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A woman reevaluates her anti-abortion rights views after adopting a child

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The debate around abortion has been framed by the loudest voices on the issue, those for whom it's very clear-cut one way or the other. But for most Americans, abortion isn't that way at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: It's just not simple. None of it's simple.

MARTIN: Over the next two days, we're going to hear from two women whose positions on abortion have changed over time because of their own personal experiences. Today, a woman who reevaluated her anti-abortion views after adopting a child from an unwanted pregnancy.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Oh, she is so sweet. She is curious about everything in the world. She's very kind and empathic. If anyone is sad or having a tough time, she's the first one to bring them their favorite stuffed animal, to give them comfort. She's beautiful.

All right, sweetie, you ready for me to do your hair?

MARTIN: When I talked to her the other day, she was braiding her adopted daughter's hair before summer camp.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Do you want braids or ponytail?

(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Oh, hi, sweet boy. Hi. Hi, sweet one. Do you want ponytail or braid?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Braids.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Braids? OK, do you want - that's OK. Do you want one braid or two?

MARTIN: We're granting her and her kids anonymity to talk freely about intimate details of their family's experience. She's a therapist in Chicago, a devout Christian and the mother of four kids. She and her husband struggled for years to get pregnant naturally. Infertility treatments weren't a good option because of her diabetes. They started to look at adoption, but the process was too lengthy, too expensive. Then surprise news - she was pregnant. And then another surprise, this one in the form of a text message. It was from a former co-worker's daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: The text said, my mother had mentioned that you all were looking into adoption. Is that still true? I'm wondering if you would adopt my baby. This mother - birth mother was probably in a really tough spot. And, you know, we'd always wanted to do adoption. So I felt this excitement of, oh, like, she's needing this. And we've always dreamt of doing this, and the timing feels crazy. But I called my husband in from the other room, showed him the text. And his eyes just lit up, like, the same way they lit up when I told him I was pregnant.

MARTIN: She and her husband got to be in the hospital when the baby was born. And because she had just given birth herself, our therapist could actually breastfeed her new adopted baby. They all spent the next few days getting to know each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: It was very, very sweet time. We looked at photos on the computer of when the birth mother was a little girl and just spent time together chatting. And at the end of that, the birth mother said, You know, I think I'd like to do visits. Would you guys be able to come back later this year for a visit? And we said, absolutely. And so we've done visits now at least once a year.

MARTIN: But as stable as all that is, the whole adoption process has forced her to rethink what had been pretty rigid views against abortion.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Ten years ago, my perspective was really simple. I thought, hey, there's houses where women could go where they would be taken care of while they're pregnant. There's options if they want to keep their baby to have that support. You know, and if they don't want to do that, there's adoption. And so I felt like, I believe life begins at conception. And I believe that it's best for the woman to complete the pregnancy cycle, if they terminate a pregnancy early, that that is not in the best interest of their physical and emotional health. My experience of adoption has changed my views. You know, when I stood there in the hospital, there was one moment where the birth mother handed her into my arms. And I had just given birth three weeks earlier. And I was very aware that what was happening in that moment was heartbreaking. There was beauty in it, but there was nothing simple about it.

MARTIN: So she now believes adoption isn't at all the easy solution to an unwanted pregnancy. But the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has pushed her even further away from the anti-abortion views she once held. I called her back yesterday.

Thank you for being willing to get back on the line with me. How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: I think there's been a lot of disbelief and a lot of tears. I feel like throughout the weekend, I'll have these grief waves for different populations and different reasons.

MARTIN: Explain that - because you were someone not too many years ago who described herself as pro-life, as anti-abortion.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Mmm hmm. Yeah. I think many years ago, I would have thought this was a victory. And I'm just deeply grieved. I mean, I feel the grief for just women in general right now who are feeling retraumatized by the government and just as I think about how many women are in difficult situations where they don't have a lot of supports around them.

MARTIN: Do you still consider yourself pro-life?

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Yeah, you know, it's so - I wish that there were not these, like, pro-life or pro-choice camps. I feel like it depends on how you define pro-life. And I still think life begins at conception. But I wish I could name a third option that wasn't just pro-life or pro-choice because I feel like it's so complicated. And the needs are so complicated, and our society is so far from being able to meet those needs that I don't know how to answer, which I guess just shows the spot of ambiguity that I'm in.

MARTIN: But she is clear-eyed about the consequences of the court's decision. She says there aren't nearly enough social services to care for the people who will now be forced to carry their pregnancies to term - noi paid work leave to recover, not to mention the time and money required to take care of the children themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: I'm angry at the government and the church for failing to provide those supports and to come together. I'm scared they're going to continue to neglect the needs of these vulnerable populations. So yeah, it is a lot. There's so many layers. I know I've been grieving a lot. I believe that I have felt Jesus grieving with me. I'm just sort of desperately hoping things will change, not just because of the law but because people will take all of this more seriously and begin to actually put their time and their energy and their actions towards loving.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Miranda Kennedy
Miranda Kennedy is a supervising editor on Morning Edition. She leads political coverage, manages the show's editorial content, and plans stories for the daily program. In her role, she has led live coverage with David Greene following the 2015 Paris attacks and reported from China with Steve Inskeep for two weeks in 2017.