Is adoption really an alternative to abortion?
This question used to be easier for me to answer. I thought it was fairly cut and dry – one ends in life, the other in death, and the only other difference was roughly nine months.
But then I became a mom. I realized that pregnancy and childbirth are a pretty high tax on reproduction, not to mention completely life-altering experiences. I can’t imagine going through it all—seeing the ultrasounds, feeling my baby kick for the first time (and then keep kicking, never letting me forget for an instant that’s she’s real) going into labor, and seeing her tiny little body for the first time—only to give her to another set of parents. The baby would be theirs; the stretch marks, stitches, and postpartum depression would be mine. It sounds awful.
And yet, abortion is worse still.
In a perfect world, all babies, planned or not, would be wanted, and all mothers would have the circumstances and resources to care for them. But the world is broken, and this is often not the case. So what is the most compassionate way forward for these mothers and their babies?
To women faced with an unwanted pregnancy and scarce resources with which to care for a baby, abortion looks far easier. The costs of giving your baby up for adoption are apparent, while the costs of abortion are well hidden and less talked about. But the costs of abortion are disproportionately higher than those of adoption. The benefits abortion promises are illusory, while the benefits of adoption, though perhaps less apparent on the surface, are real and tangible.
First of all, the financial burden of abortion is greater. According to Planned Parenthood, an in-clinic abortion can cost up to $1,500, and will probably cost even more if you wait until the second trimester or get your abortion from a hospital.
Giving your baby up for adoption is free, since the adoptive family will pay all the medical and legal costs, and often financially support you through the process, providing for needs like gas money for doctor’s appointments. Adoption agencies will work with you to help you find the right family and to make sure your specific needs are met.
Second, abortion is limiting. Adoption empowers the mother by increasing her options. She can choose the family her baby will go to, she can choose how much contact she will have with that family, and she can choose how much contact, if any, she desires to maintain with her child.
She has time to think things over and consider how she wants her life after birth to look. Abortion, on the other hand, only takes away the burden on the mother by taking away her options. And she is pressured to decide quickly, since the longer she waits the more it will cost.
Third, abortion pretends it can make the problem of a pregnancy go away, but it can’t. It can end the pregnancy, but it can’t make it as if it never happened.
The mothers’s bodies will have to go through a period of physical recovery from the procedure, and they will find their emotions assaulted by the same hormones that often lead to postpartum depression. Some of these consequences may last even longer than the pregnancy itself would have had they carried their babies to term. If the mother was nine weeks or more along when she got the abortion, her body may even produce milk in the aftermath, in anticipation of a baby that’s not there. These women will never forget that they once bore a life inside them.
In contrast, adoption dignifies the mother and acknowledges the difficulty of pregnancy. It offers a solution that gives closure and maximizes happiness—because rather than just attempting to eliminate a problem, it seeks the welfare of the mother, the baby, and the family seeking a child. So much good can come from this difficult decision.
The church is called to care for widows and orphans – vulnerable women and vulnerable children. The scriptures tell us that this kind of activity is the religion that God our Father desires. We have a very specific and clear responsibility to understand adoption and to both empower families to rise up to adopt, and to empower women to seek this option in the face of hard circumstances.
Adoption is not merely an alternative to abortion – it is a means by which we may redeem a broken world.