TCS Daily

'There Was a Desperation There'

By Sydney Smith - December 30, 2004 12:00 AM

Of all the details of the recent kidnapping and murder in Missouri, perhaps the most pathetic was the image of the murderer, Lisa Montgomery, holding a sweater-swaddled puppy as if it were an infant. The photo captures precisely the driving passion behind the crime -- the overwhelming desire for a baby to have and hold. According to those who knew her, Mrs. Montgomery's desire was an obsession. She repeatedly claimed to be pregnant, even though, according to her ex-husband, she had undergone permanent sterilization years ago; she perpetually wore maternity clothes; and she once told her pastor that if she could only have a baby, she and her current husband would be "attached at the hip." "There was a desperation there," he noted. Indeed there was. A desperate need to experience, if only for a year or two, unconditional love.

Thankfully, Cesarean kidnapping is a rare crime, but the yearning behind it is far from rare. From a strict utilitarian perspective, this lust for maternity makes no sense. Babies are selfish creatures. They only know and care about their own needs. They forever alter the life of their parents, even on the most mundane levels. They have been known to drain a family's disposable income dry and to ruin more than few good retirement plans. And yet, even normal people will go to great lengths to have a child. Some enter loveless matches just to beat the biological clock; others spend small fortunes and subject themselves to painful medical treatments; still others spend small fortunes and travel great distances, all for a child to have and hold.

In the face of all of that longing, it seems a cosmic injustice that each year nearly 1.3 million unwanted children never get the chance to be. The perception is that women choose abortion over adoption because they don't want the burden of a pregnancy, but the reality is that in most cases it isn't the fetus they're trying to avoid, it's the child and all that comes with it. Ninety-percent of women who choose abortions do so for lifestyle reasons -- it would be too expensive, too much responsibility, too life altering to raise a child. Only ten percent resort to abortion for reasons that have to do with the state of pregnancy. And yet, since the legalization of abortion, few women think of placing their unwanted children for adoption. In fact, the rise of abortion has been the death of domestic adoption. From 1973, when abortion became legal to 1995, when it became common, the percentage of non-minority babies offered for adoption declined from 19.3 percent to 1.7 percent. It is now easier to adopt a baby from overseas than to adopt one locally.

The argument is often made that abortion opponents are only interested in protecting unborn children; once a child is born, he's on his own. The underlying assumption is that we lack the village to raise the child. The truth is that we have the village. We have programs to support women and children. And we have "villagers" who are willing to literally raise the children. What we are lacking is the children.

Sydney Smith is a family physician who has been in private practice since 1991. She is board certified by the American Board of Family Practice, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice. She is the publisher of MedPundit.


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