A friend came across this article from the Philidalphia Inquirer that was archived from January. It is a very good review of Ann Fessler's "The Girls Who Went Away" and the honor bestowed on her for her work.
Let's support a set of choices
Melissa Weiler Gerber and Ann Fessler support choice for women
On the 35th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, impassioned words fill our newspapers and airwaves and pervade the discourse at the water cooler and on the campaign trail. Few, if any, issues generate the passion of the debate about a woman's right to a safe, legal abortion. Too often, the conversation is condensed into media-friendly sound bites unbefitting such a complex issue. Those who believe in a woman's reproductive freedom are characterized as pro-abortion or anti-life. Extraordinary efforts are made to limit, challenge and overturn the Roe decision as if that alone would solve the moral dilemma surrounding unwanted (I would call them "unexpected" rw) pregnancies. History suggests otherwise.
We know that in the pre-Roe era in America, as in every era everywhere, girls and women became pregnant unintentionally (pertinent to mention that there were two people involved in a woman becoming pregnant...we can't spontaneously become pregnant..it takes a man's "contribution" rw). The post-World War II era was a tricky landscape to maneuver. The nation was heading into a sexual revolution, but with no comprehensive sex education or access to reliable contraceptives. An extraordinary number of pregnancies resulted.
With no access to safe, legal abortions, an estimated 250,000 to one million women each year resorted to unsafe abortions that were responsible for an estimated 40 percent of all maternal deaths during this period. Women who did not want or were unable to obtain an abortion were under tremendous societal pressure to conceal and deny their pregnancies. They frequently were shunned by their families, friends and schools. More than 1.5 million such women (some estimate as many as 6 million..rw) during this period were secreted away to maternity homes and host houses where they were hidden until they gave birth and surrendered their children for adoption, often (in MOST cases..rw) against their will.
This is an era in women's history that, until recently, had been as hidden-away as the pregnancies themselves. The impact of the coerced nature of many (MOST..rw) of these surrenders, and the denial of any emotions following them, had gone unstudied. It is morally convenient to portray abortion as the ultimate evil and adoption as the ultimate good in the quest to tidily resolve the untidy issue of unwanted pregnancies. But, as with most things in life, it just is not that simple.
Every woman who experiences an unplanned pregnancy is faced with a decision of enormous magnitude that is likely to leave its imprint on the rest of her life. About that there is little debate. The only debate is around who, at such a personal and introspective moment, should be empowered to choose the best among difficult options. We can daydream about an era when each time a woman learns of a pregnancy, she greets that news with celebration. But daydreaming is all it would be. We do not live in such a time. Our pre-Roe sisters did not live in such a time. Overturning Roe would not in any way change this.
Let us live in reality rather than daydreams. First, let us work to limit the number of unplanned pregnancies in our nation by embracing comprehensive sex education in our schools and requiring complete contraceptive coverage from our insurance companies. Next, let us support a wide range of choices for women confronting unplanned pregnancies. For those who seek to carry their pregnancies to term and raise their children, let us support them with family-sustaining public policies, such as quality, affordable child care and health care. *For those who determine that adoption is best for them and for their babies, let us continue to evolve adoption practice and policy in a way that recognizes the complexity and intensity of the act for all parties involved. And, for those who decide to terminate their pregnancies, let us pledge to support their right to do so safely and legally.
Let us give women the autonomy and respect they deserve to determine what is best for their bodies, their souls, their families, their futures. Let us believe in the wisdom of women.
Melissa Weiler Gerber is executive director of Women's Way, and Ann Fessler is author of "The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for
Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade." E-mail them at mweilergerber@womens
way.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Just a footnote to the article above. I think it is important to also offer to women who are looking at surrender for adoption complete information on the effects to both the mother and the child. Too often, women surrender for reasons that they think will be a forever thing. Situations change and help is available. There are really very few reasons that a women should not keep her baby and a plethora of reasons why a child should be raised in his or her family of origin.
To this end, there should also be the possibility of kinship or legal guardianship that could allow for changing situations in the mother's life.
If anyone who reads this blog has not read Ann's wonderful book, please borrow it or buy it and read it. The unadulterated truth about adoption during the BSE is in the stories of the women who were interviewed by Ms. Fessler. I have a few good friends whose stories were chronicled in that book. It may be hard reading and it may even produce tears, but it is still a must-read for everyone involved in adoption, including adopters.....maybe even ESPECIALLY adopters.