Saturday, July 30, 2005

A baby is a gift

After years of IVF with failed implantation attempts, about 37 weeks of pregnancy and 26+ hours of hard labor, my good friend Jen has a baby son. She, like most women who want to have a child, is elated (as are all of her friends and family). This marks what was the near end of a little baby boom (my nephew is due next week) now extended to February with my friend Lisa's email announcing she drank the water. These new and expectant mothers are women who chose to get pregant and, despite the fact some had to rely on assisted reproductive technology, decided at what point in their lives/marriages to have children by use of the contraceptive methods that suited them best when they were trying to avoid pregnancy. Most of us use/have used/will again use some form of hormonal contraception. Even Jen, whose first marriage crumbled after her first failed attempts with IVF and desperately wanted to have children and be a mother, used contraception between her two marriages (she is the only person I personally know of that had EC on hand "just in case").

People still have choices regarding contraception and reproduction in this country. How long that will continue for the average American is unknown but as those who wish to criminalize abortion have expanded their attack bu re-defining hormonal contraceptive agents as abortifacients, and the majority of elected Republican legislators walk lock-step in the President parade to endorse faith-based legislation, the duration of our freedom seems questionable.

Those who think criminalizing abortion will stop it need only to look at the morbidity & mortality data from botched and septic abortions in places/times the procedure was illegal and then compare it to current data where abortion is still legal - you don't have to be an epidemiologist to see there is a statistically significant difference.

Those who think adoption is the end-all be-all answer to an unintended and unwanted pregnancy need to review the shameful acts committed in the name of adoption in countries in which contraception/abortion were limited if not outright banned. There are an estimated 2 million couples waiting to adopt healthy babies while many healthy minority (black, latino, mixed race) babies are available almost immediately. American couples will go to Asia and Eastern Europe (and even parts of Latin America) preferentially to adopting a minority baby available right now without the need to obtain a visa, travel or long waiting periods. 60 minutes recently re-ran a February 2005 piece about those minority babies that are being adopted - by couples outside the US. While the increase in white babies will help those families who'd travel around the world to adopt a caucasian child (or one from an "acceptable" minority), what of the less desirable minority babies - will we need to start aggressively exporting them or let them languish in the system that can make them feel rejected/disenfranchised or worse? What about the increase in babies with significant potentially life-threatening health issues (the ones least likely to be adopted)? Will the state force them to be born just to let them die because the cost of medical care is prohibitive?

Even now, when contraception is still widely available and abortion is legal, some women who don't want to be mothers/can't handle the responsibility go to term but don't put the child up for adoption. Some states even have anonymous drop off laws/locations and yet, in this morning's NY Times, I read that a baby girl was found inside a gift bag that was hanging from a wire attached to a 10-foot high chain link fence under an elevated train. What will happen when if our legislators enact laws and this becomes commonplace?

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