Monday, November 22, 2010

Protections for Birth Mothers need real mettle, not weak reforms

Lorraine
So, after dissecting The Adoption Option from the Center for American Progress, let us look at their proposed reforms: 
 
Jane
Legal counsel. Expectant mothers should have independent legal counsel. We agree. We were stunned, though, to read that legal services are necessary because “the daunting complexity of the adoption system and confusion about the process surely pose a deterrent to some women.” 

Mothers forced to keep their babies because they can’t navigate the adoption system? Give us a break! Even a dim-witted fifteen year old can sign the papers the nice lady gives you and you’re out the door--child free. And if adoption is too complicated in your state, the generous people you found on the Internet will be happy to pay your way to adoption-friendly (or as some refer to it, adoption-corrupt) Utah. Or Alabama, or perhaps even Hawaii, where you can sign the paper before the baby is born!

Time to decide. Recognizing that “a woman who has just given birth is inevitably in a period of high stress—not the best time to make irrevocable, life-changing decisions,” The Adoption Option recommends mothers have three days after birth before they may sign a consent, and one week to revoke it.

Three days is an improvement over state laws such as Oregon’s which permit mothers to sign irrevocable consents on the delivery table, but it is still far too short for a mother to recover from hormonal changes and the effects of giving birth. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute recommends that “parents have several weeks after childbirth before an adoption decision becomes irrevocable. Ideally, this would include a minimum of one week after birth before a relinquishment can be signed and then a substantial revocation period.” European countries often require a waiting period of approximately six weeks.

Mother’s remedies. Notably, the report does not include remedies for women who lose their babies through coercion, pressure, or bias. Unless mothers have the legal ability to get their baby back when their rights are violated, there’s little to deter sleazy adoption practitioners, the high-pressure tactics of social workers and prospective adopting people, the coercion of having these people in the delivery room and actually cutting the cord, and parents of the birth mother who may see the baby as a problem. Not all the societal pressures of the past have been eliminated in the life of a young woman facing a birth of a child she can not raise alone and without support, but one she will most likely grieve for alone for the rest of her life.

Birth mother confidentiality. The report urges "protections" for the minority of women who wish to remain secret; consequently mutual consent registries (20 states as of 2000) and search-and-consent laws (13 states), which continue the unequal under the law status of adopted individuals.The open-records laws, the report notes, were "passed at the urging of adoptee activists," making them seem less than desirable. While it doesn't quite say: Stop causing trouble, you ungrateful bastards! it is deftly implied. 

Apparently Jessica Arons, the author of The Adoption Option, is unaware that “birth mother privacy” is in fact a fiction created by segments of the industry pandering to adopters who want to obliterate natural families, or has gotten in bed with the American Civil Liberties Union, a generally  clueless organization when it comes to adoption. (Ed: The best the ACLU has done in some states is at least not take a stand on legislation that would give adoptees the same rights as most of the members of the ACLU, that is, the right to know who they were at birth. In some states, notably New Jersey, it vocally opposes adoptee rights to allow adoptees to know the truth of their origins, and sees such legislation as an infringement of birth mother "rights." We say: Adoptees should not be denied their identities because that might embarrass somebody.

Conclusion. The report asks “whether it is a legitimate policy goal to seek to increase the adoption rate." Thank you for that.  "After all, in an ideal world where every woman had the resources necessary to plan wanted pregnancies, cope with unexpected pregnancies, and end unwanted pregnancies or medically complicated pregnancies, even fewer women would likely choose to have a child placed for adoption.”

Keeping mothers and children together is well within the capabilities of the United States, supposedly the richest country in the world. This “ideal world” world already exists in Western Europe and Australia, both of which have much lower adoption rates because they support needy mothers and babies, and tightly regulate the adoption industry. 

The report notes that the Guttmacher Institute points out "that promoting adoption is not an effective strategy for reducing the abortion rate--it that is one's goal." What galls us most about the report is that while it acknowledges that "adoption almost inevitably starts with a sad situation [Ed: almost? that means there are some situations in which adoption does not begin with a sad situation],--an unwanted pregnancy, a difficult decision, and stress for the birth mother. But this situation can, and often does, have a happy ending. [Italics added]

That happy ending: "a flourishing child in a loving home, a caring adult or couple enjoying the opportunities and challenges of parenthood they might otherwise not have been able to have, and a birth mother who knows that she made her own choice and the best decision for herself and her child." 

Jane and lorraine 

Readers. Write to the Center for American Progress and its director John Podesta; tell them if you really want to do something progressive, go after the abuses in the adoption system with gusto AND push for something really progressive, like helping distressed mothers nurture their babies. The above link will take you to their contact page.
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4 comments :

  1. I find it interesting that the time frame for revoking a surrender document is so short. For me, in Arizona - 1981 - it was a year. Which is also why they took her out of the country - the best interests of the child (which of course doesn't allow for immediate return of my daughter had I revoked) would have kicked in and the courts would have accused me of abandoning her...Adoption is a giant spider in a web full of young mothers...eating us alive.

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  2. So now the liberals are getting on the "adoption not abortion" bandwagon. This study is spouting the same old tripe. No mention of the devastation to the first mother from the loss of her child. No mention of the child's pain at having been rejected and given away. And no mention of PAPs as being anything but perfect, stable and loving who provide a superior home to the single mother in evey way. I swear APs have the best reputation in the world. There is nary a whisper that PAPs who may be rich and may be married (at least in the short-term) would make anything but perfect, loving, uber-parents.

    As even noted in the study, adoption does not cut down on the number of abortions, so what good is it?

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  3. That is crazy that pregnant women should have lawyers so they won't be deterred from choosing adoption rather than to advocate for them and to protect their own best interests!

    I agree that, generally, longer waiting periods prior to relinquishment would reduce the likelihood of moms making decisions they would regret, and that having potential adoptive parents in the delivery room is a lot of pressure.

    Sometimes, though, a woman may feel very clear that she wants to have her baby adopted. She may not want to have to wait to move forward, and maybe she might truly want the potential adoptive parents in the delivery room.

    What I wonder is...how do we avoid crossing the line from safeguarding women from making choices they might regret for the rest of their lives to forcing women who are 100% decided that adoption is the right choice for them to have to go through a waiting period, when they may not feel that's what's best for them. In one respect, waiting a week or a month is not the end of the world, but I wonder if it may be a bit paternalistic, presuming women can't make the best decisions for themselves.

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  4. Among other recommendations, the report also mentioned making open adoption agreements enforceable and protecting father's rights to consent.
    No, this report is not perfect but it will carry weight in determining policy changes. These days it is just as important to educate lobbies as it is to persuade legislators. Unless we enlist uber- wealthy adoptees or first parents, the reality is that in the halls of government money talks! Thus having a policy influencing group recommend any changes at all moves our cause from its present low status.

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