Family Matters

Is It Selfish to Pursue Fertility Treatments Instead of Adoption?

Should infertile couples forgo their desire for biological children and turn instead to adoption?

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There’s a reason that the desire to have children is so strong. It’s got everything to do with perpetuation of the species, in the long term, and perpetuation of your own DNA — your dimples, your partner’s offbeat sense of humor — in the short.

Of course, there’s a small but satisfied contingent of people who opt not to have kids, and that’s their prerogative. But what about those people who can’t get pregnant naturally? Do they owe it to society to quell their yearning for a biological child and turn instead to adoption?

That’s the topic that Jane Roper tackles this week on Salon. When Roper, a parenting blogger and memoirist, learned she was pregnant with twins, she dreaded having to endure the barrage of questions about how she conceived.

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It wasn’t so much that she was embarrassed. After all, she’s in good company. More than 7 million U.S. women and their partners struggle with infertility; that’s about 12% of the reproductive-age population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nor did she worry about being judged by those who feel fertility treatment is religiously unsound. What bothered Roper was the possibility that she’d be deemed selfish:

And this, I realized, was at the heart of my reluctance to let people know how my twin daughters came to be. I worried they would think I’d acted selfishly. On some level, I wondered if they were right.

Having infertility treatments is selfish, the argument typically goes, because the world population is burgeoning. Meanwhile, there are thousands of children out there in need of good homes. So why don’t infertile couples (or “these women,” as it’s more typically put, as if their partners are merely being dragged along for the ride) just adopt?

Back when we were in our 20s, my husband and I always said we’d adopt if we weren’t able to get pregnant on our own. If it wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be. But when I was just shy of 30, the desire to have a baby kicked in, and it kicked in hard. I wanted to experience pregnancy, and both of us wanted the experience of creating and nurturing a person who was genetically linked to us. It was a primal and surprisingly powerful urge.

MORE: IVF Linked to Ovarian Tumors. Should Women Worry?

Roper’s daughters are now 5, and she’s overcome her uneasiness about a decision she no longer finds “any more selfish than anyone’s choice to have a child.”

An acquaintance of Roper’s dreams of employing this rejoinder when people ask intrusive questions: “Did you consider adopting before you went and tried to have a baby on your own? And if you didn’t, why should I?’”

As more women turn to fertility clinics, it’s certainly a question worth contemplating.

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