Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
David Scotton knew he was adopted from the time he was a toddler. His parents had never hidden the truth about his origins, nor did they give their son any reason to doubt their unconditional love and support.
But during his teenage years as a student at the Jesuit High School in New Orleans, David thought about his birth mother, whom he had never met, and her fateful choice to continue with her pregnancy. He also examined the grim reality of legal abortion, and felt a deep welling of gratitude that his life had been spared.
When the Louisiana Right to Life sponsored a pro-life oratory contest, David decided to share his story at a school Mass.
“It was the most nerve-wracking speech I have given. But people thanked me for sharing the story and said it really touched them,” David told the Register.
Now 24 years old and a second-year law student at Louisiana State University, he has shared his story in speeches across the country that help others view legal adoption as a genuine option for young birth mothers who aren’t able to care for their children.
And later, the details of his own birth would come into sharper focus, after David met his biological mother, and even returned with her to the site of the abortion clinic, where she made the eleventh-hour decision to protect his life.
Their initial encounter is the highlight of I Lived on Parker Avenue, a short documentary film produced by Joie De Vivre Media and directed by Philip Braun III.
Today, Jan. 18, the film will be screened at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C. Louisiana’s two U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, as well as Representatives Mike Johnson, Garret Graves, Ralph Abraham, and Clay Higgins will be on hand.
The documentary’s official release date is March 8. The story celebrates adoption as a life-giving alternative to abortion for women facing crisis pregnancies, but it also reminds us that David and others like him are loved and treasured by the families that welcome them.
Likewise, this adoption story prompts Americans to consider all the children who languish indefinitely in orphanages, and others stuck in a broken foster care system that leaves too many young lives in limbo.
Last fall, Arthur Brooks, president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute and a Catholic father of several children, recalled his and his wife’s decision to adopt a girl from China. After flying across the world, he bonded with her at first sight, and his daughter is now a high school student.
Yet today, many other families that are also eager to adopt children encounter frustrating roadblocks. The National Council for Adoption reported that “the total number of all adoptions taking place in the U.S. has fallen, from a count of 133,737 adoptions in 2007 to 110,373 (41,023 related adoptions and 69,350 unrelated adoptions) in 2014. More than half of this decline can be attributed to the significant drop in the number of intercountry adoptions by Americans.”
Part of the problem is that both the U.S. and countries abroad have tightened up or suspended adoptions over fears of child trafficking. “Let’s restart the adoption movement,” wrote Brooks in a Nov. 17 column in The Times.
David Scotton, for his part, has been “surprised by the film’s impact on adoptees.”
“They come and share their stories with me,” he said, recalling his encounters with sometimes tearful high school students.
And while David’s experience is presented as a “success story,” he noted that some adoptees have not been so lucky.
“I always sympathize with those situations,” he said. “And what we hope the film can do is be a resource for those who had negative experience. Talking about it can help.”
In the course of the many years David has spoken out in favor of adoption, he has faced some pushback from abortion rights supporters, but it hasn’t stopped him.
“I kept doing what I was born to do: spreading the adoption message.”
“Even when my friends in college were on spring break and I was at the National Adoption Council, I felt great giving back to the cause that gave me life.”
Indeed since their reunion, David and his birth mother have tried to locate and thank the pro-life activist who was present at the Indianapolis abortion clinic when Melissa arrived and was escorted inside.
“Your baby has 10 fingers and 10 toes,” the woman at the pro-life vigil told Melissa.
Her words drew a picture of the child in Melissa’s womb, and prompted her decision to leave the clinic before the abortion could be performed.
Twenty-four years later, her recollections of this pivotal moment are raw and unforgetable. Shocked and remorseful that she even considered an abortion, she fears that David will condemn her. But when they meet for the first time, he embraces her warmly. Amid her tears, her face lights up.
On Jan. 27, David Scotton will be at the March for Life, joining the throng of young Americans who know they are the lucky ones of their generation, the survivors of the abortion holocaust.
Benjamin Clapper, the executive producer of I Lived on Parker Avenue, was motivated by similar concerns and hopes when he began his first film project.
“We wanted to reclaim the beauty of adoption. Infant adoptions have decreased sharply over the last 30 years,” Clapper told the Register.
“There are more people waiting to adopt than there are babies being placed for adoption. Meanwhile, the National Council of Adoption says that just 51 percent of the public had a positive view of an adoption from a birth mother.”
During screenings of the film at Catholic high schools, Capper told students: “You have the power to change the public’s perception of adoption.”
The New Orleans-based director of Louisiana Right to Life, Clapper said he was immediately drawn to David’s story and wanted to bring it to the public.
When he broached the idea of a documenting David’s story, the young man took time to think and pray about it. David and his family members struggled with the decision “to make something this private become public,” Clapper acknowledged, but each one ultimately embraced the project.
Filming began in New Orleans, but the crew also traveled to Columbus, Indiana, where David’s birth mother lives.
The film traces the tragic history behind Susan and Jimmy Scotton’s decision to explore an adoption, and it touches on the personal struggles of Brian and Melissa, his birth parents. But it is mostly about David, his love and respect for his adoptive and birth parents, and his quest to uncover his origins.
“Philip Braun, the director, was great at putting people at ease,” said Clapper.
“He tried to stay out of it and just document the experience.”
Since the film was completed last August, it has been screened at Catholic high schools in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and California, and it was accepted into a film festival in Los Angeles. The trailer is also getting plenty of attention on social media.
During screenings of the film at Catholic high schools, Capper has told students: “You have the power to change the public’s perception of adoption.”
“Many people say, ‘having an abortion is more selfless than giving your child up for adoption,’” he remarked, and Melissa’s struggle to make the right decision challenges that stance.