Feminism: An Open Letter to Fertile People

[Content Note: Reproductive Coercion, Infertility, Mentions of Racism and Disability] 

Dear Fertile People,

I have been seeing you talk about me, and about people like me, all over twitter and the internets at large since the anti-abortion bills sweeping the country finally, grudgingly, became national news. Anti-choice groups are appropriating us infertile people to try to control the bodies of people with uteri, claiming that without this control, we infertile people will not have enough babies to adopt. Pro-choice groups have pushed back against this harmful and appropriative rhetoric (which is good), but in some cases have done so in ways that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and the choice-policing and shaming of infertile people.

This is a problem.

I am an infertile person, and I want to be very clear: if you are a fertile person, you very probably don't know what it's like to walk in my shoes. I need you to be aware of your ignorance, because there is nothing shameful about ignorance. It is only by being aware of what you don't know that you can learn how to speak about what you don't know in ways that don't cause harm to others.

First, and please repeat after me: Not all infertile people can or will or want to or choose to adopt. You need to understand this, because it is the basis for all that follows. Linking "infertile" with "adoption" as if one flows logically and inevitably from the other, is hugely problematic.

Asking "why don't you just adopt X", where X is a child of color, or a child over a certain age, or a child with a disability, or any other variable that infertile people are presumed not to want (because we're axiomatically racist or ageist or ableist or narcissist or some other shameful -ist if we don't adopt the demographic under discussion) is not only a deeply personal, and deeply hostile, question -- it is also a question which presupposes we are able to adopt in the first place

There are no absolute statements about adoption. But in general: Adoption requires money. Adoption requires time. Adoption requires being willing to open your lives completely to strangers who will judge you based on your disabilities, your credit history, your legal history, your weight on the scale (and your presumed "pre-diabetic" status), your family history, your job, your finances, your religion, your acquaintances, your sexuality, your current and former lovers, your race, your everything. Adoption is not a process where the infertile person just pulls up to their local hospital and tells the valet to pile a dozen babies in the car trunk, and maybe a toddler for afters.

Adoption requires patience and steadfastness in the face of long uncertainty, in situations where your expected child can be taken away (for a variety of reasons, the legitimacy of which I am not questioning on way or the other) at a moment's notice. Adoption means facing institutionalized challenges and prejudices and biases that "natural" families frequently will not face. Adoption means a thousand billion strangers demanding to know every facet of your relationship with your child: Did you change hir name? When did you tell hir that zie was adopted? Why did you adopt the age/color/ability/gender that you adopted? Why didn't you have a child naturally? ALL THE QUESTIONS.

I've known I am infertile for a reasonably long time. In that time, I've met many other infertile people but I've never once met an infertile person who was anti-choice, in part because -- and follow me here -- most infertile people are infertile in ways that would make a pregnancy potentially very dangerous to them. You don't spend years in the offices of fertility doctors comparing horror stories about fatal genetic abnormalities and terrifying miscarriages without (usually) coming to appreciate the value of modern medicine to save the lives of people (like me!) who can't carry a healthy baby safely to term.

For the anti-choice crowd to appropriate us for their cause -- a cause which would, by definition, literally kill many of us -- is wrong. But it is wrong because the anti-choice people are appropriating us and because that kind of appropriation is massively hostile to consent. It is not wrong because infertile people are Doin' It Rong, and when pro-choice people push back against those arguments by shaming us, we get hit from both directions. Please do not do that to us.

A white person who doesn't adopt a black child may come from a toxic family environment where she knows the grandparents and cousins that she will be forced to depend upon for child-rearing assistance will be racist to her child and she isn't comfortable subjecting a child to that. An apparently able-bodied person who doesn't adopt a disabled child may have an invisible disability that leaves her with far too spoons to provide adequate care, and she knows that in advance about herself. A person who doesn't adopt an older child but would like to adopt a baby is allowed to feel that way without shame, in the same way that fertile people are allowed to make babies without shaming despite the existence of older children in need of homes.

And if you can't see why it's problematic to shame an infertile person for hir reproductive choices while purporting to fight for fertile peoples' right to choose, then you need to go sit in the Thinky Corner until you've worked out why that is massively contradictory of you.

Thank you in advance,
~ Ana

Related Reading: 
Genetic Testing Is Not Genetic Engineering (re: Appropriation of Infertile People)
Names and Society (re: "Progressive" Choice-Policing)


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