Activist Annie Wu, an adoptee from China, said she repeatedly heard the question, “What if you had an abortion?” It’s an all-too-common assumption that anti-abortion proponents have pressured adoptees who publicly advocate reproductive rights, especially amid the recent fall of Roe v. Wade.
“If my birth mother gave me an abortion, I would be fine. I wouldn’t exist, so I wouldn’t care or be impacted,” Wu, a digital organizer with PA Stands Up, wrote at nonprofit, in an Instagram post.
Many adopted activists who support abortion rights say they are in a unique position in the crosshairs of the debate: their very lives are often “manipulated” to advance anti-abortion views – with adoption portrayed as the moral alternative to abortion. They find themselves vulnerable to harassment, their experiences questioned or minimized, and their agency too often suppressed in combat, they say.
Wu, who said she received support from many members of the adoptee community, said she was accused of supporting the “murder” and was asked hypothetical questions about whether “someone should come close and kill you now”.
“How can I go about it?” That my existence was a winning argument in a debate that eradicated my own rights, the rights of so many other people and sparked what is likely to be the rollout of more civil rights at all levels? »
Stephanie Drenka, a Korean adoptee and editor of Visible Magazine, told NBC News that adoptees have long demanded an end to the weaponization of their stories by anti-abortion activists and those in power.
Judge Samuel Alito, for example, wrote for the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, that “a woman who puts her newborn child up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home.”
“How can I go about it?” That my existence was a winning argument in a debate that eradicated my own rights, the rights of so many other people and sparked what is likely to be the rollout of more civil rights at all levels? said Drenka.
With the landmark 1973 ruling overturned and nearly two dozen states on the verge of banning or severely restricting access to abortion, the backlash they have had to endure is taking its toll, say de many adoptees.
“The vitriol is just the assumption that as adoptees we don’t deserve to have a say in our reproductive rights because of our adoptee status,” Drenka said.
“It’s just a pattern of the dehumanization and kind of infantilization that adoptees face. We are considered commodities from birth, then when we grow up and say what we think, we are silenced. »
While the adoptee community is not monolithic, more often than not, pro-abortion activists must validate their own experiences against adoptive parents or those whose lives are not affected by the process, rather than against other adoptees. . Adoptees for Justice project advisory board member Becky Belcore, who is a Korean adoptee, said adoptees most often answer hypothetical questions about how they would feel if they were aborted. Many anti-abortion activists, she said, have tried to remind adoptees that they wouldn’t be alive if given the choice. But Wu said the argument was moot.
“For me, it’s like saying, ‘Well, what if your parents were just tired that night?’ Or ‘How about using a condom that night?’ “, did she say.
Being told to feel “grateful” to have been adopted and other adoptee trauma
Activists also said they should be “grateful” to be alive. Drenka said she’s heard adoption described in sunny terms like “blessing” and that adoptees should feel “lucky.” She added that, like many others, at first glance, her own story reads like a happy ending.
However, strangers fail to calculate the loss that is an integral part of every adoption.
“We had no control over our situation. As much as anyone who is born can be grateful to be alive, that’s just the life we have.
“I spent three months with an adoptive mother, then I was adopted by a very loving white family and I had all the opportunities in the world. In fact, I found my biological family and I have a relationship with them,” she said. “But what people don’t like to think about is the trauma my birth mother went through when she had to abandon me, because my birth father l forced her to do it.”
Belcore pointed out that adoptees, of course, have no obligation to feel grateful.
“We had no control over our situation. As much as anyone who is born can be grateful to be alive, that’s just the life we have,” she says. “It’s our experience. Some of them have been really terrible for people.
Due to the large number of transnational and interracial adoptions, some adoptees also face racist or xenophobic comments. Wu said she finds some commentators tend to focus on her background as a Chinese woman.
“They just tell me to go back to China, or I should be grateful that I don’t live under the Chinese government,” Wu said, adding that commentators would often elaborate, portraying China as a particularly oppressed nation.
Not only are the comments racist, Wu said, but they are also “hypocritical.”
“What the United States government is doing now is controlling a part of the population that is capable of reproducing and telling them that they have to reproduce.”
But many of those who support abortion rights have also been guilty of ignoring adoption, campaigners said. After a photo of a couple holding a ‘we’ll adopt your baby’ poster went viral following Roe’s end, others turned the image into a viral meme, poking fun at those who subscribe to the notion of adoption as a solution.
“Generally when discussing all of this people need to make sure they’re not just using something as a talking point – you’re actually defending the people behind it.”
Both Belcore and Wu said the use of humor in the situation is understandable as a way to confront and illustrate the absurdity. But Wu pointed out that these memes can also be insensitive without context.
“Generally when discussing all of this people should make sure they’re not just using something as a talking point – you’re actually defending the people behind it,” Wu said.
Belcore said the issue, quite simply, is too heavy to be fully represented in a meme.
“If anyone thought about how they had been separated from their biological parents and had grown up in another family, it would have quite a serious impact on your life,” she said. “If you just take a moment to think about it, then you would be more curious to know more about it.”
Adoptees say they have to take ‘several things as true simultaneously’
Adoptees say the backlash can be hard to bear, especially for those who haven’t had good experiences with their adoptive families. Belcore said these conversations can potentially be a trigger.
“Those of us who haven’t had good adoption placements, it makes people quite angry, because a lot of people don’t think about what happens to the life of the child after adoption and the lasting impact of this as we grow into adults,” Belcore said. “It’s quite infuriating.”
Drenka and Wu said they both had healthy, loving relationships with their adoptive parents and felt pressured to explain their position too much so it wouldn’t be misinterpreted. Both say the complexity of their experiences is too often erased or flattened.
“One of the hardest parts of adoption is having to take multiple things as true simultaneously,” Drenka said. “When things like this happen, I have to acknowledge that I’ve lived a privileged life as an adoptee, and I’ve also experienced trauma as an infant and ongoing trauma. [from] being disconnected from my roots and not having access to information that most people take for granted.
But Drenka said she is not backing down and urging people to listen to adoptees’ stories.
“I feel like I’ve been practicing ever since. I’ve been practicing for several years what it means to tell my story in spaces that aren’t necessarily safe,” Drenka said. “But we know adoptees… are usually in spaces where we feel like we don’t belong or no one understands, so I’ll keep working to share my story if it only reaches one of them.
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