Stop Using the Adoption Community — Adoptees, Mothers, Fathers, and Adoptive Parents (AMFAPs) — as Pawns in the Political Battle Over Abortion
We are angry and speaking out . . .
Adoptees, Mothers, Fathers, and Adoptive Parents (AMFAPs) have been silenced for far too long. We are tired of being spoken about and for. We are tired of hearing the joys of adoption extolled by those on the receiving and those who profit financially from the destruction of families to create new ones without so much as a word about the traumatic losses on which adoptions rely.
We are tired of the lies and secrecy that resulted in generations of people living with falsified birth certificates, denied the same right as non-adopted citizens to know their progenitors, their genetics, their heritage. Forced to live an institutionalized gaslit lie — documented by official government vital records falsely claiming they were “born to” non-related, biological strangers. Forced to live in fear of unintentionally committing incest.
As if all that wasn’t enough, to add insult to jury, we (AMFAPs) are now being used as pawns in the politics of abortion — an issue that is in reality totally separate from adoption, since adoption can only occur after a child is born.
“If we want to move toward an understanding of adoption that is rooted in this broader framework of reproductive justice, we must begin with listening to the stories of those most deeply impacted and least heard: adoptees and the parents who relinquish them.” Gretchen Sisson and Jessica M. Harrison, What we Get wrong About Adoption.
Every adoption, no matter how lovingly well-meaning, begins with a tragedy — a loss — a traumatic separation of mother and child, something the “adoption not abortion” bumper sticker crowd wants to ignore. I am a mother who knows first-hand the trauma of the loss of my firstborn to adoption and the lifelong PTSD mothers such as myself — as well as our extended family members — live with, including those in open adoption or the growing number who have found and reunited thanks to DNA. None of this undoes the primal soul-deep wound caused by mother-child severance.
Cynthia Landesberg, a Korean born adoptee, and adoptive mother and a lawyer in the D.C. in addressing the issue of adoption not being an alternative to abortion, also addresses the additional complications and challenges faced by transnational and transracial adoptees. Landesberg poignantly explains:
“ . . . transracial adoptees like myself often encounter racism and ethnic bullying, and do so without the protective insulation of ethnic socialization. Most adoptive parents are White. Transracial adoptions account for about 40 percent of all adoptions and 28 percent of adoptions from foster care. With laws restricting abortion access more likely to affect people of color, it is not difficult to imagine an increase in non-White adoptees, and thus more children grappling with crises of identity. . .
“My adoptive parents raised me the way many White parents of transracial adoptees do — as White. The mismatch between my inside and outside, my face and my name, left me disoriented and unmoored. . .
“Perhaps if my birth mother had a real choice, I’d have been aborted, unknowingly absorbed back into the earth. Perhaps she would have raised me, and I’d be navigating the ordinary challenges of life without the adoption baggage.
“Or maybe I’d be exactly where I am now — but I would know this was her decision. I wouldn’t be left wondering if I’d been coerced into existence, bought or stolen into adoption. I wouldn’t be left carrying the pain I’m sure she felt.”
Tory Bae was adopted from South Korea, in the 1980s, by an all-white family in Minnesota. In an article about the adoption/abortion controversy Brae, who describes herself as an Evangelical Christian, says was often was told, “directly or indirectly, that adoption was the moral thing to do . . .it was very much like, ‘Adopt, adopt, adopt! That would be awesome!”
Upon exploring adoption as an adult, she has become a prolific producer of TikTok videos and amassed quite the following asserting her conclusion that:
“ . . .adoption is not a solution for abortion . . . and It shouldn’t even be in the same conversation. You’re talking about abortion as a medical procedure being compared with adoption which, in this day and age, is the commodification of children.”
“I’ve had people tell me how grateful I must be that my kids’ birth parents didn’t choose abortion. I find this disgusting — because it’s based on assumptions and stereotypes. Birth parents are, to many, less-than. People assume they are young, drug-addicted, sexually promiscuous, irresponsible, and often, people of color. Adoptive parents are the rescuers, the ones who can swoop in and redeem the situation.”
Garlinghouse speaks of the many ways she sees pro-lifers have failed. For one, she asks:
“If adoption is the answer to abortion — why are there so many children in the [foster care] system? There are enough pro-lifers that if this is the argument they stand on, then why aren’t all of children available for adoption already adopted?”
Cory L. Richards. Former executive VP and VP of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute, concurs, writing that:
“ . . . 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.”
(Paul Sunderland is a psychiatrist who specializes in attachment, relinquishment and adoption trauma and addiction.)
How can anyone claim to speak on behalf of fetuses but do nothing to prevent and in fact encourage the trauma experienced by infants separated from the sounds, smells and rhythms they experienced the first nine months — a trauma which causes neurologic changes to the brain that can be seen on imaging and leaves a legacy of difficulties with attachment, trust, relationship difficulties and results in adopted adults being over-represented in mental health and substance abuse facilities as well as four times more likely to attempt suicide? Pro-adoption advocates also white-wash the fact no woman — with the exception of misguided paid surrogates — intentionally get pregnant with the intent of giving their child to strangers.
Public expectation is for those who are adopted to feel grateful and lucky to be alive, and not aborted. But that is preposterous inasmuch as adoptees are just as likely or unlikely to have been aborted as any other human being. According to “Marital status and abortion” by Wadhera and Miller:
“While abortion rates were highest for single women, those who were married (including common-law and separated) accounted for over one-quarter of all abortions performed in 1994. Since 1974, the age-standardized abortion rate per 1,000 married women aged 15 to 44 almost doubled from 6.6 to 11.2.”
Additionally, 13% of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians; while 22% of U.S. women are Catholic, 27% of abortion patients say they are Catholics according to the National Abortion Federation.
Many adoptees are pro-choice and are not at all grateful for not having been aborted but wish their mothers had a choice.
“Adoption and abortion are often reduced to simplistic decisions. If you want to compare the choices, it might seem like adoption is the better choice. But for me, the short answer is unequivocally no, it is not. I would even argue abortion is the more humane option. Adoption does not mean a better life; it means a different life. Adoptees have lifelong trauma from the separation from their biological mothers. Experiencing the worst loss anyone can experience the moment you are born does not translate into a better life. It means a life of not fitting in, of feeling unwanted, of protecting everyone else’s feelings and emotions except your own. Adoption means not knowing your truth, losing who you were meant to be.
“Adoption severs biological ties and mirrors that are so grounding and vital to our growth, healing and success. Whenever I hear a story about a baby being adopted, I feel complete sadness for that baby and wonder how they are going to manage in this life. I see them floating away unsupported into the arms of unknowing people who are just happy to have a baby. For all these reasons and my own experience, I see adoption itself as emotional abuse because every adopted baby has at least one thing in common — they have lost the most important person in their world and no one can replace her . . .
“If you were to ask me if I would rather have been aborted, here is what I would say. If my biological mother had chosen abortion, I would not know. My husband would have a different wife, my friends would have different friends, my adoptive parents would have gotten the next baby in line, my kids would not be here, but no one would be the wiser. And I would have avoided the life of pain and trauma that adoption brings. As it were, my mother did not even consider abortion, she tried everything she could to keep me. So, if I could change anything, I would want her to have the support she needed to parent me.”
Cynthia Landesberg, a Korean born adoptee, an adoptive mother and a lawyer in the D.C. area wrote that “Adoption is not a fairy-tale answer to abortion,” nor is it, she says “the Hallmark movie-version of adoption.”
“When antiabortion advocates ask adoptees who support abortion rights, ‘Would you rather have been aborted?’ the intent is to coerce us into saying no. But for some of us, the answer is yes . . Among those who oppose abortion, the children’s very existence is often cast as a happy ending. But it’s not that simple.”
Gina Miller writes: “Adoptees are not your mascots for the abortion debate.” She says that as an adoptee she feels like a “drive by shooting victims, caught in the middle” of the abortion debate.
“The alternative to abortion is not adoption, it is parenting the child. . . This new movement has nothing to do with ‘life’. It is simply pro birth. No one cares if these children are born healthy. They just want them born.”
John Gregg, 49, was adopted by Catholic missionaries and suspects may have adopted him as an act of social protest, as have many celebs and other capital “L” liberals. Gregg writes about his struggle with alcoholism and describes himself now as a Family Preservation and Harm Reduction campaigner, says:
“It’s very troubling to me that my entire existence is because my mother didn’t have access to abortion. While it’s a cruel question to ask ‘Would you rather have been aborted?’ The answer, for me, is yes. First of all because if I’d been aborted, I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t exist. But also, it’s very hard to reconcile your own existence when it comes at the cost of someone else’s human rights.
“Children like me grew up in an environment where we’re told we were spared from abortion. We were propagandized into thinking abortion is wrong. I believe that is a form of violence. I don’t pretend to know what the answer is for this generation of children who are going to be a product of forced birth, but in my opinion, adoption isn’t it.”
Shane Bouel, who is adopted, takes it a step further calling the recent SCOTUS reversal of Roe v. Wade “domestic terrorism” that targets women to create children to be trafficked to meet a demand. He writes,
“As an adoptee, I have to ask, is the revocation of roe vs wade actually a US domestic issue or a symptom of a larger worldwide problem?”
The Solution to Abortion is NOT Adoption
Abortion is about terminating a pregnancy. It is sought by women who do not want to be pregnant for many reasons including medical necessity such as an ectopic pregnancy.
According to the CDC U.S. maternal mortality rate is abysmal, especially for Black women who die at nearly three times the rate during childbirth as White women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2019 Statista ranked the U.S. fifth in maternal mortality. and the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Maternal deaths have been increasing here since 2000, with two-thirds of those deaths reported as preventable.
“ . . .pregnancy imposes significant physiological changes on a person’s body. These changes can exacerbate underlying or preexisting conditions, like renal or cardiac disease, and can severely compromise health or even cause death. . . There are situations where pregnancy termination in the form of an abortion is the only medical intervention that can preserve a patient’s health or save their life.”
Other life-threatening pregnancy conditions include: severe preeclampsia, newly diagnosed cancer that needs treatment right away, and an intrauterine infection known as chorioamnionitis following a premature rupture of the amniotic sac. A placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the uterine lining, may also be considered a medical emergency in some cases of extensive bleeding.
The U.S. infant mortality rate (5.8 deaths under one year of age per 1,000 live births) is 71 percent higher than the comparable country average (3.4 deaths).
Further, The Turnaway Study found that women seeking abortion wh o were unable to obtainone experienced an increase in household poverty and higher risk of remaking in an abusive relationship. They also found that children born as a result of abortion denial are more likely to live below the federal poverty level than children born from a subsequent pregnancy to women who received the abortion.
Adoption does nothing to prevent any of this.
Abortion is a time-limited medical option to terminate a pregnancy, while adoption, on the other hand can only take place after a child is born and does nothing to prevent these horrific medical crisis. One has nothing to do with the other. Attempting to legislate women to continue an unwanted pregnancy is barbaric and will only result in a return to back-alley, dangerous, life-threatening abortions for those who lack the means to simply go where the procedure is legal.
Nor does adoption guarantee children entrusted with non-related parents are safe from abandonment (often in the form of rehoming) emotional, sexual, and physical abuse including that which has led to the murder of adopted children.
If the goal of anti-choice advocates 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 is saving a life, both adoption and the ability to raise a child would be equally supported. If the goal is 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.
The Dutch have 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.
Adoption is seldom anyone’s first choice. With rare exception adoptees have no choice at all. Most adoptive parents try multiple rounds of expensive and painful IVF treatments and anything else they can afford to have a child related to one of them. Even truly altruistic adopters, often have both adopted and biological children.
For expectant mothers, unplanned, unintended or untimely pregnancies do not mean the resulting child is unwanted. Nor does it mean the mother is unfit to parent, she just may need some assistance. The lack of support for mothers in need is in direct opposition to the fact that the first choice of most who find themselves with an untimely pregnancy want to nurture their child. Many, such as myself, fought desperately to keep and nurture our children, often holding out hope boyfriends or parents would help us do so.
A study by Gretchen Sisson, Ph.D., confirms this. Sisson, who studies abortion, adoption, and reproductive decision-making in the U.S. found that the vast majority of mothers whose children were placed for adoption were either hoping or planning to have the resources to parent. This finding is in keeping with my 40+ years working with mothers who lost children to adoption, the vast majority of whom were too young or too poor to have any agency to make a choice.
Ann Fessler and Ricki Solinger have each authored books describing how mostly white American women were sequestered against their will by their parents, and many sent homes for unwed mothers. Others have had their children taken on false or questionable, or trumped up accusations of abuse or neglect. While maternity homes no longer exist, today expectant mothers are still coerced and pressured to fill an overwhelming demand for preferably white and fresh form the womb babies — a demand noted in a footnote of Alito’s decision — all while tens of thousands of children remain in state care. Neither banning abortion nor promoting adoption does anything to help or reduce the number of the children in high-risk foster care who have no family members to be reunified safely with and thus could be adopted.
Meanwhile, two million applicants clamor to adopt newborns, or babies as young as possible. It is estimated that there are 36 couples and individuals are vying for each baby placed, but it is likely higher when you factor in the number of same-sex couples added to the queue.
Adoptees, their mothers, fathers and adoptive parents (AMFAPs) are speaking out against the recent outrageous conservative Supreme Court attempt to set women’s right back 50 years and turn mothers into handmaids and severing more children from their roots in order to meet a demand.
We need to join forces and make our collective voices heard. We need to unite and fight back against those seeking to reinvigorate the false, draconian and punitive false either or dichotomy of “adoption not abortion.” Adoption began as apprenticeship and a misguided social experiment that was predicated on the false notion of infants as blank slates and has morphed from helping children in need to a $19.1 billion-dollar infant demand-driven privatized, entrepreneurial industry with prices ranging from $10,000 per adoption, to ten times that depending on age, race and health, being promoted and encouraged by anti-adoptionists.
We who live with the lifelong harmful impact of adoption must stand up and speak our truth and demand an end to being used in this obscene false, binary duality of abortion and adoption that eliminates the most humane option: helping families in crisis remain intact, not preying on their time of temporary need and commodifying their children.
Who is willing to stand up and speak out our truth to power? Who is willing converge on the Supreme Court and let our united voices speak out against the destruction of fledgling families, the damage of mother-child separation, the loss of genetic continuity for hose adopted, and the moneyed transfer of child-custody to meet a demand being falsely promoted as a solution to abortion?