Women Considering Adoption Deserve a Thoughtful Look at Their Choices

This piece, by Kate Brogan, our VP of Public Policy, originally ran in the Portland Press Herald, as a “Maine Voices” column.

As I go to work at Maine Family Planning, I am forced to pass by protesters and their signs. One sign in particular always catches my eye: “Adoption is a Loving Option.” This one echoes the theme of this year’s national March for Life, “Adoption: A Noble Decision.”

Women considering abortion are urged by anti-choice protesters to continue their pregnancies so their children may be adopted because “hundreds of thousands are waiting in line for adoption – caring men and women who long to be called by the precious words ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy,’ ” to quote U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, speaking at the 2014 March for Life in Washington, D.C.

This view of adoption is simplistic, unrealistic and value-laden.

I am a mother of two children whom I adopted as infants. My children are wonderful people, and I am truly lucky to be their mother. But mingled with my joy is an understanding that, at its core, every adoption involves loss: my children’s loss of the ability to grow up in their families of origin, and their mothers’ deep, painful loss of their chance to raise these incredible children.

The pro-life message to pregnant women is that waiting adoptive families are far superior potential parents than the women themselves could ever be. Pro-life crisis pregnancy centers across the country and across Maine “counsel” women by stressing all the challenges they may face as parents, while painting rosy pictures of adoption.

Here’s an example of the language found on the websites of several crisis pregnancy centers in Maine:

  • Adoption: “Today there are adoption plans in which you can know your child and be a part of your child’s life. You can have the peace of knowing your child is loved and cared for by the couple you choose. We can help you understand your adoption options.”
  • Parenting: “You may have more questions than answers about parenting or maybe the thought of becoming a parent seems impossible to you at this time.”

Does this sound like an objective review of a woman’s choices?

Not surprisingly, many crisis pregnancy centers work in partnership with adoption agencies, funneling women into the high-stakes business of private adoption, where prospective adoptive parents are waiting to pay $30,000 or more to adopt a healthy white infant.

What I know from my children’s first mothers and dozens of other women is that a mother who places her child in adoption is, and will always be, that child’s mother. That mother-child connection is real and powerful and lifelong – and, for many women and adopted people, enormously painful.

This isn’t what the anti-choice movement wants women to hear. Instead, they try to shame women into believing they’re not good enough to raise their children because they are single. Or young. Or poor. They suggest that it would be selfish to think they could raise this child when there are literally “hundreds of thousands” of better families waiting.

Shaming a woman into enduring an unwanted pregnancy and a lifetime as a childless mother, simply to provide a newborn for a childless couple is far from the “loving choice” proclaimed by the protesters’ clinic-side signs.

I recognize that there are people who believe that abortion is wrong in every circumstance. I respect their right to hold that belief. But presenting adoption as a one-size-fits-all, fairy-tale alternative to abortion is not the answer.

A woman considering an adoption plan should be supported with counseling that is objective, not coercive, in order to help her make the best decision for herself and her family. That decision should never include a weighing of her comparative worthiness to parent.

If the pro-life movement is truly interested in making it more likely that women will choose to continue their pregnancies, they need to join the efforts to make it easier for women to envision raising their children in safety and dignity.

Women and families need access to affordable child care, affordable housing, educational opportunities, fair working conditions and a livable wage. Instead of shaming women into making what pro-lifers deem the correct choice, I encourage them to work toward a world where all women have real choices.

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