' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Shotgun Adoptions via Crises Pregnancy Centers

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shotgun Adoptions via Crises Pregnancy Centers

Ever wonder about those "crisis pregnancy centers?" Wonder if they are actually helping women at a time when they need it...or are they just funneling pregnant teens and women into the adoption mill business? Wonder no longer.

The centers are set up as non-profit pregnancy-testing facilities...but they are really antiabortion baby mills. And they get $60 million in federal abstinence and marriage-promotion funds, which right off the bat makes me crazy.

The Nation has a lengthy piece by Kathryn Joyce, "Shotgun Adoption," in the September 14 2009 issue (on line now) exposing the "crisis pregnancy centers" or CPCs, for what they are: baby mills for adoption agencies, particularly the Bethany Christian Service agencies, which have sprouted like mushrooms all over the country--4,000 and counting. And Bethany, the nation's largest adoption agency, is incidentally a mainstay of the despicable National Council for Adoption (NCFA), a lobbying organization for adoption agencies which for years has fought every battle in every state to deny adopted people their original birth records. Make no mistake, NCFA cares not one whit about the adopted individual, their only focus is the business of adoption, and the demands of adopters to have babies furnished under sealed-records statutes. But I digress.

The illustration accompanying the article shows a woman waving from a window with money falling down and a stork taking away a big bundle of babies. Perfect.

According to writer Joyce, the centers give you all kinds of help while you are pregnant and ready and willing to give up your child, but do nothing for you if you change your mind and--god forbid, decide to raise your own child. As long as you are willing to procreate and pass on the baby, you will be taken in by a "shepherding family," whose job it is apparently to make sure that you are fully indoctrinated into giving up your baby not only for the good of the baby, but yourself. One woman, who uses the pseudonym Jordan, tells of being assured she could have an open adoption, but as soon as the birth was over, was informed that "fully open adoptions weren't legal in South Carolina," so the new mother would not receive information about the adoptive parents.

So what about this is "open?" Only "open" from the adopters' side of the fence, as they were in the delivery room.

She asked if she could bring the baby home to the "shepherding family" (who had called her a "saint" before for not choosing abortion), and they refused, "chastising her sharply." She had gone back on her unspoken agreement to supply a baby (let's call it a pre-paid-for baby) to Bethany Christian Services agency.

After learning there could be no real open adoption, she spent the day crying. The Bethany counselor warned her that if she kept her baby, she'd end up homeless and lose her baby anyway. The woman also brought the sobbing prospective adopters (who were also in the delivery room) into her hospital room. They might not get her baby. They might go home childless. When I read about prospective adopters in the delivery room, I squirm; when I read about them actually cutting the umbilical cord, and this is celebrated as a significant symbolic act, I am repulsed. Prospective adopters should not be in the delivery room. Ever. That's like taking delivery on a pre-paid kid.

Which is apparently how the Bethany counselor looked upon Jordan's baby: pre-paid. "My options were to leave the hospital walking, with no money," says Jordan. "Or here's a couple with Pottery Barn furniture. You sacrifice yourself, not knowing it will leave an impact on your and your child for life." Jordan signed the relinquishment papers, and the "shepherding family" was celebrating and wondering why she wouldn't stop crying.

We're not. We know. We've been there, done that, and here we are, all these decades later, writing reams about the pain and sorrow and endless grief and life-changing moment (for the worse) it was when we signed those relinquishment papers. Without question, the worst day of my life.

"Shotgun Adoption" also notes that unaware pregnant girls and women are often shepherded right to states where the laws favor quick relinquishment, such as South Dakota and Utah. "'There were so many allegations about improper adoptions being made and how teenage girls were being pressured to give up their children,' then-state attorney Tim Wilka told the Argus Leader, that the governor asked him to take the case. The Alpha Center [a pregnancy-crises center] pleased no contest to five counts of unlicensed adoption and foster care practices; nineteen other charges were dropped, including four felonies."

Utah is also particularly hot to trot to get those babies out of the mother's clutches. Only two witnesses are required for relinquishments that have occurred in hotel rooms or parks, and having the baby in the state and relinquishing there avoids interstate child-placement regulations. We have written here before about the Church of the Latter Day Saints rah-rah adoption practices, and were not surprised. Utah also makes it difficult for a father to retain custody of his child, and if a woman falls in with a CPC associated with the Mormon megachurch, she--and the father--find themselves under incredible pressure to sign the relinquishment papers and hand over their the baby. It's all so sick sick sick.

Read the story in its entirety. Our friends, Mirah Riben, author of The Stork Market, is quoted, along with Ann Fessler, author of The Girls Who Went Away, and Karen-Wilson Buterbaugh, founder of the Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative. The piece demonstrates what we have been saying all along: that market pressures have created a huge demand for babies, and that many babies that might be kept in the family are given up for adoption to genetic strangers, to the lifelong detriment of both mother and child.

"A lot of those moms from the '50s and '60s were really damaged by losing their child through the maternity homes," says a Midwestern grandmother who fought doggedly for her son to get his child from the clutches of a Utah adoption mill. "People say those kinds of things don't happen anymore. But they do. It's just not a maternity home on every corner; it's a CPC."

Though I am a birth mother from 1966, the height of the Baby Scoop Era, I did not stay in a maternity home. But against a background of shame and no resources, I gave my daughter up to strangers.

And neither of us ever got over the psychic damage. --lorraine
We are aware that adoptive parents find their way to our site to learn about the other side of adoption, and many of them are shocked and horrified at what we have to say. We do not mince words, or hide our feelings. That is the point of Birth Mother/First Mother Forum. Other adoptive parents, who are more open and real about what adoption is, join in the conversation. As this is an open blog, all readers are welcome, but all should understand this is first and foremost a place for first mothers to feel free to talk about their experiences and feelings.


  1. This is a terrific article. I hope it gets widely disseminated. Thanks and hats off to all who contributed, and especially to the author for showing up the CPCs, Leslie Unruh ( about whom there's another wonderful article in "MORE" magazine http://www.more.com/2050/2814-leslee-unruh -s-facts-of-life ) and the Christian Conservative efforts to snatch babies for distribution among those they consider more 'deserving'.

    Kathryn Joyce rocks.
    I'm off to the library right now to take out her book on the Quiverfull (Can-you-say-Duggan?) movement.

  2. And there's more to the Christian conservative movement to adopt. They not only believe mothers without husbands are unfit to raise their own children--they also buy into the reality of *orphans unlimited* and their mission to rescue them. The number of blogs out there with this theme has increased tremendously in the past few years. I'm talking about people who got the idea to adopt in church. Usually international.

  3. How ironic that I was just talking about this EXACT topic with another firstmom. If I were to have one piece of advice to tell ANY one faced with an unplanned pregnancy it would be: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS steer clear of ANY "Crisis Pregnancy Center". Your better option is a Planned Parenthood. They have no religious affiliation(i.e. no agenda)& they will give you any & ALL information you should want or need.

  4. Kippa, I looked up the "Quiverfull" book. Wow! Kathryn Joyce is really into exposing the worst of the Religious Right. I had no idea those insanely huge Fundamentalist families were a movement; I had thought they were just isolated nutters. As a liberal Catholic it is good to know there are loonier people than the fringes of my own religion:-)

    Joyce's article on Crisis pregnancy centers and adoption is one of the best things I have ever read, and it seems she really had the background to tackle the subject. Yes, I hope this get wide distribution and discussion.

  5. I agree, this is one of the best articles I've seen in a long time. Kathryn Joyce really did her homework and didn't succumb to the usual myths about adoption.

  6. In the early '90's I went to college at 18 pregnant. It took me some time to figure it out but I was. I ended up at a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I brought a little bottle of pee with me. I sat in a room and two middle aged women came in and one of them said, "Dear...you're pregnant."
    They kept me in that room for at least two hours trying to convince me not to have an abortion. I made it clear to them that adoption was off the table for me as I was an adoptee. They did not push it.
    They actually told me I could do college and raise a baby. They told me I wouldn't be the first person to raise a baby on my own. Ha! I knew my amom. She had been telling me since I had become a teenager that it I ever got pregnant I would have to give the baby away to someone who deserved it. No way would she help me pay for college if I had a kid. No way would she let me in her house if I had a kid unmarried.
    The Crisis Pregnancy ladies were very nice. They eventually sent me on my way when I promised to think things over and not do anything rash. They gave me a Bible as a gift.
    They called my dorm room repeatedly for the next several weeks and told my room mate that I was pregnant and if she knew what I had done about it.
    That wasn't cool.
    They did not push adoption on me but they did hold me hostage for a bit and try to convince me to choose life. It was weird.
    If I had known who they were, I would have sucked it up and bought a pregnancy test myself. I thought they would help me. I think their ad actually mentioned "Abortion Counseling". My 18 year old pregnant college freshman self had no idea they had a prolife agenda.
    It was very misleading and I left feeling kind of stupid.

  7. Dear Anonymous, what did you finally choose to do?

  8. This isnt so relative to this particular article but I am desperately searching for some type of support. Im a birth mom who surrendered when I was 19 and now my daughter is 12, open adoption that stayed open, still have a positive relationship/contact with the APs. I was in and out of mental institution and suffered from a major depression throughout my early 20s. Didnt really get ahold on my life until I was 25. I still didnt have great feelings about myself in relation to the adoption and buried a lot of it just to be able to have a normal life. To get to the point here at 31 I am pregnant and in a whirlwind. I orignally had thought that I would never have children but in the last year decided I did want to and that I would begin working towards that goal next year. But miscalculated and got my goal early. A midwife I spoke to told me that everything about my first pregancy would come back around during this one and that major healing could be had.....BUT the reason I am so desperate is because I am having major attachment issues. I know that sounds silly but I cant latch onto the idea of being pregnant at all let alone thinking about having a child. I am sure there are others who have felt this way if they had other children. At times I feel like I can overcome this disconnection I feel-likely the behaviors I taught myself to have during my last pregnancy. But at other times like today I feel totally incompetent in terms of doing this and as nuts as it seems found myself thinking about adoption. I nearly had myself convinced that this time I wouldnt go crazy....please please if there is anybody who can tell me anything about your experience with having a child you kept Im begging you please tell me.

  9. Well, I had an abortion about four days later. Thank goodness I was eighteen or I would have needed my parent's consent. I had a little money saved to pay for it. A friend drove me there and stayed with me. I remember it was not the scary experience the Crisis Pregnancy Ladies had said it was going to be. They made me watch a movie during my visit to them that was quite brutal. Lots of blood and screaming mothers. Reality was nothing like that.
    I had to speak with a counselor at the clinic before going through the procedure. She was very kind and caring. She told me it was my decision. She told me I reminded her of her own daughter.
    For me, as an eighteen year old, it was the only option I had. I loved my adoptive parents and had been told repeatedly I would be disowned if I ever turned up unmarried and pregnant.
    It has been close to twenty years since I made that decision. I do not regret it but there are days like today when I am wistful.

  10. Jlynn,

    I gave up a daughter in 1966. Five years later I was pregnant with my second daughter. Even though my husband and I wanted children, I kind of shut out my pregnancy -- didn't buy baby furniture, baby clothes, and so on although some friends did give me a shower. I didn't even try to think of names. In fact we didn't name her until several weeks after we brought her home. I think a lot of this was guilt from giving up my first daughter -- I could not be joyous about being pregnant since I had done such a terrible thing with my first pregnancy. I was also very busy at work and that helped put the pregnancy out of my mind. After she came home, when I became convinced psychologically that she was going to stay and that she needed me, I became very attached.

    A support group and a therapist who specializes in adoption would be helpful. The American Adoption Congress has information about support groups on its website, www.americanadoptioncongress.org. Concerned United birthparents might have a group in your area, www.cubirthparents.org. If you provide the area where you live, other readers may be able to refer you to therapists and support groups.

    Other thoughts, readers?

  11. JLynn,

    Back in the day of some of us here, nobody had ever heard about "attachment issues" The whole attachment thing has gotten very overblown in the adoption world. Perhaps you should stop reading and worryiing about attachment and focus on the practical issues of motherhood (and don't forget the joys:-)

    Many of us got pregnant again without intending to, often in a fog of grief. Some had abortions, some married, some got sucked into adoption again, and some got to raise that second child.

    From what you have written, I would say that your major concern at this time should not be attachment but that you have a good support system and a good therapist in place, one that has no interest in pushing adoption, but in helping you do what you really want to and are able to do.

    Given your past history of serious depression, and if you are or have been on medication, you need to find out how that can affect the pregnancy, or how going off the meds can affect your emotionsl state. You need a doctor who is aware of your previous history to watch for post-partum depression and be prepared to treat it.

    Do you have friends and/or family members you can talk to, and who can help you? Are you on disability, or otherwise getting some financial help? Is the father of the baby involved at all? Is there a mental health support group in your area? They can be very helpful and you can meet other mothers dealing with similar challenges.

    It is completely normal to be panicked and feel "unattached" now, and perhaps until the baby is born and really real to you.All first time moms are afraid they won't be good enough, even those in "perfect circumstances.For those of us who have surrendered a child, those fears are compounded.

    I was terrifies when I had my second child because I was still not married,had no money, but had a supportive boyfriend, and we did eventually marry, and I feared plunging into post partum depression as I had with my first who was surrendered.
    I did everything wrong again the second time, but it turned out all right.

    Breastfeeding that baby really helped bonding, and I highly recommend it. I also realized very early on that while I had another chance to be a Mom and another wonderful child to love, he did not replace the first. That is a separate issue. Since you are in an open adoption, at least you have some connection with your first child which is better than knowing nothing.

    I hope this is helpful to you, and I wish you luck with your new baby. My second son is a wonderful guy, happy, successful, and kind. Whatever I felt or did not feel during that pregnancy had no effect on him as a healthy child and adult. My surrendered son is a great guy too. Don't worry about attachment, rather, get your life in order as much as you can now, and it will all work out. Relax, breathe, and surround yourself with support.

  12. Osolo said "they also buy into the reality of *orphans unlimited* and their mission to rescue them."
    Absolutely. I just came across this one
    Lot's of references to *orphans*

  13. Salon on the bandwagon:
    "We like to say that abortion opponents care about what happens to babies only until they're born. Well, turns out we might be wrong"

  14. Kippa, interesting that Julia Norris is a member of that group--same Julia Norris who worked to reunite her son Christian with his first family in China, which has been all over the news. I don't think they're bad people necessarily, but they tell a tale that isn't true around the availability of orphans.



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