Pregnancy for Pay

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

We’ve already heard from several women who were coerced or pressured into having an abortion by the men who impregnated them. This next reader’s story centers on a man who tried to get her to adopt her baby—for profit:

Please don’t use my name. Even 30 years later, it would be dangerous for some of the people in my life to know what I did.

I was a junior in college who had been dating a young man who had already graduated. He was an engineer and a military pilot, already making a good life for himself.

New Year’s found him released from base and back on home turf. We attended a party and happily kissed at midnight before retiring back to my apartment. At my last GYN appointment, the doctor had declared me unsuitable for the pill. IUDs were all but gone from the market, and everyone I had known who used the sponge seemed to have been left chewing nails staring at the calendar. So we used condoms.

Everything was fine until suddenly my boyfriend declared the sex didn’t feel good enough, pulled the condom off, plunged in, and immediately shot off. I just knew within minutes I was pregnant.

He kept telling me there was no way I was pregnant, even after I passed out at work several days later. The pregnancy was confirmed in the ER days before my period was even missed. Boyfriend’s first words were “My parents can never know.” Not exactly supportive.

Infertility is the norm in my family, and there were concerns about birth defects from my boyfriend’s side, so I decided I needed to speak to a geneticist before making a decision. A friend recommended her OB. I made the appointment.

The doctor was charming, talkative and friendly, asking many questions about my boyfriend. I told him I was unprepared to be a mother but would go through with the pregnancy if it was likely to be the only chance for a child.

Something changed suddenly: The doctor had his office manager call a lawyer, and he called unknown people and left messages that he “had someone for you to meet.” Asking what was going on, he told me it was illegal for me to sell the baby, but he would coach me on how to extract the most money from the adoptive parents. He kept circling back to the fact that my baby could only have blue eyes—and blue eyes were worth more. (Years later I can only assume he was thinking of his finder’s fee.)

Standing to walk out, I was physically corralled into another room. When I stepped out into the hallway attempting again to leave, I was moved again. Now bawling my eyes out, the doctor and his manager bounced me around from room to room like a pinball telling me I was too upset to leave, that I couldn’t be seen in public, that I might pass out again from crying so hard, that it was all for the best if I stayed.

One or the other stayed with me until I was locked in a back office for some 20 minutes and only let out when I started knocking on the door relentlessly. Finally they let me go. I had been there over two hours.

The doctor came to my work for lunch nearly every day for the next two weeks asking if I wanted to talk. (His office would be closed down a year later amid rumors of stolen money.)

The boyfriend mailed a check for the abortion. There were so many protesters at the clinic, but there were also volunteers who made a tunnel from the parking lot to the door who kept me safe.

The procedure was fine. Walking in the door of my apartment afterward, someone quipped that I looked like the most relieved woman in the world. I was.

Days before my 39th birthday, I gave birth to a daughter. I conceived very easily, even so late in life. She’s awesome—I won’t even try to humblebrag—but it scares me as she ages that she will have less control over her life then I did.

Motherhood is a blast—when you have the ability, support, money and desire to do it well. But it should never, ever be forced on anyone.