The Problem with Morality . . .

. . . is that it can get in the way of doing what's right.

Adoption elicits strong reactions from the general population. When positive, they seem to focus on the adoptive parent and the child. But when negative, you can almost always be sure that the first mother is the target.

Our attitudes toward sexuality in the US are contradictory. Although we pretend to be sexually liberated, you need only look as far as the endless discussion of same sex marriage to see that our libertation goes only so far. We like nothing better than outing someone's sexual impropriety, in spite of the fact that commercials for contraceptives can be found on TV. We just can't keep out of each other's bedrooms.

Adoption law and practice have been infused with this odd sense of morality. First mothers become marked by pregnancy and the decision to relinquish their children, and we use that mark to rationalize the separation. "That's your punishment for your behavior," we say, "you made your choices, now live with them and move on." We punish the children, too, the innocent bystanders, by denying them their very identities. We don't blink an eye as their human and civil rights are taken from them. And the message to mother and child is clear: Shame on you.

In essence, we have made birth a crime, for mother and child alike, punishable by separation and anonymity, shrouded in secrecy and lies.

It's time to stop the punishment, to separate moral judgment from adoption law, to restore the lost civil and human rights. Time to start doing the right thing.

Comments

suz said…
yeah, well, you know my thoughts. :)

i especially like this quote from my friend, fallpryncess,

By placing "blame" on to the couple that had sex, it allows others to remove themselves from needing to provide compassion or caring

so sad but so very true.
I think society in general, and APs in particular, don't know what to make of women who have sex outside of societal norms. Having a child "out of wedlock" as it used to be called certainly branded any young woman with a whole host of unsavory names and attitudes.

(If you want to see this in its most extremes, look up "Irish Magdelenes" in Google. There was an excellent film exploration of this horrific and recent part of Irish history. Joni Mitchell even included a song about them in a release a few years ago.)

But pregnancy, any pregnancy is never a punishment. It is simply a biological result of two people having unprotected sex. Sometimes on purpose. Sometimes not.

As a teen, I used to question my dad about this. "How can the act of sex be dirty before marriage yet a beatiful expression of love afterwards.? It's exactly the same act!" My dad, European-born and more sophisticated in his thinking that his parental peers, gave me good advice. He said, "The sexual act is biology. Nothing more. However, what gives it meaning is the context and the quality of the commitment. However, when a pregnancy results, every party has to take responsibility."

My children's birthparents are neither sinners or saints. They're just people who found themselves with a situation without the resources to manage for the long-term future for all the reasons we continue to discuss.

My children, all of them, are a gift from G-d. But everyday I'm struck by the randomness of events that bring people together, seen and unseen. I don't try to find the meaning because I'm not that smart. All I know is that my youngest two had parents who made them but couldn't parent them. I didn't make my youngest but I did have the ability and desire to parent them.

So I did. No condemnation or praise for me as an AP, either. I suppose you could say that adoption extends the ability of birth parents to take responsibility.
suz said…
and APs in particular, don't know what to make of women who have sex outside of societal norms. Having a child "out of wedlock" as it used to be called certainly branded any young woman with a whole host of unsavory names and attitudes.

So, hmm, this statement could be construed to read that ap's dont have sex outside of societal norms?

I would guess that is not at all the case. And such a suggestion would only further the belief that natural parents are "Bad" for having sex and adoptive parents "are good" and therefore deserve the children?

I hold fast to my personal belief that sex has nothing to do with adoption.

And this is an interesting statement as well

adoption extends the ability of birth parents to take responsibility.

Wow. Where I could go with that one. But I wont.

: )
KimKim said…
Some adoptive parents can't have children because they had sex and caught diseases. I don't know what those AP's make of that?

It worries me when someone speaks of adoptive parents as though they are morally superior or have it more together, that is the myth that must not be encouraged. The holy saint adoptive parents who deserve my child more than I do. Wish I hadn't believed that back then because I wouldn't have lost my child.

AP's are no better or worse than anyone else. Let's not lose sight of that.
I had an oh-so-eloquent reply that somehow got lost in the cyber nether, so I'll say this instead as a statement of my beliefs as a parent of children both biological and adopted:

** Every child should ideally be parented by the mother and father (married or no) that brings them into the world. Every support should be available offered to make that possible. When that isn't possible, the first options should be exercised by extended family. Support should be offered as needed. When that isn't possible, adoption should be explored as a viable option.

** Every parent, by birth or adoption, has the right to be called mother or father. Adjectives (or descritors) should only be applied when more specific clarity is necessary for the communication at hand.

** Every child has a right to their identity and full disclosure of their information by both sets of parents.

** Being a parent, bioligical and/or adoptive, is about taking responsiblity for the nuture of another human being. Parents must then decide how that responsibility will ultimately be realized. That is, to my mind, the only moral imperative.
onegreyhorse said…
I am young, and naive in many respects, and I am still finding my way through life. Now I'm tackling adoption, with my husband of course, but I find that all the roles/identities I thought existed don't, really. At least not in the context I'd always been taught.

And my hope for our adopted child will be to teach them that despite our societal labels, whether they be positive or negative (it happens) we are all just people. Who should live in a way that is considerate and beneficial to those around us and humanity at large.

I've struggled with the "birth mother vs. adoptive mother" thing. Mainly the wording of it all. And the fact that we need to label each other. Can't we all just be friends?

Again, my naivete... but really, I do hope for that.
Melissa said…
"AP's are no better or worse than anyone else. Let's not lose sight of that."
Amen Kim!

AMH, you are always finding your way through life. I'm 38 now and still learning and growing. :-)
Margie said…
No matter how I look at the various perspectives - all valid, because all of our experiences are valid - I still come back to this:

That many first mothers had no real choice when they surrendered their children.

When that is my starting point, so much changes - both my position of entitlement as the a-parent, but also a liberation from the secrecy.

Just a little example: I was speaking with my kids yesterday about my impending trip to Korea (post forthcoming). We have sent letters and other information to their Korean foster mothers, and to our Korean agency for their files in the event someone from their first families comes to find out more about them.

I suggested that they write a letter to their "Korean moms," and not their "birth mothers." It's hard to explain, but it really felt liberating.

Margie

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