aborted.   Whatever your position on abortion may or may not be, what are your thoughts on its relevance to the transracial/international adoption debate?

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12 thoughts on “The Taboo Topic

  1. I am not an international adoptee but I decided to comment anyway. I would have rather been aborted than deal with the psychological trauma that adoptees face. Although pain is pain and cannot be compared, I do not want the extra trauma from losing your country, original language and heritage and all the rest of the trauma that international adoptees must face.

  2. There a couple of things.
    Adoption has always gone hand in glove with infertility. In the past a young single woman gets herself “in the family way” a doctor knows of a couple who cannot conceive but want a child and he puts child with the childless couple. No real paper work, but single girl keeps her position, couple gets the family they want everyone is happy. What disturbs me is that more and more adoption is seen as the go-to instant solution to infertility. And it’s more immediate that IVF, or child surrogacy.
    The other thing that you raise is the issue that adoptees have to be grateful and that gratitude should be in perpetuity – right or wrong.
    Adoptees need be no more ‘grateful’ then conventionally conceived children. In the same manner that in some conventional families their children are not what the parents had envisaged. The relationship between off-spring and parents breaks-down. But if this happens to an adoptee it is more times than oft seen as a heinous crime. We’re labelled as ungrateful.
    The question of whether one would prefer to have not been adopted; and as would probably have been in my case remaining in an orphanage and probably dying I answered once that know what I know now, that I would choose to remain in the orphanage. Guess what I got some very colourful comments, to my comment. Many of informing me of how I was going to meet my end. Or expressing a desire that I should meet my end sooner than later.
    It will be different for each adoptee. But you’re spot in it’s an important question that needs to be asked

    • Nicely said. I’ve often thought that as soon as surrogacy reaches a price point equivalent to adoption, and if and when it can be mythologized in the same way, adoption will fade away….

    • I think the whole gratitude thing underscores how far removed many adoptee / parent relations are from unconditional love. Another reason why resorting to reminding us of the alternative consequence of being a potential abortion is so shocking and abusive.

  3. I wouldn’t wish international, transracial adoption on my worst enemy (and I know a thing or two about international, transracial adoption).

    But, although too many people try to bring up this debate to force gratitude from adopted people, this shouldn’t be a debate.

    Abortion is about pregnancy – terminate or continue. If there’s an abortion, then parenting is a non-issue.
    Adoption is about parenting – will child grow up with original parents/relations or with others.

    With the current practices in ICA, the persistent, deliberate lack of ethics, justice, oversight that amputates child from roots, family, origins, ancestry, heritage, language, citizenry, I would say abortion wouldn’t be a bad choice (better to not get pregnant if you don’t want to become a parent). If the people involved with these decisions have such little regard and respect for human life, then why insist on bringing that human life into this world to force him/her to be tossed around, discarded, and exploited for the entertainment/satisfaction of others who could care less?

    If we’re going to respect human life, then support our families to take care of us, support more equitable laws for our families and ourselves to make informed decisions in our own best interests, don’t keep secrets from us, don’t exploit us or our families, don’t lie to us or manipulate us, or punish or armchair-diagnose us when we behave no differently from other non-aborted people. If we weren’t aborted, we’re still human-beings.

    • I’d be interested in coming up with responses we adoptees can arm ourselves with when assaulted with this false debate.

  4. I appreciate the link here which I admit I’ve never given much thought to. As part of the “promise” of my adoptive father to my orphanage—that I be raised Catholic—I was educated for 10 years in Catholic schools. Part of this involved indoctrination in “anti-abortion”, as well as the bussing us down to the “Right to Life” marches in Washington every January (my friends and I would go off and visit the museums).

    As stated above, both adoption and abortion focus on the end product, and not the cycle of events/derivations that lead up to that product. It would seem a simple shift in this regard would go long in stemming both adoption and unwanted pregnancies. As such, maybe both can be seen as failures of society, as opposed to signs of “progressiveness” as they are painted now.

    • Thanks.

      It’s a connection that I see everyone trying to distance themselves from, but which aggressively (passive or not) comes out when we get out of line, which indicates to me a connection truth.

      As a woman, both abortion and adoption are all part of a larger issue of access to reproductive rights and they affect me. As a woman, I know that my lower status in society has affected me. What are the forces that cause both pregnancy and parenthood to be cut off? Are they really unsolvable? And how is it that we adoptees are raised to dismiss the problems of women/mothers so easily?

      This whole thing is not just a benevolent solution but also a web of exploitation. Of women. Of disadvantaged women. Of women of color. Pitting us into two opposing camps of abortion vs. adoption is a really effective technique for obfuscating the perpetually unaddressed complications of gender inequality, in my opinion. Indoctrinating adoptees to accept justification of their adoption as an antidote to abortion is a bitter pill to swallow.

      At TransracialEyes, there is much exploration (thank goodness) about the complicated web we must navigate, and there is much exposure of the class warfare, racism, and geo-political forces and colonial legacy that contribute to the creation of orphans. But it’s also about gender oppression.

  5. I have – too many numerous times to count – been asked “Well, would you rather have been an abortion?” which is the ultimate shut-up.

    That question is not only below the belt manipulative, but an unfair reduction to require of someone, because life is complicated, but if it weren’t rhetorical bullying and they really wanted an answer, then I’d be forced to say, “Yes.”

    Does that mean that I favor abortion over adoption? No. It means that I favor:

    The end of female oppression (social, economic, colonial, gender) so that women don’t have to make those kind of choices. It also means that
    -Should a woman find herself oppressed, it should be her right to choose what’s best for her.
    -That there should be real options from which to choose.

    Does that mean I’m so unhappy with my life that I don’t want to live? No. I am happier than ever and love life. I love my children. I love what we’ve all become, and the future is full of hope. But – at the same time – I know that I was not just incubated and that I was born of unfortunate circumstances by a real person who too often isn’t considered. “Wasn’t able to keep her child” has always seemed too easily accepted as a reason for relinquishment and the matter of what that that might mean or what caused it too quickly dismissed. Clearly, there didn’t/doesn’t seem to be a lot of advocacy nor sympathy for mothers when the desire for adoption is so great. Knowing a little about the society I came from, I can safely assume my mother had troubles, and preventable ones. I wish my mother had not been:

    Oppressed
    Without rights
    Without choices, the only apparent option being giving away an already born child. (As a mother, I can’t imagine the horror of that. As that child, I can)

    If she had aborted me, I would not have known the difference. My children would not have known the difference. The planet would not have known the difference. Because she didn’t, but most likely because she wasn’t able to, I was sentenced to a journey of unrelenting and often painful awareness, AS WAS SHE. Her choices were limited only to options that served to perpetuate the oppression of women in her society (in most societies, for that matter) and if she is alive today, I imagine she has experienced an equally painful sentence of awareness.

    Let me tell you about my own abortion. It was the best choice for me. and I would not make a different decision under the same circumstances. I was a young mother of two, newly separated from an alcoholic husband, who met a younger man in college who loved me. But I had just started college. He had just started college. I already had two mouths to feed and no child support coming in. To have kept that baby would have been the ruin of four lives. As it was, I couldn’t make ends meet. Nobody would have been better off. The children would not have had their basic needs met, any hope of climbing out of poverty would have vanished. Adopting out was unthinkable to me. Delivering and giving away a baby would have been devastating to the other children. Devastating to me. Devastating to him. Devastating to all of us. On the deepest level. I couldn’t do that to them, nor to me.

    Abortion was an option to me, but it definitely wasn’t my choice. Had I a support network and access to more resources, I would have wanted to keep that child. My poor mother, however, living in the impoverished countryside in an extreme patriarchal society, who abandoned me at two years of age, did not have that option. In many ways, our situations mirrored one another’s. I’m sure, had she a support network and access to more resources, she would have wanted to keep me. It hurts my heart to know how Devastating that must have been for her; how abandoning her child she’d born and nursed and cared for was the only option she had – but not a real choice.

    So yes. I would rather have been aborted, to have spared her that compounded misery and heartache. And I know my children, who also love me, love life and look to the future, would agree.

    But better than both the horrible options of adoption or abortion, I wish women had access to the things that make for a life worth living – food, family planning, support networks, escape from abusive or toxic relationships, access to education, equal rights, independence, personal fulfillment, and love by those who respect them – so that women can make real choices for themselves; choices they want instead of choices they feel forced into. Instead of perpetually glorifying adoption or denigrating abortion, these are the things we should be supporting. Instead of the characterizations of barren privileged needy desperate woman against the pitiable peasant or scorn-worthy selfish immoral woman, we should instead be united as women, as feminist men, and as humanitarians, to improve the lot of all women.

  6. This is very usefully succinct:

    “Abortion is about pregnancy … Adoption is about parenting.” And girl4708 further demonstrates how abortion, difficult choice or not, can intimately affect and impact parenting. To end the oppression of females so that these kinds of agonising decisions in bad situations do not arise better frames the question.

    It is curious that orphans who’ve been adopted should be pestered more often with this question. One could answer, “So, you would rather you’d been aborted?” with, “No, you.” But snarkiness aside, the question can be asked of every child, not just orphans, and filial submission and gratitude has been a massive emphasis and a keystone (along with wifely submission) in the rise of the bourgeoisie, &c. The question exposes the inexcusable selfish of adults (or at least individuals capable of procreating, adult or not) for bring another life into the world; there’s an endless, almost impermeable amount of discourse protecting this point of view from attack (much less criticism), but it’s nonetheless true. No child asked to be created; someone imposed that on them, and usually not at all under ethically defensible circumstances.

    The disconnect happens almost immediately, because the mind needs to or has to turn the focus into something like “the gift of life” or the “paradox” that if one had been aborted, one wouldn’t be here to object; so, in some sense, Life must purely, in fact, comprise a gift. However, making a virtue of a necessity is still making a virtue of a necessity.

    The point breaks down another way. One may see in the adopted orphan who commits suicide in his teen years (because he’s gay) that abortion might well have been the kinder choice. So if we can recognise that in others, it cannot be automatically a contradiction to realise that for ourselves. The nub or mechanism of the “paradox” involves an incorrect emphasis on the individual, aborted or not.

    The woman I call my spiritual mother got an abortion in 1964 or so. She asked to see the foetus; the nurse tried to tell her no; she insisted; it was a boy–she holds the opinion, and I play along with it, that I’m that boy. Depending on one’s metaphysical commitments, abortion and adoption are not mutually exclusive. But more generally, I hold it a mistake to refer to the foetus that was my unborn self as “me”; that the animate matter in my mother’s womb, whoever she was, has nothing whatsoever to do with me. And imagining otherwise creates a trap that anti-abortionists constantly try to leverage. Although it may seem confusing, only because I have a Mind can I assert there is a Brain that (biophysically) supports my Mind; so a Mind is actually the real prerequisite for “having a Brain” not the other way around. Same here. Only because I have existence (as a human being) can I assert that my “foetus” is a necessary precondition for my existence. But that gets its backward, and if various metaphysical commitments proved true, then not even a need is necessary for existence.

    When I say that the most heinous thing parents do is impose “the gift of life” on another human being, I do not mean that Life is terrible. I mean that those responsible should be held absolutely accountable for that heinous, selfish, and immoral act. Just as the prisoner who manages to make the experience of prison transformative in a positive way is no argument for the institution of prisons, the child who manages to make something good of the raw deal of Life is no argument for the institution of parenthood (much less the genetic contributors who did the deed). Instead, the dominant discourse is that children (adopted or not) should be grateful, and the vehement insistence on this belies the tacit acknowledgment of where the true guilt may be found. Yes, I’m saying that on ethical and moral grounds bringing a child to term is always morally untenable, just like the State executing people it incarcerates is always morally untenable (whatever twisted discourse it sets up to excuse itself). We expect criminals to be held accountable for their real crimes and we count those who get away with it as scurrilous knaves. The same goes for parents–their morally untenable act goes not only unpunished, but is hailed as one of the highest goods imaginable. Abortion is not a solution to this problem; it is an acknowledgment of the problem.

  7. Not having been aborted is assuredly Not one of the things I for which I am thankful.

    I have slowly learned to dodge the “gratefulness trap” — gratitude may only be a word, but it in the context of the A-word connotes indebtedness regarding:

    A. Birth mother’s love for having “relinquished” me;
    B. Those-who-raised-me’s love for having raised me;
    C. Those who made it possible for:
    1. Birth mother’s impregnation under circumstances that placed her at a significant power disadvantage based on her socioeconomic status and biological sex;
    2. Birth mother’s delivery of me without the option of termination (option being based not only on legality but also on societal norms regarding abortion/abortifactants);
    3. My being handed over to those-who-raised-me without legal process; and,
    4. My “original” and “amended” birth certificates to be falsified under the ‘The State Seal (of approval)’; and, Etc.

    The “be grateful you were not aborted” argument is based upon the false premise that life, no matter the circumstances, is better than no life at all. I find this to be almost humorous because its underpinnings involve the power of the shame, a matter that is frequently overlooked.

    I specifically reference shame because it provides the motive to engage in lying on an on-going basis; for A-wordees, the lies may continue throughout entire lifetimes. “Guilt” does not come into play for A-wordees because guilt requires fault and, no matter the circumstances, A-wordees did absolutely nothing wrong (or even right, for that matter) in connection with their status.

    It may take some time to grasp, but I think that we are the living embodiment of societal inequities that lead to the A-word (including “racial”, religious, economic, sex/gender and educational inequities). As such, when we speak out, or are seen to confront the inequities giving rise to our status, we cause both ourselves and others much pain because surrounding the A-word are many matters as to which both individuals and societies lie to themselves.

    I do not believe there is a “cure” for shame except for rejecting it entirely and this, I think, requires that we simply speak our separate truths.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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