PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) issued a non-apology apology on Facebook for their campaign to offer a free vasectomy if you sterilize your pet “in honor of” National Infertility Awareness Week. They said “We meant no offense to those who are struggling to conceive. Please know that there are many people who wish to be sterilized—it’s those people that we’re aiming to reach.” They chose not to address the real, and for most of us only, issue—their tying the free vasectomy offer to National Infertility Awareness Week. However, several people on Twitter have told me that they received a response from PETA saying basically that the infertility community should not be offended because they can always just adopt. I received several comments to this effect on my blog (PETA Takes Aim and Hits the Infertile)
As an adoptive mom, adoption educator, and adoption proponent, let me take a moment to address why “just adopting” is not a cure for infertility. Adoption was Plan A for me. I always knew that I wanted to adopt, and it was my plan since childhood. It was and is the right choice for me. It is not, however, the right choice for everyone.
The phrase “just adopt” shows a lack of understanding about adoption in the US. Adoption favors the young, heterosexual, “healthy”, upper middle class couple. If you don’t fit that description, adoption is often a slow difficult process. It may still be possible, but the adjective “just”, with its implications of “easy”, certainly doesn’t fit.
It is true that adopting children from foster care is an option for singles, gays (depending on the state) and those of moderate income. This is a terrific option for many. However, most of the 130,000 US children that are legally free to adopt through foster care are above the age of 6, have experienced trauma, and many are part of sibling groups. Parenting these kids is not a good option for many people, and I suspect is not an option many of those who bandy about the phrase “just adopt” would consider for themselves.
Adoption is also not a good option in general for many infertile people. Parenting means different things to different people. Most people never have to dissect what they want out of parenthood. They grow up vaguely assuming that someday they will become a parent, and then they give birth. End of story. But if you are infertile, you have to go the next step to decide what parenthood means to you.
Some people decide that their ultimate goal is parenting. They want to go through the process of raising a child: the wiping of droolly chins; the flat footed ballet recitals; the sitting on the bench of endless ball games; the Christmas morning chaos of paper, cookies, and wonder; the sleepovers; the teaching to drive; the senior prom; the coming home from college; the grandkids. These folks have options if they find themselves infertile– donor eggs, surrogate, or adoption. I don’t want to minimize their pain at losing a biological connection, or their need to grieve this loss, or the financial costs, but they can and most often do, move forward to become happy and content parents. For them, these Plan Bs are an alternative path to their real goal of parenting.
For others, their dreams of parenthood are not so simple. Yes, they want to raise a child, but not just any child. They want and need the biological connection to this child. They crave the genealogical continuity. They are too wounded by infertility to risk adoption. Most people I talk to who feel this way, wish they didn’t. They wish they could just accept the Plan B of adoption.
Rather than judge them as a failure or as selfish for not being able to accept the more conventional second option, I respect them for knowing what is right for them and not trying to blindly make adoption fit. If it is not “right” for them, it is also not right for any child they might have had through adoption.
How anyone can feel anything but compassion for those suffering with the disease of infertility is truly beyond me. Come on PETA, have the guts to admit you made a mistake.
Image credit: marsmettn tallahassee