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Adoption in relation to Abortion provision, notes on clinics that embrace adoption marketing

The below is my comment on the New York Times article, Campaigning for Common Ground in Abortion Debate.

Where to start?

The fact that women’s autonomy and freedom must not be up for “debate” perhaps?

The article itself starts off with the false notion that many clinics that offer abortion services don’t ALREADY mention adoption in the course of counseling sessions, offer referrals, or even do adoptions themselves and then goes downhill from there.

More to the point, the article never gets around to the core questions that underlie a woman (and adoptee) centered analysis of  adoption and thereafter the decision of any given clinic to incorporate adoption marketing materials (if such is still left up to the clinic, as many states mandate it at this point.)

Whether the existing adoption infrastructure (which is after all, the only adoption we have) is or is not compatible with institutions that at least on some level claim to honour women’s free agency and autonomy, speaking both reproductively and more generally *AND* does  adoption as an institution respect and uphold and the human, civil, and identity rights of those directly affected (including the rights of the eventual resultant children)?

Or is adoption incompatible with women’s autonomy and free agency, *AND* does it systemically, fundamentally cause harm to the human, civil, and identity rights of those directly affected?

If it does harm, is such fundamentally at odds with the very nature of any given clinic as an institution?

Answering those questions would go a long way towards determining whether or not clinics that are genuinely interested in women’s rights, autonomy, lifelong health and well being should or should not accommodate promotion of both adoption itself as a concept and for today’s existing adoption industry.

Some clinics are Feminist in orientation viewing themselves as part of the broader Women’s Health Movement, others view their role as a medical specialty. Some are physician owned, others are part of a broader corporate structure.

Through the years many have come out to their own stances in relation to adoption, each as unique as the clinics themselves.

(Anti-Abortion Coercive Pregnancy Indoctrination Centers, so called “crisis pregnancy centers” on the other hand, are usually little more than a front door entrance to the adoption industry. Many measure their monthly tallies in terms of  not merely how many women redirected from abortion to birthgiving, but also how many children placed for adoption per month. They ARE adoption marketing. Their track records on both rights and women’s autonomy are but a series of horror stories.)

So my comment:

There are only two reproductive decisions (sometimes) under a woman’s control: having an abortion or giving birth.

Adoption is a decision about who will do the day to day raising of any eventual child. It is not a reproductive decision but rather, a decision that cannot be carried out until after a child is born. The child has their own distinct set of human/civil/& identity rights.

Adoption is not some form of reproductive middle ground.

“Open adoptions” in many states are not legally enforceable. Promises of ongoing contact are made, sometimes just long enough to get a woman to sign a relinquishment form before the child is taken by the adoptive parents, never to be heard from again (as an agency intermediary may keep names and other details as secret as a child’s state confiscated birth certificates.)

Even “open adoptions” in sealed records states produce kids with sealed records. It is more an industry marketing tool than a genuine protection of Mother’s rights

Coercive Pregnancy Indoctrination Centers have long conflated the adoption child rearing decision (if a woman gets to decide) with the reproductive decision of whether or not to bear a pregnancy to term.

Seeing clinics that offer abortion services embrace that false conflation is tragic.

Most women seeking abortion providers have already made their decision BEFORE they reach the clinic.

Posters, required “information,” and other adoption marketing mechanisms inside clinics, whether due to the provider’s embrace of the false meme or state mandated continue the drumbeat of what women already hear outside the clinic walls:

  • ‘An abortion decision is something a woman should always second guess.’
  • ‘There’s still time to back out’
  • ‘You don’t have to do this.’

All of which are more about stigmatizing abortion and isolating women who do go forward with their abortion decisions as well as abortion providers themselves than any concrete offer of a genuine alternative.

Falsely elevating adoption up to some supposed form of “third choice” also vastly exaggerates the number of women who turn to adoption in the perception of the woman who has come to the clinic seeking abortion care.

Only a tiny percentage of pregnant women in America opt for adoption and of those who do, most will chose family or close friends not total strangers as adoptive parents.

When women and girls do turn to adoption, what institutions they find are rarely designed to respect her autonomy and sexual decisions.

The current state of the adoption industry in this country is largely religious in nature, born of objections to abortion AND a desire to ensure its own movement growth by moving children from those it deems “unfit” parents to those the religious institutions deems “appropriate.”

For young women, the maternity homes of yesteryear are still with us, though some have updated their tactics. Religious conversion and ‘moral redemption’ via the surrender of their parental rights, remain core to many of these maternity ministries.

Placing what amounts to an intake path to ministries into the clinic setting is asking women to endure advertising from a competing view of women’s place in the world inside one of the few spaces where what she herself has decided should be respected.

It’s insulting.

Such also glosses over or denies many Mothers’ unpleasant experiences of adoption. To simply offer up such a panacea as some last minute solution, whereby a woman can avoid the medical procedure that culturally she is being taught to fear is to offer little more than an impulse shopping form of escape hatch without a full disclosure of what lies on the other side of the hatch door.

Those attacking abortion have invested in infrastructure to collect those women and utilize their pregnancies for their own ends.

I’ve spoken with abortion providers who do offer adoption “counseling.” The crux of the matter is what happens when it comes time for a adoption referral on to a next step. The answer is always the same: either religiously based aspects of the crisis pregnancy industry or the more secular alternative, an adoption lawyer.

The problem with both of these is that by funneling pregnant women into such, clinics are all too often handing pregnant women off to those who will financially benefit from the woman’s pregnancy (creating a vast conflict of interest and very real pressure on the woman to relinquish, not change her mind after birth) AND both of these are some of the key players ensuring that Adoptees’ and Mother’s records remain sealed away from them.

To genuinely respect women’s lifelong needs and rights, including the rights of adopted people, clinics need to carefully re-examine their support of the existing adoption industry, not put posters up funneling pregnant women into an industry that oftentimes cares little for them as individuals and their and their eventual kids’ lifelong needs and rights.

Women deserve better than the crisis pregnancy industry.

10 Responses to “Adoption in relation to Abortion provision, notes on clinics that embrace adoption marketing”

  1. Marley Greiner Says:

    I need to write about this myself, but I know of an adoption agency owner who also owned an abortion clinic. They were located next door to each other. And…she was a lawyer! One Stop Shopping. She’s dead now, and none of the businesses are operating. I’ve got some news articles about her I need to dig up.

  2. Jo Anne Swanson Says:

    The proof of what you’re saying lies in the fact that very few “pro-life” entities have initiated mentoring programs to help women with problem pregnancies give birth with the goal of parenting their own babies. With the numbers of sign-carrying volunteers in every community, one would think these energies could be harnessed into providing personal and community resources to women who need help. The supply/demand business model works no better now than it has since 1972 (Roe v. Wade), yet these groups just “don’t get it.”

    The money spent on billboards touting adoption could, for the same money, appeal to pregnant women with messages like: “Pregnant? You and your baby need each other! We can help!”

    I’m preaching to the choir here, but abortion and adoption are both clearly losses when it comes to decision-making regarding an unplanned pregnancy. Why is it that the only “win” option is withheld from women who might see it as the only reason to carry to term?

  3. Baby Love Child Says:

    Actually Jo Anne, you’re not preaching to the choir, I’d say you and I are actually coming from somewhat different places.

    For starters this blog is supportive of abortion access, abortion providers, and the women themselves who seek or help provide abortion.

    Neither this blog, nor myself personally, portray nor accept the notion of abortion as some kind of “loss” when it comes to women’s decision making pertaining to unintended pregnancy.

    In fact quite the opposite. Abortion can be a very positive outcome for many women when faced with being pregnant against their consent. (Also Roe and Doe were decided in 1973, not 1972.)

    If you haven’t already, you may want to follow my link from above across to my post from back in 2005 about abortion, autonomy, and what I have to say about those who view abortion as some kind of ‘losing proposition.’

    At its core, I come out to,

    “Abortion is necessary, it is lifesaving, it is normal, and you know what? I’ll go ahead and say it in my out loud voice,

    Abortion is good.”

    You are correct in that the compulsory pregnancy industry attempts to redirect ‘white’ women towards adoption and provide them few if any ongoing resources for supporting women who maintain their parental rights.

    But compulsory pregnancy advocates (CPAs) often follow a bifurcated strategy.

    Women of colour, upon reaching a CPIC (Coercive Pregnancy Indoctrination Center) ARE often encouraged to keep their children, handed a bag with diapers and some formula and sent off to go face Motherhood.

    (”Birth Mother, Good Mother” published jointly by the National Council for Adoption and the Family Research Council laid out some of those racially determined desired outcomes and brifracated strategy pretty clearly. I should also note, I found my initial copy of BMGM at the Family Research Council booth in the annual March for Life’s exhibition hall over its annual DC conference.)

    None of this should be surprising to anyone who has read Rickie Solinger’s works, partiuclarly “Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade.”

    For more of that lack of CPA lack of support from women keeping their children look no further than the “choose life” license plates. In Florida (as but one of the first examples) the monies collected were earmarked for adoption related CPA programs. When a state legislator attempted to change the plate message to “choose adoption” to more accurately reflect the actual intent of the plates, the proposal was rejected.

    Choosing “Life” for CPAs (more often than not) equates directly to an adoption result.

    Personally, I have no interest in “harnessing” the efforts of CPAs nor redirecting their billboard budgets. I would prefer they simply get out of women’s way.

    What reproductive decisions women make are simply none of their damn business.

    Furthermore, any children resultant from said decisions (and again, these need to be genuine decisions, based on genuine options, not fake “choices” mired in economic and other forms of coercion) likewise, must not be reduced to mere fodder for anti-abortion CPAs and their political efforts.

    I’m not here to help them “get it,” I’m here to demand they get their damn boots off women’s necks.

    In short I disagree with you, parenting is not some only “win” option.

    Women’s genuine autonomy and economic stability to make decisions free from poverty, violence, etc is the only genuine “winning” condition.

  4. Baby Love Child Says:

    Also note, Corinna Lohser, one of the founders of the Adoption Access Network works for Spence-Chapin Adoption Services.

    First note the complete co-optation of “Access” terminology, language pioneered in the abortion field, particularly in relation to Abortion Access funds for women who could not otherwise afford abortions. (Be sure to see the National Network of Abortion Funds for numerous examples thereof.)

    In abortion provision, poverty often serves to bar women from accessing abortion services (all the more so since the Hyde Amendment in 1976 and the more recent removal of abortion from health plans in the wake of health care deform.)

    Not so in adoption. Pregnant women are not barred “access” to the adoption industry by poverty, quite the opposite in fact, the adoption industry preys on women in poverty globally.

    Adoption industry “services” in relation to pregnant women are either free or in some cases, even offer forms of economic support through the pregnancy.

    Pregnant women are not denied “access” to the adoption industry due to their poverty, more often than not, agencies roll out the red carpet to women willing to relinquish (well, ‘white’ babies that is.)

    Secondly, Spence-Chapin has been no friend to adopted people’s civil and human rights.

    Earlier this week a representative from Spence-Chapin testified in New Jersey in support of A1406 a bill that stands to seal the records of boarder babies and children abandoned through NJ’s “safe haven” program, creating for the first time ever, what will be some number of foster kids with sealed records among the bill’s many other horrors.

    They have been pioneers in “open adoption” marketing, yet still work to deny adopted people, and now foster kids access to their own state confiscated documentation.

    The idea of Spence-Chapin further worming its way into clinics, and under the co-optated language of “Access” no less, is disgusting.

  5. Baby Love Child Says:

    I suppose I should also point out the obvious:

    When women enter a clinic that offers abortion, they are there seeking access to health care services, not marketing for the “German restaurant down the block.”

  6. Robin Says:

    You make so many good points that I don’t know which one to comment on, first. On my blog, I have addressed the mythology of adoption, its social presence as an institution with all the warm, fuzzy connotations that the spin doctors can give it.

    Young women, swayed by the anti-choice contingent, seem to, in many cases, see surrender for adoption as a second kind of after-the-fact birth control. It has been very difficult for us older moms to get the message across that it is a human child with a personality, inclinations and talents that is being consigned to this situation. With so many of us in reunion finding emotionally damaged adult children, I feel it is imperative for the new mothers considering adoption to hear from us AND our children.

    These women and their babies fall into these cleverly contrived nets as fodder for the fundies. It scares me to think that these religious grooups could take over government and legislation by virtue of sheer numbers. What I once viewed as a harmless expression of spiritual need, I now see as an evil threat. The fact is that these groups use the most vulnerable among us to enact their plans…the mothers and babies. It is, in my eyes, a calculated and furious attempt by the patriarchy to keep the control of the family, the sexuality of everyone and the government in their hands.

    I have watched this since I was a child. Approaching 65, I cannot believe how much momentum has been built by these pious power-mongers. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I know what I have witnessed and it is NOT good.

  7. Baby Love Child Says:

    Thanks Robin.

    I absolutely agree that adoption is sometimes portrayed as some strange form of “a second kind of after-the-fact birth control.”

    I think it’s also important to point out that once that child is born and now a separate person from their mother they possess their own set of rights as well. Rights that are all too often being trampled by the sealed records system, but they exist none-the-less.

    The state, many portions of the adoption industry, and a number of individuals seem to view us almost more as objects that can be picked up and moved around rather than individuals in our own right with our own sets of rights.

    The same however can also be said for our Mothers as well, they too are objectified in adoption.

    As for the Biblical Americans, (the social movement that seeks to use the Bible as the sole basis of all governance and social interaction see Mike and my work over on our BARF page) adoption is a key institution to them both theologically and practically as a form to extend their efforts towards movement growth.

    Under the terminology and pseudo justification of their “orphan” efforts, they have built an industry that sees pregnant women and any resultant children as mere fodder.

    Far from a “conspiracy theory” the threat and genuine consequences in the here and now are all too concrete.

  8. OhCrapIHaveACrushOnSarahPalin Says:

    “Abortion is necessary, it is lifesaving, it is normal, and you know what? I’ll go ahead and say it in my out loud voice,

    Abortion is good.”

    I often tell people, do not call me pro-choice, do not spread that rwnj lie that “nobody is pro-abortion”. I am pro-abortion. I am pro-physical-integrity for women.

    That bothers quite a few people.

  9. Baby Love Child Says:

    I was writing things like:

    “I am pro-abortion, and proud!”

    back in 1999 for example ,(see Choice: An Obsolete Strategy) and certainly well before that.

    Seems far too many people are simply unable to understand that abortion is nothing to be ashamed of, nor running from.

  10. Baby Love Child Says:

    I feel the need to also point out the obvious- in the US, far more women die in childbirth each year than die as a result of complications from abortions, (abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth) and in terms of risk of abortion complications, fewer than 0.3% of women who have abortions experience a complication that requires hospitalization.

    So when clinics promote eventual adoptions as if such were merely some “third choice” they are actually advocating not only a path to parenthood (just one often without any access to the eventual child) but also an outcome that poses a much higher risk to the woman and her health.

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