Making adoption the goal

Kathryn Joyce wrote about Amy Coney Barrett and abortion and the “supply” of babies the day after the leaked ruling:

If you want to understand what using adoption as the solution to unplanned pregnancies looks like, you don’t need to look far. But you do need to look. There’s a long and ugly history in the U.S. of coercive and even forced adoption. From roughly 1945 to 1972 — the year before the Supreme Court’s original Roe v. Wade decision — somewhere between 1.5 million and 6 million women relinquished infants for adoption, often after being “sent away” to homes for unwed mothers, where many women faced brutal coercion, were prohibited from contact with outsiders, went through labor and gave birth in segregated sections of hospitals, and were urged to relinquish their newborns while recovering from anesthesia.

What’s not to like?

After Roe v. Wade, the number of children relinquished for adoption began to drop precipitously. In 1972, close to 20 percent of unmarried pregnant white women relinquished their babies for adoption, but by the late 1990s, the rate had dropped to around 1 percent. (Infant relinquishment rates among never-married Black women have been statistically zero for decades.) 

For some people, that steep decline in the number of American children available for adoption was a problem. The stats Alito cited in his opinion — contrasting an overly abundant “demand” for adoptable children with a “virtually nonexistent” “supply” — reveals a little-recognized truth. First, adoption is an industry driven by supply and demand, as unpalatable as those terms may sound when we’re talking about human children. Second, the reflexive liberal retort to anti-abortion rhetoric — well, those right-wingers had better be ready to adopt all those extra babies! — badly misunderstands how this particular industry works. 

Third, these people are fucked in the head. A big “supply” of babies for other people to raise should not be a goal! Women are not work benches where babies are cranked out, and babies are not objects to be cranked out!

[I]n the mid-2000s, some anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers began trying to deploy market research to determine what “subconscious emotional motivators” might make adoption more appealing [to the baby-havers]. Two reports that emerged from that research — one bluntly titled “Birthmother, Good Mother: Her Story of Heroic Redemption” — counseled CPCs to use a common message: that single women who opted to parent their children were being selfish and immature, while choosing adoption was more mature and loving and even, in some cases, a chance for a woman to “prove her character by relinquishing her child.” 

That sort of rhetoric had real effects. One mother I met was sent to a modern maternity home in Washington state when she got pregnant at 19. There she was told that choosing adoption would both please God and prove that she loved her child more than if she kept him. Isolated from her friends, family and boyfriend, she was instead encouraged to spend time with the couple who wanted to adopt her child. She came to feel like a surrogate rather than a “real” mother, and when she expressed doubts about going through with the plan, she was chastised severely. When she fell into a deep depression after relinquishing her child, the family closed what was originally intended to be an open adoption, and she wasn’t allowed to see her son again.

That’s nice.

There are a lot of stories like this, but they’re often rendered invisible in a culture where adoption is seen as a unilateral good or a “win-win-win”; where Democrats have long sought to triangulate the abortion morass by offering, somehow, to “make adoption more available“; and where media depictions of birthmothers are often limited to seedy reality-show storylines. In a dynamic where adoptive parents are almost universally wealthier and more powerful than birthparents, even the language we use privileges one side of the story, leaving almost no neutral way to discuss the issue. 

In short the birthmothers are sluts and the baby belongs to those much better richer more powerful people in the SUV.

“The underlying consideration of adoption in the leaked opinion reflects the view that the decline of American infants available for adoption is inherently an adverse trend,” says sociologist Gretchen Sisson, author of the forthcoming book “Relinquished: The American Mothers Behind Infant Adoption.”

Which is sick. What are infants available for adoption? Infants without parents of their own, that’s what – because of death or emergency or some other bad, tragic obstacle. They’re not desirable consumer items! That is, they shouldn’t be, but it turns out they are.

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