Friday, December 16, 2005

What are the Moral Obligations of Adopting Parents to the Mother?

I was just too darn wiped out to post last night. I am sorry to the handful of readers here who might want to know what Aspazia thinks.

While I was on the plane, travelling West, I started to read an unpublished manuscript that was written by an abortionist in the pre-Roe era. I am embarking on an oral history project during my sabbatical to interview the surviving family members of this physician and learn more about what inspired him to become an abortionist at a time when abortion was illegal.

This physician is not famous or well-known. He did, however, land in jail for 25 months from 1964-1964 for performing an abortion. He had a small practice in Oklahoma, and the whole town knew what he did and basically kept his secret.

His son told me once that the judge asked his father: "so, do you understand that you are being found guilty of performing an abortion."

He responded: "yes, and your daughter came to me."

What I want to write about in this space is a story he writes about in his manuscript. He essentially wrote this book in order to give some insight into why he chose to perform abortions. He tells many stories of the women from his town, and yet fictionalizes the account to protect the people involved.

One story was about adoption. Dr. Henrie sees a woman from his small town who has already had 8 children. She finds herself pregnant once again pregnant. She is indigent, hence can barely afford the children she already has. This is also a small town that has recently been swept over by evangelical tent revivals and birth control is not available or legal in the United States.

She comes in to see Dr. Henrie with her two daughters, who beg him to perform an abortion. He declines doing so, but quickly steps into help make arrangements for the child to be adopted. A local attorney locates parents and the new parents agree to help pay her pre-natal and delivery costs. A few weeks before the birth, the soon-to-be adopting parents suddenly back out. Dr. Henrie suspects some foul play. The fact is that lawyers and other folks at this time were able to make a great deal of money off women who found themselves pregnant and unable to take care of the child.

Dr. Henrie, heroically, manages to find another set of adopting parents. They agree to pay for the delivery and other needed costs for this indigent woman's delivery. The day of delivery comes and tragically, the baby dies. The delivery was difficult and the baby did not make it. Further examination of dead baby revealed that he had down's syndrome as well.

The aftermath of this news is even more tragic.

Dr. Henrie writes:

"In adopting cases, the mother is seldom told and very rarely ever permitted to see her baby. In this case the mother was told that her baby was dead. No woman wants to deliver a dead baby, but under these circumstances many are wonderfully relieved because they neeed never worry again about their child. They know it is dead. Otherwise life in the future is continuous worry, hour after hour, day after day, teh suffering of a living death. Where hope is lost, only pain is felt and happiness is never enjoyed, death can be a relief.

The most severe laws in existence pertain to the one who kidnaps a child from its mother, and all society shares the mother's sorrow and grief because of her loss, but not even God stoops to ease the pain in the broken hearts of the mothers who permit their babies to be adopted. Here a living death and the funeral come wrapped in the same package with only the imagination to be continually tried against the locked door slammed shut against ever knowing. Nothing remains but the empty void of memory."

Upon learning that the baby had died, the adopting parents reaction was to feel cheated. They had already been through this exact situation before and were further blighted by this new tragedy. What disturbs Dr. Henrie the most, however, is their failure to take responsibility of the situation. They do not mourn the lost child, nor do they show compassion to the mother, but instead demand that they not have to pay for any of the costs.

Why adopting parents should not be required and forced to face and accept the same responsibilities as real parents had always rankled the inquistive mind of Dr. Young [his pseudonym], the agnostic. Why should not the mother who gives up her baby be reimbursed for a period of recuperation afterward is one of the incongruities of our society.

When the business side of the delivery is conducted and it is clear that the adopting parents were unhappy that the baby had died, Dr. Henrie reflected on the petty nature of haggling over expenses.

Here were people with money, social standing, financial security, able to help and probably under other circumstances migt have paid ten times the amount in a charity drive for some worthy purpose, but haggled over any aid in this case because they had been cheated from fulfilling their wish."