The ghost of abortion in adoption stories

Like many Americans, I’ve been developing an interest in Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. I came across a blog post that asserted something provocative:

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick should not be playing in the National Football Conference title game on Sunday.  In fact, if anyone were taking book on these sorts of things back in 1987, they would have bet that a “Colin Kaepernick” would never have existed at all.

In the early part of that year, Kaepernick’s birth mother made a culture-defying decision.  She chose not to have an abortion.  Instead, she hung in there through the pregnancy and birth and gave up her baby for adoption.

Now that my husband and I are trying to adopt, we spend a lot of time thinking about the birth mother of a prospective child and what she must be going through. One of the things you learn when you are aiming to adopt an infant from this country is, to put it bluntly, there aren’t that many infants available for adoption. The process to adopt one is unbelievably cumbersome and expensive. Much more than it should be, in my opinion.

In any case, now read this story about adoptions plummeting as Russia closes its doors, printed in USA Today. It begins:

Russia’s decision to close its doors to U.S. adoptions is making a critical shortage of children Americans can adopt even worse.

Later we’re told:

Yet even domestic adoptions are a growing challenge, said Jenny Pope of Buckner International, an adoption agency, because as single parenthood becomes more acceptable, “there are just not as many women placing their children for adoption.”

As a result, the number of U.S. infant adoptions (about 90,000 in 1971) has fallen from 22,291 in 2002 to 18,078 in 2007, according to the most recent five-year tally from the private National Council for Adoption. The group’s president, Chuck Johnson, expects the number has remained fairly stable since 2007, citing efforts to promote adoption.

We frequently look at how bias affects the words and themes that are mentioned in a news story. But it has more deleterious effects with what is left out. Forty years and 55 million pregnancies “terminated” after Roe v. Wade, we don’t even mention the effect of abortion in a story on infant adoption in the United States. Just fascinating.

Baby picture via Shutterstock.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Given the high cost of international adoption, and the fact that financial implications are often cited as a major influence in mothers deciding to abort, it seems as though there is potential for market-driven domestic adoption.

    Is there any reason this could not happen?

    • Martha

      Karl, apparently (I don’t know how widespread this is or if it’s a big factor) women deciding whether or not to have abortions often discount adoption because they’re afraid that if they go through with the pregnancy and give birth, they’ll be too attached to the child and unable to give it up for adoption, and so (if their circumstances are such that they feel they can’t keep the child), it’s better if they have an abortion.

      Besides, a market-driven adoption service might not work – it seems the long waiting lists are because everyone wants a new baby, but the older children/children with physical or behavioural disabilities are not as desirable and so are left unwanted. What is to say that an adoption market wouldn’t turn out the same as the IVF business, where it would cost thousands to get the ‘perfect’ child and a for-profit market in having babies-for-sale gets established (especially among poor women, the way Third World women are currently involved in the surrogate pregnancy business.)

      On the topic of adoption versus abortion, has anyone else seen the skeevy ad celebrating the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade? If this is a genuine abortion-rights campaign’s idea of how to appeal to women, and not a spoof, then oh brother!

  • Ellen

    When you say “market driven,” do you mean pay for babies? Because – no. And as a birth mother to two children that I chose to place for adoption, I will tell you that besides the obvious difficulties, I was told by more than one adoption agency that my children were considered difficult to place (even as newborns) because they were multi racial. One adoption worker even went so far as to tell me that of my children had been caucasian, there would be a waiting list but that I might have to choose foster first because of their ethnicity.

  • sari

    The article fails to acknowledge some of the reasons why Americans prefer overseas adoptions: less scrutiny of parents’ past, lower hurdles to adoption (e.g., single women, non-heterosexuals), and whiter babies. How many prospective parents will adopt children of color or with disabilities? I know that some do so preferentially, and many of these for religious reasons, but what’s the overall percentage in comparison to the number of children available for adoption? And does the shortage reflect higher rates of abortion or more affordable and easier access to contraception and the increased use of surrogates among the wealthier contingent–those best able to afford adoption, in addition to the destigmatization of pre/extramarital sex and single motherhood?

    It seems to me that the article ignored or omitted *lots* of factors that would depress the numbers. And, since our local “orphanages” overflow with children who can be fostered or adopted, there’s little reason to look abroad. Those children desperately need adult parents who will love and nurture them. Here’s one local example:

    http://www.childrenatheartministries.org/page.aspx?pid=1185

    • Greg

      sari, you are making a bunch of assumptions that are common, but not borne out by facts.

      http://adoption.state.gov/about_us/statistics.php

      Top 5 Adopting Countries and States
      2011
      China
      Ethiopia
      Russia
      South Korea
      Ukraine
      California
      Texas
      New York
      Illinois
      Florida

      • Greg

        Grr, copy and paste issues …

        Top 5 Adopting Countries and States
        2011
        1. China
        2. Ethiopia
        3. Russia
        4. South Korea
        5. Ukraine

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Let’s keep in mind that the 55 million number is only the number of surgical abortions — if it’s even accurate, since not all states report their figures. There are also scads of chemical abortions that take place through various means and are never counted. And there’s something else many people aren’t figuring into their calculations: it’s been 2 generations since Roe v Wade. Those 55 million+++ who were never allowed to be born were also never allowed to have their own children. The ghosts are everywhere and the dearth of children — adoptable or otherwise — is worse than we imagine.

  • Daniel

    I know a woman whose agreement for an open adoption did not work out well. She’s the birth mother, and the adoptive mother attempted renegotiation of the agreement about eight or ten years after it was made. How often are statistics like this discussed in reports, and are statistics on renegotiation even collected?

  • Nana’s granddaughter

    My grandmother was born in 1908. She was born to an unmarried woman, I’m sure her birth mother endured a lot of shame for her out of wedlock child, because she gave my grandmother up for adoption when my grandmother was 4. My grandmother went on to have 7 children and 14 grandchildren. If her mother had chosen abortion, there are an additional 21 people who wouldn’t have come into the world. :( What about all of the lives these 21 people have touched, the friends they’ve made? Thomas in the above comment uses an appropriate word….ghosts.


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