Friday, November 19, 2010

Liberal Think-Tank Urges Removing Barriers to The Adoption Option...we disagree

So, asks The Adoption Option, what can be done to ensure “that adoption remains an ethical and effective option for women facing an unintended pregnancy”? We shall now discuss the recommendations of recent report from the Center for American Progress. (This is Part 3 of four about the Adoption Option. We are apparently obsessed with it because we find so much of it noxious and injurious to the health of a woman faced with an untimely (i.e., a personal disaster) pregnancy.

In cool think-tank language, the report suggests that there be more studies to find out why women are so much more likely to choose parenting or abortion instead [of adoption]:  "If there are women who choose to place an infant for adoption but do not due to real or perceived barriers, then their decisions merit exploration.” We’ll answer for free: Humans are mammals, and mammals are hard-wired to nurture their young. If you don’t believe us, watch your dog or cat when she has babies. Visit a zoo. Listen to your heart. It boggles the mind, mind--our collective mind at least--to imagine that one does not understand that relinquishing a child has automatic "real and perceived barriers," such as instinctual need to nurture one's own offspring. 

And herein lies the real problem with the report: Throughout its 24 pages, it totally ignores the very human concept that relinquishing a child for adoption is a catastrophe in the life of two people--both mother and child. Yet every person with a heart--except perhaps the writer of this report, Jessica Arons--knows this instinctively. The report treats adoption neutrally, as if it did not cause enormous emotional pitfalls and life-long consequences for these two individuals at the heart of any adoption, and without whom there is no adoption. The report could as well be written about computer widgets, or be asking, Do you want baked potato, fries, or mashed potatoes with your steak? Abortion, raising your child and adoption are all treated as equal.
The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)
The question that the so-called Center for American Progress should investigate is why the adoption industry is such a successful business in America, applauded from presidents to popes. Actually we are being disingenuous, because we have the answer: largely because a great many baby boomers, men and women, delayed conception until it became difficult, or impossible, to conceive (fertility in women goes down after the mid-twenties), and they looked to other women, generally younger, poorer and less well-educated, to supply their need for a child to create a family. Sometimes it feels as if the futuristic world envisioned by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid's Tale has already arrived. 

But we digress. The Adoption Option does at least propose that women receive unbiased counseling from both a social worker and legal counsel. “Women considering adoption … need to have the opportunity to sit down with a trained counselor and explore their emotions with each option—adoption, abortion, or parenting—without coercion, pressure, or bias."

But who is going to pay for "options counseling?" Even Adoption Access Network members, touted as “ethical adoption agencies” (as opposed those with religious or political agendas) are funded largely by prospective adoptive parents who have little interest in paying for counseling that leaves them childless. AAN agencies, by the way, have plastered abortion clinics with adoption-promotion posters and not surprisingly, do not include the abortion option in their marketing. So much for lack of bias.

Ms Arons does suggest—and we wholeheartedly agree--that counselors should remind the mother-to-be at every phrase that she has no obligation to relinquish her child regardless of any financial support she may have received. But then the the report ignores the hook buried in the financial-aid bait held out to women who relinquish their children. Agencies, including AAN members, threaten nearly destitute mothers with having to repay the thousands of dollars spent on them if they keep their babies. The choice many young women find they face is: give us your baby or face bankruptcy. 

Ethics in American AdoptionInstead of talking to lawyers (who usually have an interest in facilitating adoptions, because if there is no relinquishment, they are not needed) and social workers employed by an adoption agency, any woman considering surrendering her child for adoption should hear from the Child Welfare League of America, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, or Anne Babb, adoptive mother, social worker and author of Ethics in American Adoption. All wholeheartedly agree that “every attempt should be made to preserve the family of origin, and when family preservation is not possible, to safely place the child in the extended family.

Furthermore, Ms. Arons wants to protect mothers from those pesky “biological fathers and family members” who try to interfere with an “adoption plan." It strikes us that any “options counselor” worth her humanity would consider support from fathers and family members a plus rather than a threat, but then any threat to an adoption is a threat to the black ink side of the adoption agency's ledger. We also wonder how Ms. Arons would keep those pesky fathers and family members away? Train pregnant women to bar the door when their mothers come a-knocking with a cupful of advice and offers of help in raising the child?

There is also whole other dimension to the adoption industry that is ignored altogether--the  unregulated private adoption market. These adoptions, arranged by attorneys and facilitators, constitute more than half of infant adoptions. Slick ads on the internet and come-ons from couples in the print media lure vulnerable women. Find perfect parents through the Penny Saver, just as Juno did in the eponymous movie. One of us saw such an ad on a place mat at a local burger and brew joint; an ad runs every week in one of our weekly newspapers. Quite plaintly, the ads are everywhere. 

And although we are aware that some open adoptions stay that way, open, we all know that a great many of them eventually close within the first  year or two, or that were never open, as the word intends. We do not believe that prospective adopters who promise to send photos and letters through the agency with updates about the child are ever open; those are merely ploys to get unsuspecting but desperate young women to relinquish their children. Adopters in such so called "open adoptions" who do not keep their end of the bargain--after a birth mother has given up her child--are not liable in any court of law to comply, nor can they be forced to by the legal system.--Jane and lorraine
Next: The reforms suggested in The Adoption Option.


  1. Fathers and the wider families suffer the loss too, much more than many give them credit for.
    Adoption in America has dug itself into a deep hole and pulled down the hatch of legislation and unethical practices.It will be a hard one to dig out of.

  2. I'm just going to play devils advocate here, but I wonder how you can use the "we're hardwired to care and nurture our babies" when the abortion rates reflect a completely different story. I think this Think Tank is only trying to find out how to make adoption as easy a choice as abortion as mothers seem to be more comfortable with killing their babies then giving them to someone else to look after.


  3. "Furthermore, Ms. Arons wants to protect mothers from those pesky “biological fathers and family members” who try to interfere with an “adoption plan."

    Pesky biological fathers. Hello! Biology 101. Don't those pesky natural fathers have something to do with the child's existence in the first place? Just saying :)

    This country is truly frightening. We never seem to acknowledge the enormous pain that adoption causes the first mother and the child. It seems no matter how much we scream it from the rooftops, the adoption industry still has the upper hand and the "just have the child and give it up for adoption" people go blithely on their way.

  4. "Furthermore, Ms. Arons wants to protect mothers from those pesky “biological fathers and family members” who try to interfere with an “adoption plan."

    Pesky biological fathers. Hello! Biology 101. Don't those pesky natural fathers have something to do with the child's existence in the first place? Just saying :)

    This country is truly frightening. We never seem to acknowledge the enormous pain to the first mother and the child that adoption causes. It seems no matter how much we scream it from the rooftops that the adoption industry still has the upper hand and the "just have the child and give it up for adoption" people go blithely on their way.

  5. Some liberals have said that there should be no social stigma about women being promiscious. They said that women should own thier sexuality. They claimed that women could be like men and have sex without any emotional attachment. That isn't true, women aren't wired like that. I don't believe in the "free love" thing.

    Women have the hormone oxytocin which bonds them to thier sexual partners. This is probably an evolutionary biological function that makes the women want to keep the man around to support her and any offspring which are produced by the sexual relationship. Women also have powerfull hormones that bond them to thier babies. It goes against the true essence of a woman's femininity and humanity to not love and bond with her baby.

    They seem to be trying this with adoption now. It's not "free love" now it's "free babies". Hey pregnant women you can put your baby up for adoption and be a Bee-Mommy! You own your fertility girl! Don't let anyone stigmatize you! Go on and give your baby away it's so empowering. Be a birth slut!

    If infant adoption was ment to be a healthy natural human reproductive function then human females would lay eggs. Oh boo hoo poor infertile you! Ya want one of mine? Ok hold on a sec... Bee-Mommy squats down and Plop! Here ya go!

    Egg donor women have no attachment to thier offspring other than curiosity because they breed like a fish. They get pumped full of hormones untill they ejaculate dozens of eggs which are put in a petri dish filled with fluid and have some random guys sperm dumped them and then it's bye bye! My job is done.

    Infant adoption is sub-human, it's socially stigmatized for a good reason and it's only desperate women who put thier babys up for adoption and desperate women who adopt them.

  6. I believe that one agenda behind this report may be a further reduction of the abortion rate and a way to discourage single motherhood: both of those things are on the radar of the administration. Both Obama and Clinton said they wanted to see the abortion rate reduced while simultaneously supporting abortion rights. Obama's fatherhood initiative (which I don't believe he started, but which he is carrying on) is pretty anti-single mother and all their research focuses on the negatives of raising a child yourself.

    Against this backdrop I just have a feeling that in the minds of some, adoption is this bright, shiny, under-utilized path that they ought to be talking about more.

  7. Osolo: The Adoption Option freely admits that making it more comfortable for women to give up their children will not impact the abortion rate. I think we covered this in one of the earlier posts, but it's good to say that again and again because...some people will only read this post.

    We've missed you here.

  8. Lilliput: How a woman feels after she has a child can in no way be compared to the the feelings of having an abortion. It is a completely different experience, and the body/brain/heart knows.

    Perhaps you should read some biology instead of spouting off your anti-abortion rhetoric.

    Perhaps you should educate yourself.

  9. Jill wrote:Women have the hormone oxytocin which bonds them to thier sexual partners."

    Then I guess some of us are in big trouble, all those "bonds" from our misspent youth:-) Gee, do we have to marry them all? Personally I would cross the street to avoid most of them.

    The only person's "promiscuity" any of us have a right to worry about is our own and our partner's.
    Yes, women have a right to sexual freedom, and individual women, like individual men are different.
    Human beings do not run on hormones and instincts alone, we are not mindless lab rats, male or female. I guess you are now on anti-feminist, having exhausted anti-gay.

  10. Jimmy, I'm by no means anti abortion - I'm a realist. We can't use the "hard wired to nurture" argument while there are so many women having abortions. It just doesn't make sense. From a purely biological and evolutionary point of view giving a baby away is actually the most efficient way of reproducing - like a cuckoo bird that lays its eggs in another birds nest.

    From a psychological point of view - attachment with baby starts in utero so please enlighten me how the experience is different to say losing a child to miscarriage, still birth or abortion - which has been known to cause severe distress as in post abortion syndrome.


  11. Lilliput,

    I had two miscarriages, both at 3 1/2 months after I lost my first child to adoption. The experiences were totally, completely, different. The miscarriages caused a little sorrow and were quickly forgotten. I continue to grieve for my lost daughter after 44 years.

    I have known many women who gave up a child and then had an abortion. All report that they got over the abortion quickly but never got over losing their child.

    The reason, I think, is that the bonding hormones don't begin to kick in until the end of the pregnancy. They become really powerful when the baby is born. This makes sense. Since miscarriages are common, about one of 90 pregnancies, nature protects us if we lose the baby. Once the baby is born, nature tries to insure that we will care for it.

    Unfortunately many women decide on adoption before birth and before the nurturing hormones have kicked in. After the baby is born, they are convinced to ignore their emotions. They sign consents thinking that will lend the longing for their child. It doesn't.

  12. "The Adoption Option freely admits that making it more comfortable for women to give up their children will not impact the abortion rate."

    I know, and I agree, and those who talk about increasing the availability of adoption may not think it'll have any impact either. But it's a good spin if you want to capture the pro-life, pro-marriage vote. When people talk of abortion and adoption like the president did in his pre-election campaign, they don't seriously mean there's going to be an impact. It's just that adoption's the bright shiny option that ought to be trotted out and not forgotten.

  13. I believe there is more to human emotion than hormones. I had a miscarriage between my third and fourth child. It was between two and three months. I still remember that child with sadness, would it have been my only daughter? I still remember that age that child would have been when I meet someone that age.

    No, it was not the pain of giving up a child for adoption, but it was not a non-event either. I have never had nor wanted an abortion so cannot speak to that personally, but I know women who regretted and grieved over abortions, and others who were not bothered at all.I do not think it is matter of hormones but a matter of circumstance, beliefs, and choice of the woman having the abortion. Some women were pushed into doing something they believed was wrong, others really felt that they made the right choice for themselves.

    I do not feel grief about my surrendered son any more because he is back in my life.

    Human beings have imagination, feelings, ideas, beliefs,needs, that are not all hormonally induced, including mothers, and these can vary greatly from person to person.

  14. Regarding "post-abortion syndrome," this is a term that originated as a propaganda tool of the anti-abortion movement. I have reviewed the research literature in this area and woman who have abortions do NOT suffer from significantly greater levels of psychological distress than those who complete their unintended pregnancies.

  15. Lorraine, I read the entire report- not just the summary - and did not come to the exact conclusions you mention.

    Granted, I'm not a birth mother but an adopted adult. So the phrases which triggered critical thought were different for me than for you.

    First, I thought it was significant that an admittedly liberal group was willing to discuss reducing abortion rates! This would have been unheard of a generation ago.

    Second, my overall impression was that the report did not gloss over some issues as NCFA would have done. Minority adoptions and foster adoptions are the elephant in adoption's living room, as much as we like to focus on infant Caucasian adoptions. Far too many nonwhite children are in foster settings, and current Federal legislation seems to see fast-tracking terminations of parental rights to facilitate adoptions as the best way to clear this backlog. As a volunteer CASA, I see this tilting of the courts all too often.

    The report at least addressed needed reforms in open adoption enforcement, and mentions fathers' rights which is seldom addressed but growing in importance. The report does attempt to ask people to see past stereotypes to the individuals involved.

    My sensitivity was to the way the report focuses on pregnant women and largely leaves out studies of the outcomes for a significant portion of the adoption population, that class I represent. While studies seem to exist for mothers who choose abortion, parenting or adoption, what about measuring the outcomes of those who were adopted or kept? As a social policy guideline, results for children should be an important input, shouldn't it?

    Again, this is your forum, but if we are going to lobby or debate public policy would it be too much to ask what is best for the children involved?

  16. d2bob, We agree that discussions of adoption policy should include what's best for the children involved. As you note, the CAP report ignores this aspect of adoption altogether, treating adoption as a mother's consumer choice. It does not even recommend that mothers be counseled on the impact of adoption on their child.

    CAP's thesis is that if there are improvements in the adoption process and more publicity about the benefits of adoption for mothers, more women will choose adoption over raising their children themselves.

    CAP does not advocate for increasing adoptions in order to reduce abortions, a point CAP makes clear in the title of the report, "The Adoption Option: Adoption won't Reduce Abortion but it Will Expand Women's Choices."

    We believe based on own experience and the conclusions of adoption researchers that children do best if they are raised by their natural parents. If this is not possible, they should be raised by relatives. Stranger adoption should be a last resort for those children whose families cannot care for them.

    And yes, CAP should be given credit for reporting that too many children are in foster care needlessly and that fathers rights need to be protected.

  17. I stopped reading at this:

    "We’ll answer for free: Humans are mammals, and mammals are hard-wired to nurture their young. If you don’t believe us, watch your dog or cat when she has babies."

    OMG, really? Just google "what mammals eat their young" and you'll find how wrong you are. And I can tell you, I look at my dogs when they are with their mother, and I can tell you, their mother wants nothing to do with them. She hasn't since they barely had their eyes open.

    And as someone said, infanticide, child abuse, and abortion rates in this country definitely prove you wrong. Unfortunately, not all women are meant to be mothers. Any idiot can get knocked up, but not everyone has the ability to be a mother.

    While I am truly sorry for the sorrow you have experienced in your life for your decision, not all women are forced into giving up their babies for adoption! Some see it as a responsible choice, knowing they cannot provide for their child. Or, believe it or not, some women DO NOT form an emotional attachment to their baby. It can happen.

    While adoption was not the choice for you, please don't try to take it as an option for others.

  18. I know women who, 40 years later, still grieve over their miscarried child. So please do not do them any injustice by minimalizing their trauma as well.

  19. "Infant adoption is sub-human, it's socially stigmatized for a good reason and it's only desperate women who put thier babys up for adoption and desperate women who adopt them."

    Oh yes, I guess I'm desperate and sub-human for agreeing to care for a child whose biological mother ASKED ME to take from her. So, if a woman CHOOSES to give up her child for adoption, what do you suppose we do with the babies? Put them all in a group home? Put them in a pen like sheep until they turn 18?

    Wow. Just wow. While I do feel sorry for your grief and pain, I just can't believe your narrow tunnel vision that doesn't allow you to look beyond your own situation.


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