Tag Archives: adoption

The ‘Elephant in the Room’

On May 9th, thousands of  Canadians traveled to the nation’s capital and took part in the ‘Campaign for Life’ – an annual gathering of the anti-choice community to protest Canada’s pro-choice stance. In ‘solidarity’, regional chapters of the Campaign for Life coalition organized similar small-scale protests that will occur throughout the month of May.

Today was New Brunswick’s turn.

A few hundred anti-choice protesters met at our provincial legislature in Fredericton and engaged in a walk throughout the downtown corridor ending at the ‘Women’s Care Clinic’,  the aggressive New Brunswick anti-choice headquarters that is disguised as a women’s center. As New Brunswick lacks a law protecting women from anti-choice harassment, this ‘center’ is  conveniently located next to the Morgentaler clinic, the province’s only public abortion provider.

Yet I hesitate to even use the term ‘protesters’. The group, although dominated by adults, contained many children who were forced to walk alongside their parents. Forced to take a day off of school to protest a social issue for which they lack understanding. Forced to hold signs projecting hate – with faces of children, outlines of fetuses, and frightening words.

Forced to convict the 50 or so of us pro-choice activists who formed a human chain of protection around the clinic as ‘murderers’.

But for many children who group up in anti-choice households, associating abortion with murder is the only reality they know. In their eyes, there are only two options that are morally just: motherhood or adoption.

In their eyes, it’s really that simple. Isn’t this, after all, what women were ‘made’ to do?

But for those faced with an unwanted pregnancy, and for those stemming from the result of one, their reality is anything but.

I have accepted that I am the product of an unwanted pregnancy.

I was not wanted. Was unintended. Unexpected.

I won’t lie: to write that, say it, even think it, hurts. And it would for anyone. Most of us fear rejection from our family, friends, and partners. But for adopted children, like me, we were just that: rejected. And right from the get go. Some refer to this as the ‘ultimate rejection’ or the ‘first trauma’. But, over time, I’ve come to accept my reality, just as my birth mother had to accept her reality that the child she was bearing was completely and utterly unwanted.

In 1984, when I was born, my birth mother didn’t have a lot of reproductive options. It wasn’t until 1988 that Canada saw the introduction of a law that supported a woman’s right to an unrestricted abortion. While I don’t know the specifics of her situation, I assume my birth mother saw three options available to her at the time – an illegal and potentially life-threatening abortion, raising a child she did not want to raise, and adoption.

And so she ‘chose’ (if we can call such limited options a choice) the latter, and here I am. In my eyes, her decision to pursue an adoption was brave, selfless  and loving. I imagine the social stigmatization she faced. The discrimination she feared. The isolation she more than likely encountered. And following months of such unjust treatment, not to mention the pure physical torment of pregnancy, she then had to give me away and say goodbye for good.

Maybe leaving the hospital without me was easy, and perhaps it wasn’t. But the process she was forced to endure resulting from a lack of reproductive choice was definitely anything but easy. Anything but ‘simple’.

Neither is the reality of adoption. Living life, as a twitter friend of mine so brilliantly coined, as the ‘Elephant in the Room’.

It’s the issue that no one wants to talk about, and no one really understands. As a result, there is a lack of discussion about adoptive issues: rejection, isolation, a general lack of knowing about oneself. Adoption seems to make people uncomfortable, as if an adoptee has an illness that lacks societal compassion. People view us as shunned, unlucky, and ‘injured’, as if we all inherently have someone wrong with us.

They see us, as many adoptees continue to see themselves, as unwanted.

So no, adoption is not ‘simple’. Not for the mother, or the child.

Adoption is a wonderful choice, and a choice that I am beyond proud that my birth mother ‘chose’ for both of us. But adoption is not the right choice for everyone. Not all women are wanting or able to proceed with the challenges associated with adoption.

And even if they all wanted to, or if all were forced to, the harsh reality remains: there are not enough loving families in the world to adopt all the children that result from unwanted pregnancies. MILLIONS OF CHILDREN would grow up without families, would remain unloved and, just as they were born, would continue to live their lives unwanted.

A world without abortion hurts women and children. It’s as simple as that.

This is why abortion is such an important reproductive option. This is what the anti-choice community needs to understand. But perhaps more importantly, this is what the children of anti-choice families, like the ones I witnessed today, need to learn. A world without access to abortion is a world where ‘choice’ does not exist.

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Because all children deserve ‘Forever Families’: On the Importance of Same-Sex Adoption

I have a ‘forever family’. It consists of a mom, and dad, and me – their adopted daughter. I grew up in a permanent ‘forever home’ with a loving, supportive family in much the same way other children do with their biological parents.

And with all this love and support I was able to grow into a healthy child who played basketball, roller-bladed, and begged to quit ballet shortly after my very first lesson (you just can’t do a lay-up in a tutu). With the backing of a dedicated support system I was granted every opportunity to flourish into what I consider to be a (relatively) successful adult.

My parents and I don’t share blood, medical histories, or DNA but instead share a bond much deeper than any non-adopted family could possibly begin to understand.  And for that, the privilege that was granted, I’m incredibly lucky, as are many of the 1.5 million Americans who have been adopted into what I hope are similarly loving ‘forever homes’.

But often times I sit back and think about what my life would have been like if my ‘forever family’ hadn’t found me. Who would I have become? Would I have had the chance to go to university? Would I have had the security of knowing that, just a phone call away, I would have a family member who would be willing to help me fight any battle?  Would I even get a birthday card? Or would I have been just another child caught without a sense of permanency, caught within a flawed social system?

Thankfully I wasn’t. And while I’m grateful to all those who had a part in granting me my present-day reality it is tragically not the norm.

Worldwide, adoption is still very rare; the United Nations estimates that 260,000 adoptions occur each year, which equates to fewer than 12 adoptions out of every 100,000 children under the age of 18.What this results in is 13 million double orphans (children who have lost both parents) in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean who lack ‘forever families’.

13 million.

Let me put this into perspective. In Africa alone, it is estimated that the current rate of domestic adoption would need to be multiplied 2000 times in order to guarantee the approximate 8 million African orphans are adopted into permanent homes. Globally, the number of adoptions of AIDS-related orphans would need to be increased by a factor of 60.

Another 119 million children are single orphans (children who have lost one parent) and may also require adoption into permanent homes.

Within the United States, more than 250,000 children are forced into the foster system each and every year. Approximately half of these children will return to family members, leaving approximately 105,000 children stuck in limbo: with luck finding their ‘forever families’, or, like the nearly 20,000 children in the US, aging out of the foster system, without one. In Canada the situation is not much better: over 78,000 children are still waiting for permanent homes.

This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about my adoption, the need for increased awareness about adoption, or the importance of viewing adoption as pro-choice. But over the past two months we have been witness to a new intensification of the adoption debate. Or at least, in my opinion it has. It’s time to talk about it.

We have a new Pope. For us non-Catholics this doesn’t exactly change anything ; I doubt any of us, particularly in the feminist world, anticipated a newfound acceptance of our ‘liberal values’ – a modernization of old conservative, misogynist worldviews. But what Pope Francis brings is a particular dislike for same-sex marriage, which he declared a “destructive attack on God’s plan” although coming from a country which has openly accepted same-sex marriage since 2010 (a year, in fact, before New York did). But perhaps even more appalling, Pope Francis has a particular hatred for same-sex adoption.

Not that the Vatican has even really been a fan of same-sex adoption either. In fact, just weeks before the election of Pope Francis, the Vatican once again voiced its distaste for same-sex adoption, believing that children should grow up in “the ordinary way…with a father and mother”.

According to Pope Francis, same-sex adoption is not wrong simply because it’s not ‘ordinary’; to him, the adoption of children by same-sex couples is a “form of discrimination against children”.

But what’s obvious to me is the Pope’s misunderstanding of the term discrimination. Perhaps if he had a more formal understanding what it means to be discriminated against he would view this situation a little different, a little less harshly…or simply with a little more compassion.

So let me provide a definition:

Discrimination, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”

So, the academic in me could say that we could perhaps validate the Pope’s ‘discriminatory’ view of same-sex adopted children if there was evidence to suggest that children adopted by same-sex couples were at risk. Lacking. Limited. Affected negatively in any way by the sexual orientation of their parents.

But here’s the problem: there is none. Empirical evidence supporting the Pope’s ‘discriminatory’ standpoint just doesn’t exist. Thirty years of extensive research finds nothing to suggest that children of same-sex parents are any less likely to thrive. Excel. Be loved in the exact say same that I did with heterosexual parents.

So, who is really being ‘discriminated’ by discouraging adoptions by same-sex couples? The LGBT couples who wish to offer ‘forever homes’ to deserving children, and the deserving children wanting to find ‘forever families’.

Because what those against same-sex adoption and, by virtue same-sex marriage, are essentially suggesting is that children like me – children who have, by no fault of their own, and for reasons mostly unknown to them, been placed for adoption are not deserving of a loving family.

It is better, says those who believe in the abomination of same-sex adoption, that millions of children around the world grow up without ‘forever families’ than to live with a loving couple, who by no fault of their own, just happen to be of the same sex.

People who don’t support same-sex marriage, or the adoption of children by same-sex couples, are in essence denying both deserving children and deserving couples the right to a ‘forever family’. I can find nothing Christian about that, nothing moral about it, and nothing just. This, in my albeit very biased opinion, is the very essence of discrimination.

In the words of Ezra Klein, “adoption by gay couples is one of the best arguments for gay marriage”. Well said, because as far as I’m concerned I would much rather grow up with a ‘forever family’ that happens to have two moms, or two dads, than to live without one.

Cross-posted with permission on Fem2pt0

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