Some pro-choice people refuse to admit that any woman ever suffered deep grief after an abortion, and discount those who try to say that they did. On the other side, extreme pro-life people try to discount the experience and feelings of women who really did not regret having an abortion or feel any grief and are still satisfied with their decision. Both sides are less concerned with individual women and their real feelings than with only allowing those whose stories agree with their agenda to be heard. And I think that among our opponents, both sides project their feelings about the fetus onto the adopted adult, which really muddies the waters and leaves legislators confused.
Some pro-lifers worship the fetus, deify it in some sense, and then do not much care what happens to kids once they are born, or to their mothers. These are the "Adoption, Not Abortion" bumper sticker crowd. They cannot see the difference between the adult adopted person and the fetus. Adoptees should be grateful they were born at all, and pregnant women are just waiting to abort if they think their child will be able to find them years later. The fact that this is never a factor in why women choose abortion (I wish someone would do a study on that, what the real reasons are) does not slow them down a bit, because the image of the killer birthmother and the threatened, "saved" fetus fits their mythology better than the facts, that open records had nothing whatsoever to do with the rate or choice of abortion. Plus these groups are big on shame and punishment for "loose women" and can't imagine a woman who has surrendered not living a life of shame and fear of her child.
On the other side, the more extreme pro-choice groups demonize the fetus; all the rhetoric about it being just a parasite, a clump of cells, living off the mother's body etc. Both sides assume an adversarial situation between fetus and mother and extend this to the situation of adult adoptees and open records. Those who are pro-abortion and anti-open records are just defending the mother's rights against the fetus's rights....forever, not just until it is born. It is this kind of thinking that also leads them to oppose legislation that would say that the murder of a pregnant woman is double homicide, even if she is in the last weeks of pregnancy. Any hint that the fetus is human must be eliminated in order to protect abortion rights, even if the issue is not related to abortion or choice.
The anti-abortion crowd think they are "saving babies" at any cost by opposing open records, because of their misreading of the desires of mothers who carry a child to term and those who choose to abort. Both think that mothers should have absolute say about what the "child" gets to know about his own birth and heritage forever or else there will be a chink in the armor of their respective agendas. To the extreme pro-choicers, women are always benevolent, know best, and will always make the best choice because of their superior women's instincts. To the extreme pro-lifers, women are potential wild beasts with an urge to kill. Ironically some from both sides feel that this same woman wants and deserves the state's protection to hide her past indiscretions. Neither extreme is willing to see women as just human, no better and no worse than men, nor are they willing to separate their issues from ours when something we are doing hits a related nerve in their world view. Of course many others of good will and compassion who are pro-choice or pro-life also support open records and adoptee rights, but they are not the subject of this essay.
Is this making sense? And is there any way to get through this on either side? Neither the Holy Fetus nor the Demon Fetus is helping the adoptee rights cause, nor are the well-meaning attempts by some on our side to go along with the reproductive rights model, but argue that a woman who gives birth has a "reproductive right" to raise her child. It may indeed be argued that women have such a right, but it has nothing to do with reproduction. If there is any way we can separate these issues in the minds of legislators, we will have gone a long way towards neutralizing our opposition's most annoying and false arguments.February 2006