beginning of the adoption quadrangle is the unplanned pregnancy,
the single mother-to-be and her choices that are limited,
determined by the resources she does not have at her disposal.
The most obvious of these is an income and related benefits
sufficient to raise a child and also maintain a home, keeping
herself and her child in a reasonable standard of living for
about 20 years.
she cannot do this, or cannot see a way to do this, then the
so-called choice of whether or not to raise her
child herself, does not actually exist. The single mother-to-be
then becomes no more than a cog on the production line of
a national or international adoption industry that waits like
a huge impersonal monster, for the next unwanted
baby to roll off the line - at a price. Profit or non-profit,
the result is the same for the woman who must lose her child
to satisfy the perceived economic problem of her
the adoption triangle is really a quadrangle because
the money aspect of arranged adoptions has now become the
cornerstone of evolved adoption law and practice, particularly
in Canada and the USA. Adoption is about money and also about
punishment of the woman who did have sex without the resources
necessary to raise a child, mainly a second wage earner, previously
known as a husband. In that famous slogan of feminist politics
the personal is political'; there is no more political
situation for a woman than to find herself trapped in a personal
situation whereby her future is about to be determined, dramatically,
by her present fertility status. Her choices are
determined by her access or lack of access to resources needed
for the survival of herself and her infant. Perhaps the most
important of these is the personal resource of self-esteem,
a powerful belief in herself sufficient to withstand the disapproval
of family, friends and society in general, a belief strong
enough to enable her to strike out into a parenthood, alone.
unbearable suffering of women who have lost children to adoption
is currently being documented. Reunion organizations around
the world are growing in strength, and sealed adoption records
are under political pressure from women no longer prepared
to always be the losers in the failed social experiment that
is stranger adoption. Mothers are searching for their children
- children are searching for their mothers - and fathers.
Many are successful and can testify to the loss of identity,
the rage and the bottomless grief that adoption introduced
to their lives.
where do feminists stand in this tangle of forged birth records,
this pseudo-choice of adoption that is actually no choice
at all?. During the second wave of feminism that
happened in the 1970s in New Zealand, I took a stand
for all single mothers including myself. At the time there
was a commonly used expression for the rare event of a woman
refusing adoption - she was described as keeping
her baby. The pretence of choice was even then
well entrenched in the language of adoption and single pregnancy
in spite of the reality of a rare and very limited choice
that resulted in the vast majority of babies born to single
mothers being adopted to strangers.
a single woman could keep her baby if she could
overcome widespread social disapproval, abject poverty with
poor housing, associated poor health, an absence of any personal
or financial support and somehow maintain enough self esteem
to see her through whatever lay ahead; usually more of the
same. It was a daunting choice. It was a farce.
with the feminist revival women's fertility was correctly
identified as the core cause of gender inequality. If women
could control their fertility, the power relations between
men and women would change and all women would benefit. Sisterhood
was powerful indeed. Education and related career opportunities
became available to women who embraced the resulting lifestyle
changes. Fertility -and related marriage or less formal partnerships-
could be postponed and even put off indefinitely. This truly
was choice for the first time, and women, worldwide, embraced
the economic chances for gender equality that fertility control
then came a previously unseen problem for many of those women
who had postponed their fertility too long, a resulting infertility
that could not be reversed. Many decided too late, they wanted
a child, or children. Where then, do they look for a solution
to this regret; a completion of their lives by the addition
of a child?. Adoption.
the woman who decides to resolve her infertility by adopting
really manage to kid herself that the donor of an adoptable
child has a choice?. Would any woman with a choice
put herself through nine months of pregnancy and go into labor
having made the decision to surrender her child, if in fact
there was another way? With the rare exception of surrogacy,
carried out for money, no woman would knowingly, willingly
do this. Does the infertile woman have the moral right to
complete her family with another woman's child? I think not.
happened to sisterhood, that brave frontier of gender equality
where women banded together to fight the monster, that oppressor
enabled by a structural inequality that collectively used
woman's fertility to keep her oppressed, uneducated, downtrodden,
poor. I put it to every woman, that any woman who expects
to exercise a choice to fulfill her maternal needs
with another womans child, has herself become that oppressor.
is the last resort for fertile women too young, too poor,
too oppressed to have fertility choices; women lacking in
self-esteem, in societal support, and in a belief of themselves.
They come from all ethnicities, all cultures, all countries.
The woman without choices - surrendering her child for adoption
in 2003 - is actually the woman every woman could have been,
had the feminist revolution not happened.
every woman, everywhere, has the right to raise the child
she carried and birthed, the patriarchy is alive and well,
still using good women to punish bad
women - through the role of adoptive applicant. The personal
remains political; adoption is a feminist issue.
From Exile January 2003 "Adoption Choice
is a Feminist Issue" Copyright © 2003 Joss Shawyer