Even though her younger sister was adopted, Kelly Clemente never understood how a mother could “give up” her child to another family.
“I thought that adoption was a wonderful thing, but I thought that birth mothers were heartless and evil,” says Kelly, whom I interviewed for The Daily Signal. “To be able to have a child, to walk nine months through a pregnancy, and to be able to walk away from that child, what type of person does that?”
Kelly’s perception of adoption wasn’t unique. As Americans, we’ve come to view families who adopt in a positive, altruistic light. Meanwhile, we view birth mothers who “give up” their children to another family negatively—that is, if we think about them at all.
During her freshman year of college, Kelly found herself pregnant with a young man she was not only not married to, but who proceeded to cheat on her. At just 18 years old, she was no better than the birth mothers she had scorned.
It wasn’t until Kelly thought of her sister’s “sweet face” that she decided to do what her sister’s birth mother had done—go through with her pregnancy and place her child for adoption. It was at that moment Kelly realized her sister’s birth mom’s decision was far from cold or selfish—it was selfless, and the reflection of love.
After giving birth in September 2008, Kelly returned to college and went on to get her master’s degree in school counseling. Her birth son, Alex Hansen, is now 10 years old and lives with his mother and father in Texas. When his parents, Shawn and Dave, adopted Alex, they thought they’d never have biological children of their own. Then, as life will have it, they got pregnant a month after adopting Alex. From there, they went on to have four boys and a girl.
Alex never knew a time when he wasn’t adopted and refers to Kelly as his “birth mommy.” His siblings have even gotten jealous, and asked why they don’t get to have a “birth mommy.” Alex and Kelly spend time together about once a year, and stay in touch via phone calls, texts, and social media. A decade later, their story has a happy ending. But Kelly says the stigma against birth mothers that she once shared is real.
The stories of birth mothers who choose to place their children for adoption have largely gone untold. Filling that void is an unfair stereotype about women who choose to go through with their pregnancy.
Although they claim to care about more than just abortion, neither Planned Parenthood nor much of the media tell these stories. Instead, they encourage women to #ShoutYourAbortion and champion single motherhood.
From time to time, you’ll hear the occasional tale of a celebrity adoption, but rarely will you hear about the heroic woman who made that adoption possible. In 2014, the latest data available, 18,329 women in the United States chose to place their children for adoption. That same year, more than 900,000 women chose abortion.
Similar to the argument over whether someone is “pro-choice,” “pro-abortion,” “pro-life,” or “anti-abortion,” the language we use to describe adoption is important. It shapes the way we perceive these women, the decisions they make, and the decisions others will make if faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
When a woman chooses abortion, for example, we don’t say that woman chose to “give up” her child in an abortion. Instead, we say, “she got an abortion.” But for adoption, we enable negative stereotypes. We’re okay acting as if birth mothers who choose adoption are “giving their children up,” as if it’s the end.
But Kelly didn’t “give up” her birth son when she chose adoption. Alex is now 10 years old and a thriving young boy with a relationship with her and two loving married parents, to boot.
Now, I understand why Planned Parenthood and their allies don’t go around “shouting” about the estimated 900,000 women who choose to “give their children up” in abortion each year. The thought is almost too much to bear. But I don’t understand why anyone—abortion supporters or not—is okay assuming these stereotypes about brave birth mothers who choose adoption instead.
Kelly gave her birth son the greatest gift a woman can bear—the chance at life. It’s long past due for the language we use surrounding adoption to reflect that. That’s because “birth mommies,” as Alex calls them, are some of the greatest among us.