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Womens Health Issues. 2015 Jul-Aug;25(4):349-54. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.05.007.

"Choosing Life": Birth Mothers on Abortion and Reproductive Choice.

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Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco, California. Electronic address:



As the least-chosen option when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, adoption remains largely unexamined as a reproductive choice. Although the anti-abortion movement promotes adoption as its preferred alternative to abortion, little is known of birth mothers' pregnancy decision making and whether adoption was chosen in lieu of abortion.


I conducted in-depth interviews with 40 women who had placed infants for adoption from 1962 to 2009. Participants were asked about all aspects of their adoption experiences, including their pregnancy decision making and thoughts on abortion. Interview transcripts were analyzed using grounded theory to find unifying themes speaking to reproductive choice.


Participants' stories revealed widely varying ideas about abortion. Many were opposed to abortion, but a greater number supported abortion as a reproductive choice, although one they did not choose for themselves. Birth mothers were most often choosing between adoption and parenting, not adoption and abortion. Most participants would have preferred to parent, but did not because of external variables. Mixed experiences with adoption also influenced participants' long-term ideas about reproductive choice.


Findings suggest that the anti-abortion framing of adoption as a preferable alternative to abortion is inconsistent with birth mothers' pregnancy decision-making experiences and their feelings about adoption. Reducing social barriers to both abortion and parenting will ensure that adoption is situated as a true reproductive choice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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