Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who's allowed to be a mother?

I recently reread "Grass" by Sheri S. Tepper. It's set in the future, and the Earth is severely over populated - so much so that on Earth, nobody is allowed to have more than two children. If they have more than that, they have to emigrate to a colony planet. And any third child still on Earth is not allowed to reproduce. Marjorie, the protagonist, visits "Breedertown", where the supernumerary women and children live while waiting for transport to a colony. She helps a teenager, who is a third and therefore illegal child, get an illegal abortion. Marjorie explains that if the teenager had had her child, it would have been taken from her and sold to a colony world, and the teenager would have been picked up by the population police. Certainly she would not have been allowed to be a mother, either way.

Then I started thinking about international adoption. On the whole, I'm glad we gave that idea up. It's one thing to want to have a child, and to choose a child that already exists and needs a home, rather than to have treatments to try to bear one that my body isn't capable of on its own... but what about the mothers of those children? The ones who have to hide their pregnancy, the ones who have no way of supporting themselves and their child, the ones who already have too many children to feed but who will continue longing for and wondering about the one they gave up... and the ones who are dead, the ones who were raped and had no way of getting an abortion, the ones who have no choice at all, neither reproductive or otherwise... Is their life improved by our taking their children? If they did have a choice, would they choose to have their children sent away to the other side of the world? Then there are those who never wanted to give up their children, those who had their children stolen and sold to adoptive parents. There is trafficking in children just as there is in women, except in the case of children it's legalised and called international adoption.

This is not to say that international adoption is always wrong or bad. But merely looking at what areas the adoptive parents come from compared to the areas the children come from should tell us a lot about the economic and power structure of our world, as well as about how women and children are valued.

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