You'd think I'd have tons to say, right? And yet, I say nothing. I write nothing.
Let's start with Kermit Gosnell. I've followed this trial, of course. His clinic was on the same block where my girls' dad lives; picking them up or dropping them off I'd look at that dilapidated building with the crazy sign: "Women's Medical Society". I'd wonder what went on in there, if that was the euphemism I thought it was, how it could possibly be legal when PA is such a restrictive state, the place was creepy beyond belief. How can this go on? Who's watching?
I could have ended up there, in his "respectable" white-girl exam room when I was pregnant with E. I sought a second trimester abortion in the summer or 1997- I was just over the legal or ethical limit of every provider I'd been to so far. In hindsight I can see that I was only one degree away from the butcher's table. As desperate and locked in denial as I was at 17 weeks, if I'd had the ready cash for a shady abortion I might have gone for it.
I am lucky that know one I knew mentioned Gosnell or anyone like him. Some women are not that lucky. I've heard at work that over the years people have heard from patients about Gosnell's clinic. Whispers among low-income women tend to be ignored, however. Kermit Gosnell practiced with impunity for so long because no one actually gives a crap about what happens when the rabble gets pregnant, as long as it doesn't raise their taxes.
On occasion, my job requires me to be open-minded about "options counseling". This is when I present to a pregnant patient what I like to call The Three Doors. Parenting, abortion, or adoption. The availablity of reliable pregnancy tests means we rarely see surprise pregnancies- women who come in for a test usually know what they want to do, and are just there to get the clinical documentation of pregnancy that will allow them to take them next step- either applying for medical assistance or scheduling an abortion.
I've only had a few patients who've asked me about adoption. This is what I tell them: don't contact an agency or choose a family until after the baby's born. Take the time to be a mother before being a birthmother. Choose an agency that's non-profit and secular. No independent facilitators. No faith-based agenda-pushers. This is *your* baby. After my few minutes with them are up, it's out of my hands.
As far as I can tell, no one around me that I work with has a perspective similar to mine. Until they are forced to feel otherwise, most people are content to swallow the party line on adoption- it's a win-win-win situation. The adoptive parents get a kid, the kid gets a stable home, and the birthmom gets her life back. Even in the field of reproductive health, most people don't probe any deeper than that.
In the health centers, we deal in the decison of whether or not to keep a pregnancy. Two trimesters later the decision to parent takes place. By that time whatever I've said has probably been forgotten.
I thought that the work I do in this job would soften my feelings toward adoption. In a hostile world, options are necessary. In a hostile world, painful choices must be made. Adoption is a necessary option.
I was wrong about the effect on my feelings- if I thought this would lead to healing and resolution I was mistaken. Instead of acceptance of the inevitable consequences of sex and the measures one must take for self-preservation, I am outraged. When 48% of unplanned pregnancies occur when some form of contraception is being used, I think we can put the irresponsible slutty wanton woman trope to rest. Unplanned pregnancies occur with every form of birth control. Unplanned pregnancies occur because we are human. Mistakes are made, contraception methods fail, shit happens. Technology advances, but failures always happen. Shit will keep on happening.
I am outraged because those three doors leave women no real choices. Keep your kid, and you face the reality of poverty and lost opportunities. Give up your kid, and you face the reality of being a childless mother. Abort your pregnancy and you're a moral failure. There's no right answer here. There are only degrees of loss. What are you willing to lose? What is most expendable to you? There's only one person who can make that judgement.
Fanning all this discontent is the book I'm reading: The Child Catchers, by Kathryn Joyce. She mostly talks about abuses in international adoption, but there is a section in which she tackles the domestic adoption scene, especially the big Christian agencies, like Bethany and Gladney, who use the tried-and-true redemption and rescue story for mothers and their unplanned babies. There are more religiously motivated crisis pregnancy centers than abortion providers in the United States. These centers receive federal funding while perfectly legal abortion providers do not receive any federal or state funding and are closed down for not having wide enough hallways.
I'd love to live in a world where an unplanned pregnancy is a rare event and not a crisis. Where there is easy access to contraception and sex education. Where there is infrastructure for parenthood, planned or not. Where the choice a woman makes about whether or not to become a mother is a *safe* and private one and not subjected to shifting political sands. Where every woman is entitled to and supported in raising her own children if that's what she wants to do. I'd love to live in a world where motherhood is not a punishment, where womanhood is not a biological handicap. I might as well wish for a bazillion dolllars and a no-cancer guarantee. Wishin' ain't gettin'.