The Truth of Forced Pregnancies

Anti-Abortion and Supply and Demand of Infants for Adoption

With all the posturing as to whether or not a fetus is deserving of autonomous rights, a major aspect of the abortion debate that entangles it up with adoption has become overlooked until a footnote from the CDC on page 34 in the infamous leaked majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade which addressed the supply and demand of babies for adoption garnered a great deal of discussion on social media and in the press.

“46. See, e.g., Centers for Disease Control, Adoption Experiences of Women and Men and Demand for Children to Adopt by Women 18-44 Years of Age in the United States 16 (Aug. 2008) (“[N]early 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent.”); Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, Adoption and nonbiological parenting, [link] (showing that approximately 3.1 million women between the ages of 18- 49 had ever “[t]aken steps to adopt a child” based on data collected from 2015-2019)”. [emphasis added]

Alito touched upon and opened the door to a very ugly truth behind the pro-choice debate that the “conservative legal industrial complex went to great lengths to downplay” as “trivial” with some claiming that pro-choice advocates mis-interpreted the leaked footnote asserting that it was not Alito who said it.

Be that as it may, many were shocked because the general public views adoption very positively as a benevolent act of “saving orphans” and “rescuing unwanted” children from neglect or abuse while others see it as a win-win for those who long for a child they cannot have on their own and a mother faced with an untimely, unintended pregnancy. There was thus shock at the use of the terms “supply and demand” to describe a seemingly altruistic act. But supply and demand are a very real part of adoption as anyone trying to adopt knows.

The fact is that there are 2 million prospective adopters or 36 hopeful couples and individuals vying for each newborn placed creating enormous demand and the ratio is likely higher when you factor in the number of same-sex couples added to the queue following the legalization of gay marriage. Despite the romantic aura of adoption, there is nothing noble or altruistic about paying tens of thousands of dollars to obtain an infant (preferably white and healthy) while nearly half a million children who could be adopted remain in state care.

Adoptees and other members of the adoption community – those whose lives have been irrevocably changed by adoption – as well as scholars, and investigative journalists have long decried adoption as a market-driven mega-billion dollar industry that commodifies babies and prices them based on race, age and health (also see) and that as the supply of babies for adoption has dwindled, expectant mothers continue to be pressured, coerced and made promises of open adoption in order to get them to sign over their rights and free their infants for adoption.

Conflating abortion with adoption is a red herring and very offensive to mothers who have lost children to adoption, labeling them potential murderers, and insulting to adoptees who, as a result of these artificially opposing comparisons, are positioned to feel gratitude for being alive when in truth those who are adopted are no more likely to have been aborted than children born to married parents. Barrett’s flippant mention of legal abandonment via “Safe Havens” also shows disregard for the well-being of adopted persons who are left with no birth records to access even in states that allow such access.

The warm-fuzzy image of adoption masterfully crafted by billions of dollars in marketing compounded by the nary a person doesn’t know someone who has adopted or wants to create an environment in which being pro-adoption wins votes for politicians and lawmakers who constantly push to make the process quicker and faster for adopters – those with the money that fuels the powerful industry. While cats and dogs are granted 4-6 weeks before they can be adopted, human babies are placed immediately after birth so they can “bond” with adopters, denying them their mothers’ milk and colostrum.  Fathers’ rights are almost non-existent with putative father registries enacted in all states which are punitive, requiring to make men jump through impossible hoops that have led to many years’ long custody battles by loving fathers.

Adoption — being proposed as a solution to abortion — flies in the face of the fact adoption does not reduce abortion since it can only occur after birth. Cory L. Richards, former executive vice president and VP of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute, wrote in 2007:

“Politicians of all stripes, and whatever their position on abortion, should face reality.

Increasing the rate of completed adoptions, however valid on its own merits, is irrelevant to the abortion rate. And increasing the rate of newborn relinquishments, even assuming it could be done in an ethically and socially acceptable way, at best would be tinkering at the margins. Even if relinquishments doubled, and each one of them represented an averted abortion, it would make hardly a dent in the abortion rate.”

It also ignores the effect accessibility of birth control has had on the declining birth rate and the obvious fact that less babies being born results in less babies for adoption.

If the goal was truly to reduce abortions and if those supporting anti-abortion legislation were truly pro-life, they would not promote a two-option dichotomy that ignores the option to help women in crisis pregnancies keep their families intact by providing needed services for them to do so. If the goal was truly to avoid abortion, those who claim to be pro-life would support early and continuing sex education, affordable housing, free birth control including vasectomies, healthcare for all, affordable childcare, adequate paid parental leave, school lunches, and increases to WIC.  Unplanned, unintended pregnancies do not necessarily mean unwanted children. Nor does it mean unfit to parent. The lack of support for mothers in need is in direct opposition to the fact that it is the first choice of most who find themselves with an untimely pregnancy. They simply need the support to do so.

The Dutch boast the lowest abortion rate in the world with complication and death rates from abortion almost non-existent. Instead of tightening restrictions and enacting limitations, they accomplished this by making abortion and contraception freely available on demand, free, and covered by the national health insurance plan. Holland also carries out extensive public education on contraception, family planning, and sexuality. Rather than encouraging teens to have more sex, Dutch teenagers tend to have less frequent sex, and start at an older age, and the teenage pregnancy rate is 6 times lower than in the U.S.

Follow the money

While adoption can be a loving choice for adopters and children, it is, in fact, a transactional business faced with mounting demand and dwindling supply.  Domestic infant adoptions in the US are privatized and entrepreneurial. The industry is comprised of more than 40,00 businesses that employ over 232,000 people and even non-profit adoption agency businesses have overhead, including substantial compensation for agency directors. There are an estimated 135–140,00 children adopted per year in the U.S. each at fees of approximately $15–50,000 each, depending on race, age and health of the child. Some estimate child adoption at a total of $15.5 billion a year but adoption industry statistics set the figure of the adoption industry at $19.1 billion

From approximately 1945 to 1973 the shame of the “sin” of extra-marital sex for women created what became known as The Baby Scoop Era (BSE), a time during which it is estimated that up to 4 million parents in the United States had children placed for adoption, with 2 million during the 1960s alone.

Beginning in the 1970s, however, the tables began to turn. Birth control became more accessible. Women no longer needed their husband’s permission to obtain contraception and pregnancy termination became more widely available. Additionally, the shame of “unwed” pregnancies became far less of an influencing factor and single parenthood steadily became less stigmatized, to the point that single men and women now adopt. At the same time as the shame of pregnancy outside of marriage dissipated and less women felt the pressure to place children for adoption, women became encouraged to delay childbearing for graduate degrees and careers which added to rising rates of infertility and decreased that shame.  A huge reproductive technology industry grew, offering treatments including IVF which are painful, expensive and not always successful. Other options such as frozen embryos and surrogacy are also financially out of reach for many. The fallback, most affordable, position remains adoption.

All of these social factors combined to drastically reverse the supply and demand of babies for adoption as compared to prior decades.  It is no coincidence that it was at that time that ”Adoption not Abortion” and “Choose Life” became a rallying cry and common bumper stickers. And those same hackneyed obscenities are now being renewed with no option to parent in this “adoption not abortion” dichotomy as expressed by Amy Coney Barrett, who in December of 2021 suggested “requiring” women to remain pregnant against their will:

“It seems to me that the choice, more focused, would be between, say, the ability to get an abortion at 23 weeks, or the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more, and then terminate parental rights at the conclusion.”

Forcing women to remain pregnant and hand over their child unwittingly turns women into unpaid surrogates making them unwilling Handmaid breeders and risking their lives continuing the “long, sordid history of using women’s bodies to incubate babies for the benefit of others.”  Forced pregnancies will also negatively impact women in the workforce and reduce family income. Will pro-lifers supplement their lost incomes?

It is shameful and egregious that at a time when the Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, The Netherlands and Scotland are issuing apologies for forced adoptions that occurred in past decades — and the same is in process in the UK –  the U.S. will encourage more forced adoptions by restricting abortion rights. And the reason has nothing to do with morality.

The latest polls show that more than 60% of Americans agree with the positions of the International Women’s Health Coalition and Amnesty International’s positions that access to safe abortion is a fundamental human right:

“Under international human rights law, everyone has a right to life, a right to health, and a right to be free from violence, discrimination, and torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Forcing someone to carry a pregnancy against their will — for whatever reason — is a violation of those rights.”

Likewise, many religious leaders from all faiths are pro-choice. Among them is Catholic nun Joan Chittister, who is critical of anti-abortioniadsts who are anti-child and family:

“I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

 Jewish leaders argue that abortion access is not only a 14th Amendment issue, as the Supreme Court itself ruled with Roe v. Wade in 1973, but a 1st Amendment issue, in light of the fact that pregnancy termination is not only permitted by Judaism but, at times required.

“Alito’s leaked opinion has also been called to task for stating that the constitution makes no reference to abortion or the right to obtain one because women, at the time the constitution was written, were not included part of the political community embraced by the phrase ‘We the People.’”

Yet, ironically, we continue to discount men’s role and responsibility in conceptions in some cases that leads to abortion, including that which is incestuous, abusive, adulterous, totally inappropriate because of power imbalances, or out and out felonious. Where is any effort to hold men responsible for abortions when many of them are financing abortions for their wives, mistresses, girlfriends or casual dates? If women and abortion providers are to be criminalized where is any effort encouraging women to reveal who is paying for their abortions and criminalize them which might have a profound impact on reducing the number of abortions?

Blue states are moving quickly to protect the rights of their citizens from the attack on women’s reproductive rights and autonomy.  As was the case prior to Roe – those with the means will be able to travel to access pregnancy termination. The challenge will be protecting those who cannot afford to travel to blue states. Nearly three-quarters of Americans who obtain abortions are living in poverty, according to 2014 data from the Guttmacher Institute. Likewise poverty is the leading reason babies are placed for adoption.

Anti-abortionists want to remove rights women have relied on for 50 years and turn the clock back to the days of life risking illegal abortions. They want to save the unborn from being aborted yet offer no choice or support for mothers in crisis to parent.

Mirah is author of two internationally acclaimed books, more than 200 published articles, and cited in twenty professional journals having been researching, writing and speaking about American and global child adoption, restoration of adoptee rights, as well as contract anonymous conception and surrogacy since 1980. More at her website and Wikipedia. Read other articles by Mirah, or visit Mirah's website.