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What Adoption Has Taught Me About Abortion

Nicole Chung's birth parents didn't want her, so they put her up for adoption. She writes about her journey to find her birth family and process her identity in the poignant memoir, All You Can Ever Know.

Nicole found out that her birth parents told her siblings and their family that the baby was born dead. They wanted her erased from memory, as if the pregnancy never happened. But life doesn't work that way. Nicole writes, "Words I’d once heard from a birth mother flashed in my mind: If there’s something that everyone should know about adoption, it’s that there is no end to this. There’s no closure."

As an adoptive parent, I've learned this tragic truth from experience as I help my own children work through their grief and loss of their first families--a loss that will continue to haunt them as they grow up and start their own families. We can celebrate the redemption and beauty of adoption till we're blue in the face, but that doesn't take away the heartbreak.

How ironic that it's the same for the birth mother. She may even tell everyone the baby died, but she knows, niggling around in her mind, refusing to be ignored, that her baby is out there, growing up somewhere. I think about that often as I look into the faces of my children who spent nine months growing in the body of another woman, their blood flowing alongside hers, listening to her voice, feeling her joy and sadness and fear. My children wish for one glimpse of her face; I wish for one chance to tell her that her baby is okay.

It's easy for us to judge the woman who wants that baby dead and hands over her money to make it all go away. Perhaps she does it because she knows, by instinct, that adoption won't grant her closure. Perhaps it scares her to death knowing that one day she may pass a person on the street that mirrors her face. Perhaps it's easier to just know that the baby is dead, and hope that a dead baby brings more closure than a baby raised by someone else who will someday inevitably want to find the woman who gave her away.

I spent years longing to be pregnant, so I don't know what it feels like. But I remember talking to a friend who kept getting pregnant despite her and her husband's efforts to hold it off. She is an amazing mother and adores all of her children, but her pregnancies were unusually harsh, and she noted the irony of hers and my situations. Despite my longing, I couldn't help but feel empathy towards her. Pregnancy starts with such a seemingly insignificant act but holds incredibly significant consequences.

Pro-lifers keep using the "But it's life" argument against abortion, without realizing that for many pro-choice women, that's not a consequential discussion any more. Everyone knows it's life. Pro-choice advocates are fighting for the right for a woman to choose not to reproduce. Sure, a third trimester baby could just be delivered and whisked off to an adoption agency, but that's not the point. Because that live baby means that somewhere out there will be a person living and breathing and thinking that has an eternal, inexplicable connection to that mother. Which could be terrifying. Terrifying enough that it's easier just to destroy it and hope that it brings closure.

It doesn't, of course. But I'm writing this today because I think it's important that instead of just loudly protesting (though that's important too), we need to take a moment to try to get into the heads of these women. Yes, laws need to change because laws shape the worldview of a nation. And laws that destroy personhood and denigrate motherhood are a worthy fight. But changing hearts is equally as important, and that's got to start by listening, understanding, empathizing, befriending. I pray for those opportunities.

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