Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My New Love: Options Counseling

I have a new found love: options counseling. Who knew? I mean, I've done options counseling for years; but in my experience, it's not that common many women ask for it. Usually, women who call the clinic already know they want an abortion. They've had a few days (weeks, months) to think about it. They're certain. Or they wouldn't call to begin with. (Most of the time.)

Occasionally, however, a woman calls and says she is unsure of her decision and wants to talk to someone. Even so, almost every single person I've spoken to only considered two options: abortion or motherhood. Not adoption. I've never thought it was odd women didn't include adoption in their options; and I assumed for those that adoption was a serious consideration, they'd just call the local Open Adoption agency (like this one) or maybe their church. Not the abortion clinic.

I've recently provided options counseling to two women only considering abortion or adoption. Believe it or not, in my many years as an abortioneer, I had never ever ever talked to a woman who considered adoption (unless she was over the gestational limit for an elective abortion and adoption or giving birth became her only options. But that's different.)! How I've gone so long talking to zero women about adoption (because they've all been like, "Um. Nope! Can't do adoption. No way!") might be strange.

I have no clue what I'd do without Anne Baker's "Abortion and Options Counseling" (here or here) and The Pregnancy Options Workbook. I have to say, though, I have loved.loved.loved.loved this new experience in options counseling where adoption has entered the equation. I feel stretched. I'm learning more. And it's fascinating! Maybe because it's new to me. Regardless, these two women have taught me a lot and I find myself thinking of them regularly. They've reminded why I love - even adore - this work so much. They've reminded me to stop. To pause. In options counseling, you need to get to know the women better. To listen to their hearts, their dreams, their deepest desires. I get an opportunity to do a really good job. To excel at my work. To listen.Listen.Listen. To ask hard questions that maybe others can't ask. To feel honored to be the person to listen. To make a connection with more depth and even get to spend more time with them.

When a woman is right on the cusp between two completely different lives, two completely worlds, it's astonishing. Awesome. Really quite amazing to witness. In all seriousness, when these options counseling sessions take place, I hear in my mind Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken,"
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Frost knew what he was talking about. It's hard to make decisions, to make choices. I think these women are quite incredible and brave. And I truly feel honored to listen to them. Grateful, even. And...on that note, dear Abortioneers...if you haven't yet heard, here's some super duper fab news: The Backline (Options Counseling talkline) is re-opening starting THURSDAY! Check it out here. Congrats, Backline!


  1. I can understand why a woman would never consider adoption. I can't imagine going through a pregnancy, giving birth, and holding a beautiful baby in my arms.. just to give him/her away for someone else to parent. It'd be all too painful.

    I'm really glad that pro-choicers are doing adoption counseling, though. It's so much better than an anti-choice CPC pressuring a woman to give her child up for adoption. SO much better. I could never choose adoption, but if it works for other women, all the more power to them :)

  2. If you want a good read on why adoption is not such a fancy option, check out The Girls Who Went Away: http://www.thegirlswhowentaway.com/

    I blogged about it last Summer, but I still cite it as some of the best evidence against adoption as the pinnacle of unwanted pregnancy options.

  3. ProChoiceGal: I, too, can relate to why a woman would choose between abortion and parenthood and not abortion and adoption. It's hard for me to relate to adoption being an option and it seems like many women who contact clinics feel the same. I wouldn't be able to say good-bye to a lovely little wee thing and never know what might happen in the future. I'd feel haunted. Already, as parent, when my child goes to school, I worry about the influences around them when I am not there, ready to protect at any moment.

    Having said that, I've learned a lot from these women recently who have been considering adoption. It's a real consideration for them and it's helped me stretch.

    Anti-Anti: I will go back and re-read that post from last year!

  4. I could never do adoption either. I would go crazy with wondering about how the kid was doing.
    I had a difficult upbringing. I'm convinced I would be an abusive parent in one way or another but still know I would keep the kid. Disturbing thought, huh?


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