“Shotgun Adoptions”

I just read an article on The Nation about crisis pregnancy centers, anti-choice facilities run by Christian organizations that encourage pregnant women to “choose life.”  This article talks about the growing emphasis that these centers are placing on adoption.  First, they convince the woman that she should not choose abortion by showing her antiabortion films, providing false information about the medical procedure, and discussing abortion from a very anti-choice perspective (To learn more about these deceptive techniques, go to the Crisis Pregnancy Watch website.)  Once the counselors (who are not trained medical professionals) have successfully convinced the woman to not have an abortion, you would think their mission is complete.  However, these centers are taking it a step farther by encouraging women to give their babies up for adoption.  In order to do this, they highlight the difficulties of parenting and show the pregnant women scrapbooks of families that are looking to adopt.  They also portray the adoptive parents as “better fit to parent” and praise the “birth mother” for her “selflessness.”  If a birth mother chooses to give the baby up for adoption, there are all sorts of benefits offered by the crisis pregnancy center: free housing, medical care, college scholarships, cash payments, etc.  The birth parents are taken to “mothering homes” where they are isolated from friends and families.  They are not informed about the adoption laws in their state and often misled by the crisis pregnancy center’s staff.  During labor or following the birth of the child, parents are pressured to sign relinquishing papers.  There have been cases reported in which the mother was forced to sign papers while under heavy medication (which means she was not able to truly consent).  Parents are not allowed to change their mind and if they express concern or doubt, they are pressured and harassed by CPC staff.  The benefits they were receiving from the CPC are immediately taken away and they may even be forced to compensate the CPC for the services they used.  If they choose to go through with the adoption regardless, CPC staff is supposed to offer post-adoption counseling and follow-ups, but often these become unavailable.  In one instance, a woman called Bethany, an international CPC/adoption agency, and was told “You’re the one who spread your legs and got pregnant out of wedlock… You have no right to grieve for this baby.”

Hundreds of thousands of women have been coerced into giving their babies up for adoption.  Before abortion was legal in the United States, women could either raise their child, give the baby up for adoption, or have an illegal abortion.  According to this article, “At least 1.5 million unwed American mothers relinquished children for adoption” during the Baby-Scoop Era (between 1945 and 1973).  When abortion became legal, the number of women choosing adoption decreased drastically: from approximately 19.2 percent to less than 1.7 percent.  Before this, there were many babies to adopt and not enough willing families.  However, as abortion became a more popular alternative, there were more willing families than babies.  In hopes of stigmatizing abortion and reducing abortion rates, crisis pregnancy centers popped up all over the country and advertised themselves as pro-woman facilities that offered choices.  Instead, these centers coerce women into choosing adoption so that Christian families who want to adopt can do so.

I also see these shotgun adoptions as a major class issue: women who are not well-off financially are deemed less-fit to parent than those who are able to pay upwards of 15,000 dollars for an adopted child.  This promotes the existing social hierarchy that places the wealthy above all others. Who can say that one person is better fit to parent than another?  Here, the pregnancies of low-income women become commodified to satisfy the desires of others, specifically wealth, Christian families.

Crisis pregnancy centers have been federally funded for the past decade; they use money that the government budgets for abstinence-only sex education and “marriage-funds.” Also, ten states have set aside money in their budget to fund CPCS. These centers also receive money from the “Choose Life” license plates that are bought and sold in all fifty states.  Lastly, these centers receive money from private donors and other organizations (often times, this money comes straight from other areas of the government).  These organizations have been known to support CPCs: WAL MART, U.S. AIRWAYS, CHICK-FIL-A, BANK OF AMERICA, CURVES… There are many others, so just keep this in mind when you make decisions about where to spend your money.

If a woman is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, she should be able to access unbiased, informative counseling.  Here, she should be presented with all of her options and given all the time she needs to discuss her situation with the counselor.  This decision is very personal and should not be forced upon another person.  Abortion clinics often require women to go through counseling before their abortion procedure in order to ensure that they are making this decision because it is the best choice they feel they can make.  It is important to make sure that a woman is not feeling pressured or influenced by family, friends, her partner, etc.

Adoption can and should be an option for a woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy.  However, the current adoption system in the United States needs to be undergo a complete reform.  As it currently stands, laws on adoption vary state-by -state.  In order to change this system, there are many important questions that need to be addressed (and will be addressed in a future post).  First, should open adoptions be allowed?  If so, should they be regulated?  If so, how?  Next, should a family pay for their adopted child?  If so, how much should this cost?  Is this the best type of compensation or would another form of compensation be more appropriate?  Also, should the mother of the child be able to change her mind about the adoption?  If so, when is it too late to change your mind?

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