Katherine Heigl, I’m Calling You Out On Adoption

Katherine Heigl is adopting a child because she’s “done with the whole idea of having my own children.”

“I wanted to tell everybody so you don’t think I stole a Korean baby,” she said, laughing.

She’s getting a lot of sympathy in the press for adopting a child with medical issues. Okay, I get that, nice humanitarian effort and all. BUT, baby selling is not a laughing matter. It is devastating to adoptees and birth families alike. And there is too much of a “rescuer” mentality here for my liking, as if she is trying to garner sympathy for being so big-hearted as to adopt a special-needs child. Is she going to give up her career to be available 24/7 to this child? Could she have accomplished the same thing by adopting, say, a 15 year old African-American boy, someone who is not as malleable as an infant?

I understand Heigl’s character on Gray’s Anatomy was a birth mom. I can’t speak to that because my TV watching consists almost exclusively of science fiction (why bother with mainstream stuff when I’m busy plowing through the entirety of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys? Mmm.. Kevin Sorbo…) But I can tell you about Heigl’s show from a few years back, Roswell, in which she played a half human/half alien hybrid whom–ahem!–had no access to her origins. In other words, the epitome of the sealed-records adoptee.

Let me quote some of Heigl’s dialogue from the season 2 episode, “Surprise”. In this scene Heigl’s character Isabel has returned to her place of origin, the pod chamber where she and the other three human/alien hybrids awoke. She’s just been through a really traumatic experience on her birthday, no less, and she begins a monologue to her birth mother.

Happy birthday, Isabel. I’m 18 today, Mother. October 25th, at least that’s the day we’ve always celebrated as my birthday, but you’re the only one who really knows the real day. I guess that’s why I came to the only place I’ve ever seen you. I loved that day, but you disappeared and the picture of you is already fading and it’s all I had. I was so happy because you were beautiful and warm and I even though I looked like you. But it wasn’t you, not really. I don’t know what you look like. Maybe I’ll never know. It isn’t fair, I need you! Where are you? God, it’s my birthday, we should be together! How could you leave us? How could you tell us that important information about destinies and saving the world and then just disappear… answer me!

I can’t watch that scene without crying because it pretty much sums up exactly what I’d like to ask my own mother every year on my own birthday.

I wonder if Heigl has equated this with her own adoption efforts. For her new daughter’s sake, I hope she has. To watch Roswell is to gain a greater understanding of how much it sucks sometimes to be adopted, how much it especially sucks not knowing where you are from, who your people are, and what your history is… and what lengths others are willing to go through to keep you from knowing.

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Comments

  1. Be prepared, I got hate mail for chiding KH for posting photos of her newly adopted child on her foundation’s blog — the foundation that champions adopting animals — right above an announcement of a pet adoption fair. Adopt a pet today!

  2. I read about that. As an adoptee I get sick of being lumped in with pets and highways.

    As for hate mail, let ’em. I’ve been on the Internet long enough to handle trolls.

  3. I also think it is wrong for you to judge Katherine Heigl without clearly knowing the facts. For example, the reason she wished to adopt was because her sister (also Korean) was adopted in the 1970s before Katherine was born and has been such as important person in her life. Also the quote you had at the beginning of this article is misrepresents her as it was taken from the press conference for her movie Knocked Up. She was laughing and joking about the birth sequence where her character has an extremely painful birth without any medication. The comment was said in jest. As for posting photographs of the child – this was done to try and prevent the crazy paparazzi situation she has to deal with every day. As she said on Ellen Degeneres show she went shopping and was surrounded by 50 photographers and whilst she signed up to that, her child did not and she would do everything to protect her. Don’t be so quick to judge her. I think she and her husband have done a wonderful thing.

  4. Hi Phil, thanks for writing. In my opinion, as an adult adoptee it’s my duty to younger adoptees to speak out. Just because Heigl has an adopted sister doesn’t mean she knows what it means to be adopted. Who knows, maybe she’ll turn out to be an ideal adoptive mom who validates her child’s feelings about adoption, whatever they may be, and supports her child’s right to know her origins 100%. That would be a welcome change, especially for celebrity adoptions.

    As for the jest, I don’t find anything funny about baby selling. Many people think she’s doing a wonderful thing but I think, too often, people adopt at least in part so others will tell them what a wonderful thing they’re doing (known in adoption circles as the “rescuer” mentality). I’d like to examine the flip side of that coin in the hopes that adoptive parents will bear in mind the viewpoints of adoptees and birth parents.

  5. It’s great you’re trying to educate people on the potential pitfalls of adoption from an adoptees perspective—it’s clearly something you’re passionate about—but I think it would be more instructive to describe your personal experience rather than “calling out” adoptive parents (celebrity or in general). People are more receptive to differing viewpoints when they’re presented in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental manner. The “calling out” approach, on the other hand, typically engenders defensiveness and obscures the intended message.

  6. Hi Anonymous, thanks for writing. Unfortunately I’ve tried the gentle approach and it doesn’t often work. Adoptees have had to get pushy about our viewpoints because they are rarely acknowledged (ditto birth mothers).

  7. The gentle approach? When we are dealing with an adoption-centric society, that feels one never meets an adoption they approve of?

    I happen to like Katherine Heigl as an actress, but after I saw how they handled her character as a birth mother–urging a young woman to do the same–on the show, I never tuned in again except to hurry past when I was channel surfing.

    Every celebrity adoption puts more pressure on the world to come up with more…babies, and that leads to the kind of corruption in adoption that leads to more babies being “found” that are available to be adoption, the kind of corruption and horror show we have been writing about at http://www.firstmotherforum.com.

    Thanks, Triona. I can not take on every movie star who is so eager to save the world by raising someone else’s child. Besides, who am I?

    Nothing but a first mother.

    For every happy adoption, a woman grieves somewhere.

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  9. Improper–I heard the same rumors about Heigl wanting to adopt so as not to ruin her own figure. I read it in some celebrity mag last year while I was on vacation. If it’s true it’s appalling but certainly not unique. I wonder how many other women prefer to adopt because it’s easier to let someone else do the work.

    The Hallmark Channel seems like the Pro-Adoption channel sometimes, not that I really watch it, but maybe that’s because it’s supposed to be “family” entertainment and what’s more wholesome and endearing than a happy adoption story? Yet one more reason I am happy to eschew almost all mainstream American television, current or past.

    Again this situation with Heigl points out how adoption agencies, the media and Hollywood misrepresent adoption in such a way that prospective adopters are led to believe that adoptees don’t need to know or won’t remember, and birth mothers can just go on with their lives. Why? To continue making money off adoption. We who know otherwise are obligated to set the record straight no matter how many times people want to call us “anti-adoption” or other names.

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  11. Hi Improper–I don’t think all infertile women have the attitude that other women should grant them the “gift” of a child. But, I do think that adoption agencies push infertile women into believing the myths of adoption, because of course the agencies benefit when there are more consumers (people who want to adopt) for their products (children). And I don’t think the “gift” mentality is necessarily isolated to barren women. I am under the impression that some women who adopt, esp celebrities (and Heigl may be one of them) are capable of having children but don’t want to because it would ruin their figures or be “messy” or whatever. It’s the height of adoption entitlement, and although it isn’t the case in all circumstances, there is enough of it out there that should give anyone considering adoption pause for thought. Adoption agencies are not a good source of information about adoption because they have a vested interest in making a profit.

  12. Again so many comments judging Katherine Heigl – probably from those who never have even considered adoption. Heigl has joked about her figure and pregnancy, but she has also said many times she fully intends to have birth children but adoption has always been something that was important to her. Her and her husband discussed it long before they were married. You wouldn’t judge your friends or people in the street like this why do people insist on doing the same to someone just because she is famous? Someone mentioned the cover of People magazine. That had nothing to do with Katherine Heigl, it was a story People chose to run. She did not give an interview or provide any photographs or content. The images used were those she had already released when announcing she had adopted Nancy Leigh. Triona – I think the fact Katherine’s sister was adopted means a lot – it puts her in a good position to understand. I am sure she and her sister (they are very close) have probably discussed it at length over many years.

  13. Melanie–You might be surprised but, as an adoptee, for a long time the ONLY way I considered having children was adoption, because it was all I knew. As for not judging people, I am judged every single day by people because I am adopted (and illegitimate–a bastard). I am denied the basic civil right to access my original birth certificate and know my origins. So anybody who mentions adoption to me, friend, acquaintance, total stranger or yes, celebrity, is putting themselves in the position of hearing my opinion. Which they may not like, but as far as I’m concerned being adopted makes me qualified (if not obligated) to comment. Also, if Heigl doesn’t want people remarking about her in public, she should get into a less high-profile job.

    If she is so enthusiastic about helping Korean children, she could just as easily have funneled her celebrity and finances toward this group in Korea that is helping women raise their own children:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/world/asia/08mothers.html?_r=1&ref=world

    Instead she chooses to reinforce the image of Americans “rescuing” and “saving” foreign “orphans” who often are not orphans and not in need of rescue.

    As for discussing adoption with her sister, maybe she has. Like I said, maybe she will turn out to be the 100% perfect adoptive mom and totally support her child’s need to know her origins. That would be a welcome change. But talking about adoption with someone who is adopted does NOT confer the understanding of what it is to BE adopted. Many, many adoptees will tell you that even in the most close-knit of adoptive families, people don’t understand. And many adoptive families, no matter how close-knit, don’t talk about it in depth at all. Adoption is usually the elephant in the living room.

  14. I agree with everything you’ve said. *Thumbs up*. I simply hate celebrity adoptions. Period.

  15. I can’t stand celebrity adoptions either. Probably because I was adopted for the same reason many celebrities adopt: to be a fashion accessory for my adoptive mother. Just think of all the good one celebrity could do by putting that fame and fortune to use helping mothers to raise their own children in their own cultures.

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