It’s NOT A Partisan Issue

There was a book published in 2004 by Thomas Frank – What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. It was in Kansas in 2009 that Dr George Tiller, who performed abortions, was murdered by anti-abortion activists. Yesterday in a hopeful, surprising outcome – Kansas voted to continue to protect abortion in the state constitution. It was the first state to put this issue to the people since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the federal protection of abortion rights for women. You and I have to do our job out there at the polls to save this country from itself.

Kansas is a deeply conservative and usually reliably Republican state. President Joe Biden said, “This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own healthcare decisions.” Kansas state senator Dinah Sikes, who is a Democrat, said “It’s breathtaking that women’s voices were heard and we care about women’s health,” The $3 million dollars spent by the Catholic church trying to eradicate abortion rights in Kansas failed.

The referendum was instigated by the Kansas Republican legislature. Their effort was criticized for being misleading, fraught with misinformation and voter suppression tactics. They scheduled this vote in August, when voter turnout is historically low, particularly among independents and Democrats. It was a tense and bitterly fought campaign.

The campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, Rachel Sweet, noted “We knocked tens of thousands of doors and had hundreds of thousands of phone calls … We countered millions of dollars in misinformation. We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion in our state.” The key to this was driving voter turnout to not seeing abortion as a partisan issue in Kansas. Everyone – from Republicans, to unaffiliated voters, to hardcore libertarians – came out to say: “No, we don’t want the government involved in what we do with our bodies”.

Information for this blog came from an article in LINK> The Guardian. Abortion and Adoption are often linked, although one really does not relate to the other, still some people often try to make that association. Many adoption activists trying to reduce the prevalence of adoption in the US are pro-Choice. Many people who managed to get born are thankful that they were not aborted. Surprisingly, due to the trauma involved in all adoptions (whether acknowledged or not), many adoptees will say they wish they had been aborted.

The Problem With Surrogacy

The question was posed – I have a friend who cannot carry a baby to term. She produces eggs just fine, and a friend of ours who is like a sister to her offered to be a surrogate for free for her. There is no power dynamic at play and they’ve been non biological “sisters” their entire lives. Is this still problematic and should I try to talk them both out of it?

The answer is simple. Ever since I came to understand about in-utero bonding and mother child separation trauma, I have been against surrogacy. I know that there are many couples who chose this. In fact, among my in-laws, this was chosen for similar reasons.

A few more thoughts – from a mother – I grew my children in my body. I didn’t grow them to give them to someone else. Yes, I work, but at the end of the day, they know who mom is. Not some confusing arrangement of mom and “not really mom but kind of mom.” My children did not suffer separation trauma at birth. THAT is the difference.

Follow-up question – I know a lot of working mothers who aren’t constantly around their children, may I ask how is this different? Answer – Take some time to research the primal wound (there is a good book on this by Nancy Newton Verrier). It is not about being around a child constantly. It is that in those moments where we, as a species, reach out to our mother for comfort and nurture, we know on a primal level who that is, and it is the person who carried us and birthed us. That’s why separation after birth trauma exists for adoptees, children who were put into the system at birth and orphans. They may have a mother figure, but it is not who birthed them.

Read up on why surrogacy contracts exist and the numbers of people whose relationships break apart because of surrogacy and jealousy. Even sisters. Then what? The baby is away from who the baby thinks is mother.

The best we can do is chose not to incubate babies for other people as this will traumatize them. A fact proven by MRI is that babies separated from their mothers due to the need for them to be placed in the NICU, as well as in adoption and in surrogacy, will suffer brain changes. The difference with the NICU example, is that the parents aren’t deliberately causing that brain change. It is due to a medical necessity.

Clueless response – Every one gets separated from the body in which they grew, so I’m not understanding. Answer – Technically yes, when you are born, you are no longer physically connected to the body of person who carried while you grew. But then that person doesn’t generally go away – except in cases like adoption, surrogacy, etc.

Argument continues because the two women in question are “like sisters.” Response – They are “like sisters”, not actual family. You can be like whatever. Doesn’t change blood. That said, the child deserves their mother – ACTUAL mother. Who would be on the birth certificate? The egg donor or the birth parent? A child deserves to know their biology and this is just messy.

Another thing to consider is that their “inseparable” relationship may change drastically after the baby is born. It’s pretty common for infertile APs (or infertile people who use surrogates) to develop an awful case of fragility once they have that baby in their arms. It’s in fact the main reason that the vast majority of “open adoptions” close within the first 5 years.

One last point because this has a lot of comments but I think this is worth sharing – How would your friend feel is this pregnancy killed her “sister”? Or if her “sister” had to terminate to keep herself alive? What if her “sister” carries to term, but has lifelong affects on her health that diminish her quality of life? No one should be using another person’s body like this. Pregnancy is not some magical, easy thing. It can be incredibly hard on a person’s body. It can kill people or leave them disabled for life.

Finally, just some background on why the question was asked – The “sister” is insisting. She says her experience being pregnant was “magical” and that she would be pregnant all the time if she could (but she’s also done growing her family, as she doesn’t want to raise any more of her own kids). She said it would “be an honor” to be able to be the person to help her sister grow her family, too. They’re both in their early 30s. I know they’ve spoke about her health being #1 priority during pregnancy and they’re both pro-choice.

We hang out as a group often and I am simply an observer in their conversations about it, as I do not want to speak on things of which I’m ill informed. I asked this question because I want to have some valuable knowledge about the subject the next time we get together, instead of just sitting there listening to something go down that could possible end up being catastrophic. So far, they’re completely on the same page. We all love each other very much and wouldn’t want anything negative to happen to the others. If that means an abortion needs to happen, then she is okay with that.

One last thought – You cannot make life long promises that the “sister” will remain in this child’s life. I had a family member who did this with her best friend. After a lifetime of friendship, they have not spoken since the baby was born. And if their friendship ends, the child will always wonder why they were handed off, like it was nothing. I suggest that you not support your “friends” baby swap. Traumatizing an infant should outweigh any of their selfish wants. Advise to your friend who can’t carry to term to get therapy and deal with it.

>Link< worth reading – “I was an altruistic surrogate and am now against ALL surrogacy.”

Conveying Personhood to Embryos

I am good with the definition above. With the overturning of Roe v Wade, couples who have utilized assisted reproduction to produce embryos now in cryogenic storage are concerned. Therefore, people hoping to conceive with in vitro fertilization are now considering moving their stored embryos to states where abortion is protected.

A handful of states want to use an abortion regulation to define life as beginning at fertilization. This is language that is commonly present in several state abortion bans. Some have gone into effect and others will soon, including in Utah, Texas and Louisiana. Some states want to go further – giving embryos constitutional rights through what are called “personhood” bills, even though most will never become babies. Personhood laws have been proposed but have not yet passed in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Nebraska.

IVF is the other side of the reproductive choice coin. Abortion is a woman’s right to choose ‘no.’ IVF is their right to choose ‘yes.’ Laws that define life as beginning at conception could lead to limitations around how many eggs are fertilized in each IVF cycle and whether the resulting embryos, most of which are often not genetically viable, can be disposed of. It’s standard to retrieve a dozen eggs or more, then fertilize and test them to ensure the one that is implanted in the uterus has the best chance of leading to a healthy pregnancy. If those embryos are considered people from the moment they’re fertilized, disposal could be a crime and doctors could be prosecuted. That would make IVF less successful, more costly and more inaccessible.

Couples are worried that their embryos could be held hostage by abortion legislation and that they would then be unable to move them out of state. They are worried their state will force them to have another child even though they feel their family is complete. They are worried about getting pregnant at all and miscarrying – will they be able to receive the care they need?

The bottom line is this – losing choice means losing the autonomy to dictate one’s own future. 

Much of the content for today’s blog came by way of this article – “IVF may be in jeopardy in states where embryos are granted personhood” by Chabeli Carranza and Jennifer Gerson in The Guardian.

There Is No “Just”

I’m short on time today. Coming on the heels of the blog yesterday, this from The Adopted Chamelon seemed perfect –

I hear pro choice people say, “how many kids have you adopted?” Then you have these comments from people who have no understanding of adoption, “You can always adopt if you can’t have your own kids.” “If you don’t want to parent just put the kid up for adoption?”

There is no “just” to it. It is a complex decision that will affect you and the child for the rest of your lives. Adoption is trauma. People treat it like it is a simple solution. “Just” means they have put no thought to what happens after adoption. Children are not born blank slates. We have our family’s heritage, intact, inside us.

The adoption industry has done such a good job dehumanizing children that people think you can “just” put adoptees in the family that had the money to pay for them and everything is great.

The truth is that separation causes a lifelong trauma that could be prevented. We need to see this trauma first and foremost. Stop treating adoption as the answer. Adoption is a lifelong struggle that often gets ignored. If we are going to continue treating children like property at least acknowledge the harm it has done. Stop saying “just” adopt. Stop bypassing the very real trauma that has to happen for a child to be put in the situation where they are permanently being removed from their family to be put with strangers.

We don’t “just” get over it either.

#adoptedchameleon

The Wrong Pro-Choice Response

I’ve probably been guilty of this, to whatever extent, over the course of writing so many blogs here at WordPress but today, I was really made aware of how problematic this argument feels to some who have been in foster care and they have a valid point.

Someone posted that the pro-Choice argument that goes something like this is problematic. [1] it makes some former foster care youth feel like a rescue dog or a commodity. [2] It can be misinterpreted by some (it is a stretch but it has happened) that foster children should have been aborted. Former foster care youth object to the weaponizing of their trauma to support the pro-choice argument.

To be fair to my own intentions (and I don’t actually know if I was guilty or not but I could have been because nuance is tricky) – it’s a good argument. Pointing out the hypocrisy of a society that only wants to help a fetus and not actual children. Pointing out how social service systems are already underfunded. However, it also dehumanizes foster youth by lumping them into a monolith in need of rescue.

The recent overturn of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court will cause a flood of pregnant and parenting teens into the system. One pro-Choicer writes – I’m not comfortable weaponizing a trauma I haven’t experienced personally, but I believe the point they are trying to make (harmfully, to note) is that pro life people aren’t actually pro life, they just want to control women and people with uteruses. It’s not about life with them, it’s about control. They don’t actually put effort towards improving the quality of life of those struggling. I once read a post where a woman convinced a mother to keep her child, but when the mom needed financial support, the lady basically said “tough luck.” Meaning they only value what decisions that can control of a pregnant person, and they don’t care about the struggles of those already born and alive. Especially considering a lot of people forced to give birth or were given no other option might consider to put up for adoption because having a kid wasn’t something they wanted OR they might keep the kid and the child might be raised in an environment where they aren’t wanted or abused. But most pro lifers don’t care about providing resources or voting for increased accessibility to resources for those who need it.

I agree that it’s not right to use someone’s trauma as an argument. Instead of using that kind of argument, we should just argue it at face value – people claiming to be pro life don’t allow access to resources that living people need. Instead, they vote AGAINST accessibility and governmental help for those in need. Instead of focusing on current foster children, we should be asking questions such as – what they would do to help mothers who aren’t in a position to raise children, instead of them saying, “Well if you don’t want kids, just close your legs or put the baby up for adoption.” I believe the pro lifers make children more of a commodity than pro choicers do because they act like adoption is an easy solution and decision- “just adopt your baby out! Just give your kid up! But don’t you dare have an abortion!” And yes, not every foster child is the result of such a decision or dilemma but pro lifers act like adoption is easy for everyone involved, and it’s really not.

Neither side should be using the adoption community as a weapon, but one side brings it up and the other side fires back, and it’s making this whole situation ugly. They’re fighting with feelings instead of facts.

Always The Question

From The Huffington Post – I Was Adopted Before Roe v. Wade. I Wish My Mother Had Been Given A Choice by Andrea Ross.

“Would you rather have been aborted?” This is the question some people asked me when I publicly expressed horror at the June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade.

This question is not only mean-spirited and presumptuous, it’s a logical fallacy. The notion that adopted people should not or cannot be pro-choice simply because we were born ignores the possibility that we can value being alive at the same time we value the right to make decisions about our bodies, our lives and our futures.

My birth mother was 18 years old and partway through her first year of college when she discovered she was pregnant. Her parents arranged for her to go away to a home for unwed mothers once she started showing. My birth mother had limited choices; abortion was illegal, so her options were to keep or to relinquish her baby. And maybe it wasn’t she who decided; perhaps her parents made that decision for her. Maybe she had no choice at all.

Either way, the right to choose to have an abortion has nothing to do with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crudely referred to in 2008 as the need to maintain a “domestic supply of infants” available for adoption, a notion that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito referred to in the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade.

I was born in the home for unwed mothers, whisked away into foster care within a day, then adopted by yet another family three weeks later. I was shuffled between three families in my first three weeks of life.

The logic of the anti-choice, pro-adoption crowd is that I should be grateful for the fact I wasn’t aborted. After all, I didn’t languish in foster care for 18 years. And my birth mother got to finish college and pursue a career, to have kids when she was ready. It was a win-win, right?

Not by a long shot. Psychology research shows that women who relinquish their children frequently exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. And children who have been relinquished frequently develop relinquishment trauma ― a kind of trauma that “changes an individual’s brain chemistry and functioning … and can elevate adrenaline and cortisol and lower serotonin resulting in adoptees feeling hypervigilant, anxious, and depressed.”

What’s more, the institution of adoption denied me the right to know anything about my heritage, ethnicity or medical history. My birth certificate was whitewashed, amended to say I was born to my adoptive parents, in “Hospital,” delivered by “Doctor.” As a kid, I agonized over what I had done wrong, and worse, how as a baby, I could have been considered so intrinsically deficient as to be unworthy of being kept by my original parents. My life has been marked by self-doubt. I also have a constant and abiding fear of abandonment. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I’ve spent countless hours and many thousands of dollars on psychotherapy.

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett argues that “safe haven” laws allowing women to relinquish parental rights after birth are adequate to relieve the burdens of parenthood discussed in Roe v. Wade, implying that providing a ready avenue for adoption substitutes for the need for safe and legal abortion. Her claim is also a logical fallacy. Adoption is not a substitute for choice.

I’m now past childbearing age, and I don’t have daughters, so the overturning of Roe v. Wade will not affect me directly. But I think of my beloved nieces and female students at the large university where I teach. I am furious that they no longer have the constitutional right to bodily sovereignty, and I’m terrified by the possibility their lives might change for the worse if they are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. I do have a young-adult son, and if he impregnated his partner, I would want them both to be able to decide which option made the most sense for them. The circumstances that dictated my birth have no bearing on their rights.

No, I don’t wish I had been aborted, but I do wish that all those years ago, my birth mother had possessed the right to make her own decisions about what to do with her own body, the same right we all deserve.

Fertilization or Implantation

It didn’t take long for the concerns over the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade to leap over into In-Vitro Fertilization. Some states, including Louisiana, are already contemplating laws that would define a fertilized egg as having the same rights as a live child which will definitely have the same chilling effect on IVF clinics as the escalation of anti-abortion laws at the state level has had on clinics that perform abortions.

The Catholic Churches inconsistency regarding when life begins hasn’t helped matters. Among Catholics it is NOT clear – does life begin at fertilization or at implantation ? One Catholic said, “It’s actually not disputed. For example: the official stance of the Catholic Church is that life begins at IMPLANTATION, not fertilization. Additionally, you can’t turn a pregnancy test positive without implantation. So again, many would consider ‘conception’ to mean successful implantation.”

In 2006, under Pope Benedict (before the current Pope Francis), it was affirmed during an international congress on scientific aspects and bioethical considerations of The Human Embryo Before Implantation that embryos are “sacred and inviolable” even before they become implanted in a mother’s uterus. The Pope said the Church had always proclaimed the “sacred and inviolable character of every human life, from its conception to its natural end.” adding, “This moral judgment is valid from the start of the life of an embryo, even before it is implanted in the maternal womb.”

In 2021, Washington’s Cardinal Wilton Gregory spoke at the National Press Club, during which he fielded questions about President Joe Biden’s support for abortion. “The Catholic Church teaches and has taught that life — human life — begins at conception. So the president is not demonstrating Catholic teaching in that,” Gregory said. “Catholics should take care not to believe the myths and lies that are produced by those influential individuals and institutions that want to confuse people about the true nature of abortion or who wish to exploit the bodies and lives of unborn children. For example, the myth that ‘pregnancy begins at implantation’ is a deception that has caused misunderstandings for decades.”

Another Catholic noted – Our vicar general was very confident that when the church says “conception” they are referring to implantation, per his actual priesthood teachings. But, that most Catholics assume conception means fertilization, but that isn’t correct. My discussions on this topic with him were in 2010 for reference. I know the pope said prior to that that it’s before implantation, but the actual documented definition in church literature is apparently implantation.

At the end of the day, this is splitting hairs and I’m pro-choice. But, it’s clear even the church can’t figure out a cohesive stance, and none of this is dogma anyway. Also, just because “life” begins at conception it’s doesn’t address the bodily autonomy issue (the Church doesn’t support forced organ donation to save another adults life, but they are ok with a pregnant person being forced to give up their body?).

I don’t know anyone who would say they are trying to “conceive” and mean that they are just trying to fertilize an egg. For all practical purposes, fertilization alone just isn’t conception. And these old white men can believe otherwise, but if my egg is fertilized but doesn’t implant, I would never say I conceived because I wouldn’t even know the egg was fertilized, unless I went through IVF anyway.

Leaving aside religious arguments, Wired had an article by Sarah Zhang in 2015 titled – Why Science Can’t Say When a Baby’s Life Begins with a subtitle – If anything, science has only complicated the personhood debate. The article notes – When life begins is, of course, the central disagreement that fuels the controversy over abortion. 

In the 19th century, abortion in Britain was legal—until the quickening. The “quickening” was the first time a woman felt her baby’s kick, it was the moment the baby came alive, the moment it got a soul. Ultrasound imaging made quickening, a concept that had been around since at least Aristotle, a relic. In a 2012 vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan explained that after seeing their unborn daughter on ultrasound, they nicknamed her “Bean.” My husband jokes about our youngest son being “LumpT” before he was born. Ryan actually sponsored a bill for fetal personhood, giving full legal rights to a zygote after fertilization.

After fertilization, must come implantation. The fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and attaches to the mother’s uterus. “There’s an incredibly high rate of fertilized eggs that don’t implant,” says Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB-GYN in Washington, DC. Estimates run from 50 to 80 percent, and even some implanted embryos spontaneously abort later on. The woman might never know she was pregnant.

Clearly, the controversies and debates are not going away any time soon. It is going to be very messy for some time to come.

Michele Tafoya Pro-Choice Adoptive Mom

Michele Tafoya with son, Tyler and daughter, Olivia

Michele Tafoya was on the panel discussion for Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday night when she admitted to two details about herself. She is pro-Choice and she adopted her daughter from Columbia. She said she was grateful Olivia’s mother had not aborted her. The panel discussion on abortion was honest, diverse and varied, though remaining pro-Choice throughout.

Today, I learned that Michele and I share some things in common. We both discovered the female age factor while trying to conceive. Her husband, Mark Vandersall, is seven years younger. She says after the second miscarriage, “I remember apologizing to my husband, because I felt responsible. I’m seven years older than he is, so I felt like my age was a factor. And it was — the science will tell you. There are biological reasons for it, and it’s as simple as that.” I remember crying at my wedding site, regretting that my husband married such an old woman that when he wanted children, it was no longer possible for me.

At Michele’s suggestion, the couple pursued infertility treatment, and in vitro fertilization. Tafoya managed one good embryo during the first in vitro process. Incredibly, the embryo split and the couple was excited to be expecting identical twins. Then she lost the twins. The heartbreak was devastating for both her and her husband. So, in the spring of 2005, they began exploring donor eggs.

I have a friend in St Louis who had a similar experience as Tafoya of receiving the surprise news of a positive pregnancy after I sent her to see my own Gynecologist. I remember her having me rub her pregnant belly when I was trying to conceive our second son “for luck.” I guess it worked. Her son is right in the middle age between my two sons.

While in Hawaii on business, Michele felt overly exhausted. When she returned home to Minnesota from her trip, she took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Later that year, Tafoya and her husband welcomed a miracle, their baby boy. The pair decided they wanted to have more children and so adopted an infant girl from Colombia. This Mother’s Day her son is 16 and her daughter is 12. 

 

Roe’s Baby

Most women know that Roe v Wade is threatened. A new law in Texas bans abortion after about six weeks and puts enforcement in the hands of private citizens. The Supreme Court, with a 6–3 conservative majority, is scheduled to take up the question of abortion in its upcoming term. It could well overturn Roe. I think I did know but was reminded today that the baby at the heart of the long drawn out legal case was put up for adoption. Sharing an excerpt from a story in The Atlantic – The Roe Baby.

Jane Roe, was a Dallas waitress named Norma McCorvey. Norma won her case. But she never had the abortion. On January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court finally handed down its decision, she had long since given birth—and relinquished her child for adoption.

Norma’s personal life was complex. She had casual affairs with men, and one brief marriage at age 16. She bore three children, each of them placed for adoption. But she slept far more often with women, and worked in lesbian bars. Norma could be salty and fun, but she was also self-absorbed and dishonest, and she remained, until her death in 2017, at the age of 69, fundamentally unhappy.

In 1981, Norma briefly volunteered for the National Organization for Women in Dallas. Thereafter, slowly, she became an activist—working at first with pro-choice groups and then, after becoming a born-again Christian in 1995, with pro-life groups. Being born-again did not give her peace; pro-life leaders demanded that she publicly renounce her homosexuality (which she did, at great personal cost). 

Norma believed that abortion ought to be legal for precisely three months after conception, a position she stated publicly after both the Roe decision and her religious awakening. She was ambivalent about adoption, too. Playgrounds were a source of distress: Empty, they reminded Norma of Roe; full, they reminded her of the children she had let go.

The author of a new book – The Family Roe – Joshua Prager says – In time, I would come to know Shelley and her sisters well, along with their birth mother, Norma. Their lives resist the tidy narratives told on both sides of the abortion divide. To better represent that divide in my book, I also wrote about an abortion provider, a lawyer, and a pro-life advocate who are as important to the larger story of abortion in America as they are unknown. Together, their stories allowed me to give voice to the complicated realities of Roe v. Wade—to present, as the legal scholar Laurence Tribe has urged, “the human reality on each side of the ‘versus.’”

The lawyer for her adoption did not tell the adoptive couple anything more than that she had two half sisters. But he did not identify them, or Norma, or say anything about the Roe lawsuit that Norma had filed three months earlier. When the Roe case was decided, in 1973, the adoptive parents were oblivious of its connection to their daughter who was then 2 and a half.

Shelly knew she was adopted. As she grew older, she wished to know who had brought her into being: her heart-shaped face and blue eyes, her shyness and penchant for pink, her frequent anxiety—which gripped her when her father began to drink heavily. The adoptive parents fought. Doors slammed. Shelley watched her mother issue second chances, then watched her father squander them. One day in 1980, as Shelley remembered, “it was just that he was no longer there.” Shelley was 10. 

In high school, in the city of Burien, outside Seattle, Shelley had a boyfriend who had also been adopted. Reminds me of my own parents story – high school sweethearts, both adopted. Shelley’s hands began to shake. She suffered from depression. Eventually, she came to understand that her symptoms preceded her birth. “When someone’s pregnant with a baby,” she reflected, “and they don’t want that baby, that person develops knowing they’re not wanted.” 

An investigator who accomplished adoptee reunions with their birth mothers was given the case of finding Shelley by The National Enquirer. She was able to track her down through birth records (Norma had supplied the necessary information). She waited in a parking lot in Kent, Washington, where she knew Shelley lived. When she saw Shelley walk by, the investigator introduced herself and told Shelley that she was an adoption investigator sent by her birth mother. Shelley felt a rush of joy: The woman who had let her go now wanted to know her. She began to cry. Wow! she thought. Wow! She told Shelley that “her mother was famous—but not a movie star or a rich person.” Rather, her birth mother was “connected to a national case that had changed law.” 

At their second meeting, the investigator handed Shelley a recent article about Norma in People magazine, and the reality sank in. “She threw it down and ran out of the room.” When Shelley returned, she was “shaking all over and crying.” All her life, Shelley had wanted to know the facts of her birth. Having idly mused as a girl that her birth mother was a beautiful actor, she now knew that her birth mother was synonymous with abortion, something she was against.

When told the other person at the second meeting was on a deadline and writing an article for the Enquirer, Shelley and her adoptive mother abruptly left. “Here’s my chance at finding out who my birth mother was,” she said, “and I wasn’t even going to be able to have control over it because I was being thrown into the Enquirer.”

Instead Shelley was able to arrange a call directly to Norma. Norma didn’t mention abortion. She told Shelley that she’d given her up because, Shelley recalled, “I knew I couldn’t take care of you.” She also told Shelley that she had wondered about her “always.” But later, Shelley made clear that a day for an in person reunion might never come. “I’m glad to know that my birth mother is alive,” she was quoted in the story that the Enquirer eventually published as saying, “and that she loves me—but I’m really not ready to see her. And I don’t know when I’ll ever be ready—if ever.” She added: “In some ways, I can’t forgive her … I know now that she tried to have me aborted.”

Shelley had long considered abortion wrong, but her connection to Roe had led her to reexamine the issue. It now seemed to her that abortion law ought to be free of the influences of religion and politics. Religious certitude left her uncomfortable. And, she reflected, “I guess I don’t understand why it’s a government concern.”

Shelley never did meet her mother, Norma. She died while Shelley still struggled with her identity as the Roe baby.

Extremist Hate Against Women

January 2017 – a group of identical-looking white men in dark suits look on as their president signs an executive order banning US state funding to groups anywhere in the world offering abortion or abortion counselling.

Such a despicable lot. So glad these smug, self-serving members of the male gender are gone now. This morning I’ve been reading in The Guardian an article by Jacqueline Rose titled “Damage: the silent forms of violence against women.” How does this relate to adoption ? It reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – making women carry babies in the hopes that infertile, Christian couples will be able to adopt their baby.

I am unabashedly pro-Choice. Not that I like abortions. I’ve had one and it has haunted me the rest of my life – even though it was legal, even though I still feel justified by the circumstances – the pro-Life contingent has caused my heart to sorrow even so. I am a mother – 3 times now. I’ve seen my babies growing in my womb on ultrasounds. I’m not immune to the sentimentality of baby stuff. However, no women should be allowed to die from a poorly performed illegal abortion. And to be brutally honest – no woman should be forced to incubate a baby that she cannot afford and does not want to raise. 9 months of her income producing life potentially cut short. For many, a kind of non-COVID lockdown to preserve their future prospects, if they do decide to relinquish their baby to adoption. And my constant bottom line is this – the planet is already over-populated. There is no need to produce more humans than are being naturally produced by willing carriers already.

Thankfully, one of President Biden’s early acts in office was to rescind this executive order of Trump’s.

In June 2019, Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy commissioner for human rights, described US policy on abortion as a form of extremist hate that amounts to the torture of women. “We have not called it out in the same way we have other forms of extremist hate,” she stated, “but this is gender-based violence against women, no question.”

It is a characteristic of such mostly male violence – “violence regnant”, as it might be termed, since it represents and is borne by the apparatus of state – that it always presents itself as defending the rights of the innocent. These men are killers. But their murderousness is invisible – to the world (illegal abortions belong to the backstreets) and to themselves. Not even in their wildest dreams, I would imagine, does it cross their minds that their decisions might be fueled by the desire to inflict pain. Neither the nature nor the consequences of their actions is a reality they need trouble themselves about. Such violence in our time thrives on a form of mental blindness.

Violence is a form of entitlement. Unlike privilege – which can be checked with a mere gesture, as in “check your privilege”, and then left at the door – entitlement goes deeper and at the same time is more slippery to grasp. As if hovering in the ether, it relies for its persistence on a refusal to acknowledge that it is even there.

I’ve often been glad I wasn’t born a male. It must be an awful burden at times. No man comfortably possesses masculinity (any more than, other than by killing, one person is in total possession of anyone else). Indeed, such mastery is the very delusion that underpins the deranged and most highly prized version of masculinity on offer. Prowess is a lie, as every inch of mortal flesh bears witness. But like all lies, in order to be believed, it has to be endlessly repeated.

If sexual violence arises from a form of tunnel vision, and from burying those aspects of the inner life that are most difficult to acknowledge or see, it is also the case that raising violence to the surface of public consciousness is not always transformative in the ways we would want it to be. Recognizing an injustice, and bringing it to the world’s attention, is no guarantee that the offence will be obliterated and justice prevail.

Trans experience, also the target of violence, belongs here, too, as it clearly binds the issue of sexuality to that of political struggle – freedom achieved and withheld. Despite being far more widely accepted than ever before, transgender people are still being killed for daring to present the world with the mostly unwelcome truth that sexual identity is not all it is cut out to be. Not everyone comfortably belongs on the side of the inaugurating sexual divide where they originally started, or to which they were first assigned. Some cross from one side to the other, some see themselves as belonging on neither side, others on both (these options are by no means exhaustive). Sexuality creates havoc. Kicking it back into place – a doomed project – is one way in which an oppressive culture tries and fails to lay down the law.

“Supremacist feminism” is the Spanish sister term to “feminazis”, coined by the late US rightwing radio host Rush Limbaugh to describe radical feminists – who, he claimed, “want to see as many abortions as possible”. In September 2019, protesters in more than 250 towns and cities across Spain declared a “feminist emergency” after a series of high-profile rape cases and a summer in which 19 women were murdered by current or former partners (the worst figures for more than a decade).

“We’re only saying what everyone is thinking” is the common justification and refrain. They wrap themselves in the mantle of redemption, as if they were saving the world from burning injustice (righteousness raised to the pitch of frenzy is the particular skill of the far right). We are all subjects of violence, not least because we are embedded in a violent social world. There is always a point in any ethical position or turn – the struggle against injustice, the fight for a better, less violent order – where it starts and stutters, trips and breaks, before setting out on its path once more.

If we do not make time to think about the causes of violence, we will do nothing to end violence in the world, while we will surely be doing violence to ourselves by complicity.

The article from which most of today’s blog is taken is a long one but can be read at the title linked at the beginning of this blog.