The Corner

Politics & Policy

Getting Weird Out There

Pro-abortion rights activist Alicia Hurt holds a placard during a protest outside the Supreme Court building, ahead of arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

The New York Times today printed a defense of legal abortion in the form of a personal essay. It went under the title “I Was Adopted. I Know the Trauma It Can Inflict.

The essay grows out of the moment in oral arguments at the Supreme Court this week when Justice Barrett was questioning counsel about the burdens of parenthood that were cited in the reasoning for making abortion available before viability. Barrett asked whether those burdens were sufficiently lifted by the presence of “safe harbor” laws whereby women can surrender their parental rights shortly after birth. It was not, as has been suggested by Barrett’s critics, an attempt to suggest that adoption is easy and simple and satisfies every demand that pro-choice women want from the legal system. It was a simple inquiry into what actually constitutes relief for these supposed burdens.

In any case, the author of this Times essay explains that adoption is traumatic. That’s easy to believe. But the evidence she cites is curious:

Researchers have a term for what children who are adopted, even as infants, may suffer from later in life: relinquishment trauma. The premise is that babies bond with their mothers in utero and become familiar with their behaviors. When their first caretaker is not the biological mother, they register the difference and the stress of it has lasting effects.

This comes at the end of a long section in which she describes the bonding between unborn child and mother during pregnancy as a kind of maternal brainwashing.

But this is a curious way to defend abortion, since it seems to show that nature primes mothers and children to bond early in pregnancy and that the experience of the unborn child in utero is emotionally formative. This seems to be making the pro-life argument for the reality of an unborn child’s personhood.


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