Recently, I received a comment on a post I had written some time ago on what drives state bar associations to oppose equal rights for adult adoptees. Those of you who have been involved in the adoptee rights movement will recognize the anecdotal argument right away -- it is the argument that sends legislators who are thinking about supporting an adoptee rights bill running for the hills. It is also the argument that prompts the question some of us adoptees have heard from time to time: "Why can't you just be happy you have your life and weren't aborted?"
Here's the comment:
"My sister was a birth mother years ago. She chose adoption over abortion thinking a chance at life with a loving family was better than no chance at life or life with a teen mom. She wanted it done and over with so she could move on. She was willing to do the 9 months, willing to get the glares and stares and willing to hear the not nice comments. Our parents supported her although they thought an abortion would have been much easier for my sister.
Now the state she lives in trying to get birth certificates opened. She feels it was a two way street she got to move on with life and the child got a life. She was young did not have the means to raise a child. If she had to do it over she said she would have had the abortion. There is a reason why woman choose a closed adoption. They should be allowed to keep their privacy. I'm sympathetic to the adoptee who wants information. Mutual consent open the birth certificates for all birth mothers and adoptee families who want an open adoption. Life is not fair not everything is equal. My birth certificate does not have a father's name on it. He took off before I was born. My mother refused to put his name on the birth certificate and refuses to talk about him. Should the gov't force woman to put the father's name on all birth certificates and force my mother to give information about my father. Obviously, he didn't want to be involved in my life, I accept that."
On the surface, this argument sounds compelling, and it is a difficult one to refute in the legislative arena, because it is driven by emotion and ideology. Here was my brief reply:
"According to the data, your sister is in a distinct minority of birth parents, and public policy should never be formulated to serve a distinct minority. What makes you think the adoptee would be disrespectful of her feelings? All we're saying is that the adoptee is entitled to the truth about her own personhood, whatever that truth might be. Many adoptees are only looking for genetic information about themselves, and it is disrespectful to imply that the adoptee will continue efforts at contact if the mother says no. Your sister did a good thing, but people should not assume that adoptees want their original birth certificates so that they can take inappropriate actions. I had one phone conversation with my original mother after I had suffered a serious medical problem and gained valuable information that has helped me physically and emotionally. I have respected her wishes and have not contacted her again. Are you saying that one conversation is too much to ask? You may not realize it, but such an attitude shows a profound disrespect for the adoptee and his or her motives. My original mother is not my enemy and never has been. She is an adult forging her way through life the best she can, as am I. She is entitled to her privacy but not lifetime anonymity from her own child, and the law is very clear on this point."
I could add many facts and statistics here to show that there is no link between adult adoptee access and abortion rates, and that mutual consent registries just don't work, but I have done that often in other articles -- I'll include the links below this post. I will repeat the fact that in Oregon, which enacted adult adoptee access legislation in 2000, fewer than a quarter of one percent of birth mothers have filed "no contact" preferences, while more than 10,000 adoptees have applied for and received their original birth certificates. Would not this statistic alone indicate that the vast majority of original parents do not live in mortal fear that their offspring might someday find them? Statistics from the other open-access states reinforce the fact that the number of original parents who prefer no contact is very, very small. The writer's sister in the comment above is actually an anomaly.
Another important point is that the writer assumes adoption has always operated in absolute secrecy, when estimates indicate some 40 percent of adoptees have some identifying information on their adoption decrees. Both my adoptive brother and I, for example, have always had our original birth names. Adoptees find their original families everyday in this country, in spite of sealed birth certificates; however, under the current archaic system, original parents have no way to indicate whether they would prefer direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or no contact at all. Clean adoptee access bills would give original parents the opportunity to express their preferences. When people oppose such bills, they are assuming adoptees would do inappropriate things no matter what the original parents have indicated in preference forms. As an adoptee, I find such attitudes incredibly insulting.
Too many people in the pro-life movement see adoption as the simple, win-win solution to abortion, when they actually know little about the subject's complexities. Those who actually work in the field are well aware that closed-for-life adoptions have served neither original mothers nor adoptees well. Consider carefully what Paul Swope, then president of Life Net Services, wrote more than 10 years ago in 1998: "A pressure to end a pregnancy with an adoption does not save a child from abortion, but may in fact, be a determining factor in a woman choosing to terminate the pregnancy ... ." Swope's point was that a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy is desperate for a sense of resolution to her crisis, and in her mind, "adoption leaves the situation the most unresolved."
Open adoptions have risen in popularity because adoption facilitators know that very few women are willing to relinquish their babies unless they can have some knowledge about how those babies are doing. However, open adoption agreements are not legally enforceable in most states, a fact that many surrendering mothers have learned the hard way.
I have some faint hope that people are beginning to realize that adoption in this country is too often run like a business, in which the couples desiring a Caucasian infant to adopt far outnumber the Caucasian babies available. Prospective adoptive parents are the paying customers, and the best interests of the surrendering parents and the adoptees themselves are too often overlooked in the effort to supply the babies to meet the demand.
The Catholic News Agency recently ran an article describing a nation-wide, pro-adoption ad campaign being conducted jointly by Austin, Texas-based Heroic Media and Michigan-based Bethany Christian Services. An ad, featuring a pregnant woman explaining why she plans to put her baby up for adoption, aired 45 times over a four-week period on Oxygen Network during the reality TV series "I'm Having Their Baby."
The ad focuses on adoption as a "life-changing blessing for adoptive parents" and a "gift of love and hope" for adopted children. Unfortunately, Bethany Christian Services is ranked very poorly by original mothers who have surrendered their children, and Bethany Christian Services continues to oppose adult adoptee access bills, even as they extol the benefits of more openness in adoption. The TV series and the ad campaign, in my mind, are ethically repugnant. Even the title, "I'm Having Their Baby," is repugnant, as the expectant mother is obviously not receiving unbiased pregnancy counseling -- she is being groomed to see herself as an inadequate mother and adoption as the noble and uncomplicated answer to all her problems.
What gives me a little hope is that Catholic News Service published six comments about the ad campaign, and five of them focused on adoption truth. You can read the entire article here, and
below are the six comments published on-line.
"I'm not sure why pro-life has to equal pro-adoption. One can still be opposed to abortion, yet encourage families to seek out the resources they need to successfully parent their own children - adoption is not an alternative to abortion, it's an alternative to parenting. Most women who are considering adoption were never seeking abortion in the first place.
As for the agencies themselves, particularly Bethany (I will not add the other two words in the name of their company b/c there is absolutely nothing Christian about their "services")- to quote Job 24:21 "They prey on the barren and childless woman, and to the widow show no kindness"
"Separating a mother from her baby is being promoted by a Christian organization? Why isn't the Catholic Church helping women in "crisis" pregnancies to keep their children? Most of these women just need financial help and low-cost child care."
"If Bethany Christian Services would lobby for adult adoptee access to their own birth certificates and for laws that would enforce open adoption agreements, then I would believe that their primary interest is indeed the welfare of the child and the original mother. Speaking as an adult adoptee who was blessed with loving adoptive parents, I still maintain that adoption is not as simple as the ad portrays. It is complicated, and it often results in profound feelings of loss for both original mother and adoptee. I am not anti-adoption, but I am pro adoption reform and for full disclosure of the facts to all parties. I also believe it is possible to offer a child a loving home without obliterating his or her original identity for life. Unfortunately, I have found that many agencies routinely whitewash complex adoption realities."
"Some of our energies and prayers might also be well-spent finding ways for mothers to keep and raise their own children. Many women who give up their children for adoption have said they would have kept them if they had the simple support (financial and otherwise) every mother deserves. Without that, how can we say these women's decision to adopt was really their own idea?"
"Perhaps some energy and prayers should be directed towards making contraception allowable. Obviously, the plan to make sex between two loving people within the bonds of matrimony clearly isn't working. Contraception would lower the dilemma women face when deciding on an abortion. Time to admit people are going to have sex (even despite gay marriage) and keep having babies... choose the lesser of two evils, contraception over abortion."
"All of our energies and prayers must be focused on programs like these. Campaigns directed at those who have traditionally killed their children are much more effective than attacking politicians who are constitutionally unable to overturn the Supreme Courts ruling on Roe v. Wade which has unfortunately stood for 40 years now. Time to get over hating politicians and begin saving children."
I take great comfort in the first five comments, one of which is my own. They seem to come from people who are well-versed in adoption realities. The sixth comment seems to come from a true believer who is not so well versed in adoption truth.
Could it be that the times are slowly changing, and that people are starting to recognize that adoption itself is not the painless and problem-free antidote to abortion that some pro-lifers seem to think? We can only hope so, and keep working for the adoption reforms that are so badly needed.
You might also like:
Adoptive Parents and Pro-lifers who Cannot or Will Not See the Realities of Adoption
Why is Honesty in Adoption Still a Controversial Subject?
Pro-Life Ideology and Adoptee Rights
Adoptee Rights and a Woman's Reproductive Choices