When prospective adoptive parents start specifying what they want in a child, there are people who like to say, “But if you were having a baby, biologically, you wouldn’t get that choice.” I already wrote about what PAPs get to do in adoption. Today, I’d like to look at the choices that biological parents have in pregnancy.
Let’s look at what adoptive parents get to specify when they adopt:
- Substance exposure
- Family health and mental health history
- Certain special needs (deaf, blind, cerebral palsy, and so on)
- Circumstances under which the child was conceived (rape, incest, prostitution, unknown birthfather)
Let’s look at what biological parents get to specify when they have a biological child.
Age. If you’re choosing to have a child biologically, you’re pretty certain that you will have a baby. I don’t know of anyone who has birthed a 5-year old.
Race. If you are having a biological child without the help of reproductive technology, that child will be the same race as you and your partner. You cannot choose to have a child who is not of your race. Of course, if you’re using egg donors, sperm donors, or both then you do get a choice.
Gender. The technology to allow bio parents to specify gender does exist. I know some doctors use it to ensure that couples who have disorders that are passed down to one gender (such as hemophilia) have children of the opposite gender. People can fly to other countries to have that technology made available to them without the medical necessity. Given that the US has so few laws governing reproductive technology, in my lifetime, it may very well be possible to specify gender when having a biological baby.
Substance exposure. Although we are slowly poisoning ourselves with toxic chemicals, so we can’t control exposure to every substance, pregnant women do get to choose if their children are exposed to drugs (prescription, legal, and/or illegal), alcohol, and cigarettes.
Family health and mental health history. Bio parents will have children who share their health histories (unless using donor eggs or sperm). Of course, some bio parents don’t know their own health histories. However, the fact remains that you’re not going to birth a child who has a different health history.
Certain special needs. Here’s where the choice myth really comes into play. People like to say that bio parents don’t have a choice as to whether or not their children are born with special needs. To a limited extent, that is true. However, bio parents do have control over many of the substances that go into their bodies, which can greatly affect a child’s health. A child isn’t going to have special needs associated with drug exposure if he wasn’t exposed to drugs. Bio parents can choose to have tests done to determine if a child will have certain special needs. They can then decide if they want to continue the pregnancy. Interventions are available to correct some special needs in the womb. I submit that bio parents have more control over their children’s special needs than people seem to give them credit for. Obviously, this isn’t true for all special needs.
Circumstances under which the child was conceived. If you’re a bio parent, you have almost complete control over how your child was conceived. Any time you have consensual unprotected sex, you’re essentially saying, “Sure, I could have a child who was conceived this way.” And, as a bio parent, you can choose not to have a child that you conceived.
Furthermore, I hear a lot of people criticizing adoptive parents for not wanting to adopt children who have been abused, or who have histories of trauma and/or neglect. They again cite the rationale that, if these people had birthed their children, they wouldn’t be able to choose what they got. If you birth your own child, you have quite a bit of control over whether or not that child is abused, neglected, or traumatized. Sure, strangers hurt children, but 87% of abuse is perpetrated by family members.
My point? Telling prospective adoptive parents that they “wouldn’t get to choose what they got if they had a biological child” is just plain stupid. As I’ve argued here, it’s not entirely true. Furthermore, it’s a moot point, as PAPs are not having biological children.