Shotgun Adoption

This article was originally published in the September 14, 2009 edition of The Nation; research for the article was provided by the Puffin Foundation Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

Carol Jordan, a 32-year-old pharmacy technician, was living in
Greenville, South Carolina, in 1999 when she became pregnant. She’d
already decided against abortion, but she was struggling financially and
her boyfriend was unsupportive. Looking through the Yellow Pages for
help, she spotted an ad under "crisis pregnancies" for Bethany Christian
Services. Within hours of calling, Jordan (who asked to be identified
with a pseudonym) was invited to Bethany’s local office to discuss free
housing and medical care.

Bethany, it turned out, did not simply specialize in counseling pregnant
women. It is the nation’s largest adoption agency, with more than
eighty-five offices in fifteen countries.

When Jordan arrived, a counselor began asking whether she’d considered
adoption and talking about the poverty rates of single mothers. Over
five counseling sessions, she convinced Jordan that adoption was a
win-win situation: Jordan wouldn’t "have death on her hands," her bills
would be paid and the baby would go to a family of her choosing in an
open adoption. She suggested Jordan move into one of Bethany’s
"shepherding family" homes, away from the influence of family and

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), the nonprofit pregnancy-testing
facilities set up by antiabortion groups to dissuade women from having
abortions, have become fixtures of the antiabortion landscape,
buttressed by an estimated $60 million in federal abstinence and
marriage-promotion funds. The National Abortion Federation estimates
that as many as 4,000 CPCs operate in the United States, often using
deceptive tactics like posing as abortion providers and showing women
graphic antiabortion films. While there is growing awareness of how CPCs
hinder abortion access, the centers have a broader agenda that is less
well known: they seek not only to induce women to "choose life" but to
choose adoption, either by offering adoption services themselves, as in
Bethany’s case, or by referring women to Christian adoption agencies.
Far more than other adoption agencies, conservative Christian agencies
demonstrate a pattern and history of coercing women to relinquish their

Bethany guided Jordan through the Medicaid application process and in
April moved her in with home-schooling parents outside Myrtle Beach.
There, according to Jordan, the family referred to her as one of the
agency’s "birth mothers"–a term adoption agencies use for relinquishing
mothers that many adoption reform advocates reject–although she hadn’t
yet agreed to adoption. "I felt like a walking uterus for the agency,"
says Jordan.

Jordan was isolated in the shepherding family’s house; her only social
contact was with the agency, which called her a "saint" for continuing
her pregnancy but asked her to consider "what’s best for the baby."
"They come on really prolife: look at the baby, look at its heartbeat,
don’t kill it. Then, once you say you won’t kill it, they ask, What can
you give it? You have nothing to offer, but here’s a family that goes on
a cruise every year."

Jordan was given scrapbooks full of letters and photos from hopeful
adoptive parents hoping to stand out among the estimated 150 couples for
every available baby. Today the "birthmother letters" are on Bethany’s
website: 500 couples who pay $14,500 to $25,500 for a domestic infant
adoption, vying for mothers’ attention with profuse praise of their
"selflessness" and descriptions of the lifestyle they can offer.

Jordan selected a couple, and when she went into labor, they attended
the birth, along with her counselor and shepherding mother. The next
day, the counselor said that fully open adoptions weren’t legal in South
Carolina, so Jordan wouldn’t receive identifying information on the
adoptive parents. Jordan cried all day and didn’t think she could
relinquish the baby. She called her shepherding parents and asked if she
could bring the baby home. They refused, chastising Jordan sharply. The
counselor told the couple Jordan was having second thoughts and brought
them, sobbing, into her recovery room. The counselor warned Jordan that
if she persisted, she’d end up homeless and lose the baby anyway.

"My options were to leave the hospital walking, with no money," says
Jordan. "Or here’s a couple with Pottery Barn furniture. You sacrifice
yourself, not knowing it will leave an impact on you and your child for

The next morning, Jordan was rushed through signing relinquishment
papers by a busy, on-duty nurse serving as notary public. As soon as
she’d signed, the couple left with the baby, and Jordan was taken home
without being discharged. The shepherding family was celebrating and
asked why Jordan wouldn’t stop crying. Five days later, she used her
last $50 to buy a Greyhound ticket to Greenville, where she struggled
for weeks to reach a Bethany post-adoption counselor as her milk came in
and she rapidly lost more than fifty pounds in her grief.

When Jordan called Bethany’s statewide headquarters one night, her
shepherding mother answered, responding coldly to Jordan’s lament.
"You’re the one who spread your legs and got pregnant out of wedlock,"
she told Jordan. "You have no right to grieve for this baby."

Jordan isn’t alone. On an adoption agency rating website, Bethany is
ranked poorly by birth mothers. Its adoptive parent ratings are higher,
although several adopters described the coercion they felt "our birth
mother" underwent. But neither is Bethany alone; in the constellation of
groups that constitute the Christian adoption industry, including CPCs,
maternity homes and adoption agencies, Bethany is just one large star.
And instances of coercion in adoption stretch back nearly seventy years.

Ann Fessler, author of The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of
Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v.
, has meticulously chronicled the lives of women from the "Baby
Scoop Era": the period from 1945 to 1973, when single motherhood was so
stigmatized that at least 1.5 million unwed American mothers
relinquished children for adoption, often after finishing pregnancies
secretly in maternity homes. The coercion was frequently brutal,
entailing severe isolation, shaming, withholding information about
labor, disallowing mothers to see their babies and coercing
relinquishment signatures while women were drugged or misled about their
rights. Often, women’s names were changed or abbreviated, to bolster a
sense that "the person who went away to deliver the baby was someone
else" and that mothers would later forget about the babies they had
given up. In taking oral histories from more than a hundred Baby Scoop
Era mothers, Fessler found that not only was that untrue but most
mothers suffered lifelong guilt and depression.

The cultural shift that had followed World War II switched the emphasis
of adoption from finding homes for needy infants to finding children for
childless couples. Karen Wilson-Buterbaugh, founder of the Baby Scoop
Era Research Initiative, has compiled sociological studies from the era,
including Clark Vincent’s speculation in his 1961 book Unmarried
that "if the demand for adoptable babies continues to exceed
the supply…it is quite possible that, in the near future, unwed
mothers will be ‘punished’ by having their children taken from them
right after birth"–under the guise of protecting the "best interests of
the child."

The Baby Scoop Era ended with Roe v. Wade, as abortion was
legalized and single motherhood gained acceptance. The resultant fall in
adoption rates was drastic, from 19.2 percent of white, unmarried
pregnant women in 1972 to 1.7 percent in 1995 (and lower among women of
color). Coinciding with this decline was the rise of the religious right
and the founding of crisis pregnancy centers.

In 1984 Leslee Unruh, founder of Abstinence Clearinghouse, established a
CPC in South Dakota called the Alpha Center. The first center had opened
in 1967, but in 1984 Unruh’s CPC was still a relatively new idea. In
1987 the state attorney’s office investigated complaints that Unruh had
offered young women money to carry their pregnancies to term and then
relinquish their babies for adoption.

"There were so many allegations about improper adoptions being made and
how teenage girls were being pressured to give up their children,"
then-state attorney Tim Wilka told the Argus Leader, that the
governor asked him to take the case. The Alpha Center pleaded no contest
to five counts of unlicensed adoption and foster care practices;
nineteen other charges were dropped, including four felonies. But where
Unruh left off, many CPCs and antiabortion groups have taken up in her

It’s logical that antiabortion organizations seeking to prevent
abortions and promote traditional family structures would aggressively
promote adoption, but this connection is often overlooked in the
bipartisan support that adoption promotion enjoys as part of a
common-ground truce in the abortion wars. In President Obama’s speech at
Notre Dame, he suggested that one solution to lowering abortion rates is
"making adoption more available." And in a recent online debate,
Slate columnist William Saletan and Beliefnet editor Steven
Waldman proposed that unmarried women be offered a nominal cash payment
to choose adoption over abortion as a compromise between prochoice and
prolife convictions.

Compared with pre-Roe days, today women with unplanned
pregnancies have access to far more information about their
alternatives. However, Fessler says, they frequently encounter CPCs that
pressure them to give the child to a family with better resources. "Part
of the big picture for a young woman who’s pregnant," she says, "is that
there are people holding out their hand, but the price of admission is
giving up your child. If you decide to keep your child, it’s as if
you’re lost in the system, whereas people fight over you if you’re ready
to surrender. There’s an organization motivated by a cause and profit.
It’s a pretty high price to pay: give away your first-born, and we’ll
take care of you for six months."

Christian adoption agencies court pregnant women through often
unenforceable promises of open adoption and the option to choose the
adoptive parents. California’s Lifetime Adoption Foundation even offers
birth mothers college scholarships. Additionally, maternity homes have
made a comeback in recent years, with one network of 1,100 CPCs and
homes, Heartbeat International, identifying at least 300 homes in the
United States. Some advertise almost luxurious living facilities, though
others, notes Jessica DelBalzo, founder of an anti-adoption group,
Adoption: Legalized Lies, continue to "bill themselves as homes for
wayward girls who need to be set straight."

Most homes are religiously affiliated, and almost all promote adoption.
Many, like Christian Homes and Family Services (CHFS), reserve their
beds for women planning adoption. Others keep only a fraction for women
choosing to parent. Most homes seamlessly blend their advertised crisis
pregnancy counseling with domestic and international adoption services,
and oppose unmarried parenthood as against "God’s plan for the family."

Religious women may be particularly susceptible to CPC coercion, argues
Mari Gallion, a 39-year-old Alaska mother who founded the support group after a CPC unsuccessfully pressured her to
relinquish her child ten years ago. Gallion, who has worked with nearly
3,000 women with unplanned pregnancies, calls CPCs "adoption rings" with
a multistep agenda: evangelizing; discovering and exploiting women’s
insecurities about age, finances or parenting; then hard-selling
adoption, portraying parenting as a selfish, immature choice. "The women
who are easier to coerce in these situations are those who subscribe to
conservative Christian views," says Gallion. "They’ll come in and be
told that, You’ve done wrong, but God will forgive you if you do the
right thing."

Mirah Riben, vice president of communications for the birth mother group
Origins-USA, as well as author of The Stork Market: America’s
Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry
, says that many
mothers struggle for decades with the fallout of "a brainwashing
process" that persuades them to choose adoption and often deny for
years–or until their adoptions become closed–that they were pressured
into it. "I see a lot of justification among the young mothers. If their
adoption is remaining open, they need to be compliant, good birth
mothers and toe the line. They can’t afford to be angry or bitter,
because if they are, the door will close and they won’t see the kid."

Such was the case for Karen Fetrow, a Pennsylvania mother who
relinquished her son in 1994 through a Bethany office outside
Harrisburg. Fetrow, a formerly pro-adoption evangelical, sought out a
Christian agency when she became pregnant at 24. Although Fetrow was in
a committed relationship with the father, now her husband of sixteen
years, Bethany told her that women who sought to parent were on their

After Fetrow relinquished her son, she says she received no counseling
from Bethany beyond one checkup phone call. Three months later, Bethany
called to notify her that her legal paperwork was en route but that she
shouldn’t read it or attend court for the adoption finalization. "I
didn’t know that the adoption wasn’t final and that I had three months
to change my mind," says Fetrow. "The reality was that if I had gone, I
might have changed my mind–and they didn’t want me to."

Although for thirteen years Fetrow couldn’t look at an infant without
crying, she continued to support adoption and CPCs. But when she sought
counseling–a staple of Bethany’s advertised services–the director of
her local office said he couldn’t help. When her son turned 5, she
stopped receiving updates from his adoptive parents, although she’d
expected they would continue until he was 18. She asked Bethany about
it, and the agency stalled for three years before explaining that the
adoptive parents had only agreed to five years of updates. Fetrow
complained on Bethany’s online forum and was banned from the site.

Kris Faasse, director of adoption services at Bethany, said that while
she was unaware of Fetrow’s and Jordan’s particular stories, their
accounts are painful for her to hear. "The fact that this happens to any
mom grieves me and would not be how we wanted to handle it." She added
that only 25-40 percent of women who come to Bethany choose adoption,
which, she said, "is so important, because we never want a woman to feel
coerced into a plan."

Shortly after Fetrow was banned from Bethany’s forum, the local Bethany
office attempted to host a service at her church, "painting adoption as
a Christian, prolife thing." At a friend’s urging, Fetrow told her
pastor about her experience, and after a meeting with the Bethany
director–who called Fetrow angry and bitter–the pastor refused to let
Bethany address the congregation. But Fetrow’s pastor seems an

In recent years, the antiabortion push for adoption has been taken up as
a broader evangelical cause. In 2007 Focus on the Family hosted an
Evangelical Orphan Care and Adoption Summit in Colorado Springs. Ryan
Dobson, the adopted son of Focus founder James Dobson, has campaigned on
behalf of CHFS and Unruh’s Alpha Center. Last year 600 church and
ministry leaders gathered in Florida to promote adoption through the
Christian Alliance for Orphans. And a recent book in the idiosyncratic
genre of prolife fiction, The River Nile, exalted a clinic that
tricked abortion-seeking women into adoption instead.

Such enthusiasm for Christians to adopt en masse begins to seem like a
demand in need of greater supply, and this is how critics of current
practices describe it: as an industry that coercively separates willing
biological parents from their offspring, artificially producing
"orphans" for Christian parents to adopt, rather than helping birth
parents care for wanted children.

In 1994 the Village Voice investigated several California CPCs in
Care Net, the largest network of centers in the country, and found gross
ethical violations at an affiliated adoption agency, where director
Bonnie Jo Williams secured adoptions by warning pregnant women about
parenthood’s painfulness, pressuring them to sign papers under heavy
medication and in one case detaining a woman in labor for four hours in
a CPC.

There were nineteen lawsuits against CPCs between 1983 and 1996, but
coercive practices persist. Joe Soll, a psychotherapist and adoption
reform activist, says that CPCs "funnel people to adoption agencies who
put them in maternity homes," where ambivalent mothers are subjected to
moralistic and financial pressure: warned that if they don’t give up
their babies, they’ll have to pay for their spot at the home, and given
conflicted legal counsel from agency-retained lawyers. Watchdog group
Crisis Pregnancy Center Watch described an Indiana woman misled into
delaying an abortion past her state’s legal window and subsequently
pressured into adoption.

Literature from CPCs indicates their efforts to raise adoption rates. In
2000 the Family Research Council (FRC), the political arm of Focus on
the Family, commissioned a study on the dearth of adoptable babies being
produced by CPCs, "The Missing Piece: Adoption Counseling in Pregnancy
Resource Centers," written by the Rev. Curtis Young, former director of
Care Net.

Young based the report on the market research of consultant Charles
Kenny, who questioned women with unplanned pregnancies and Christian CPC
counselors to identify obstacles to higher adoption rates. Young argued
that mothers’ likelihood to choose adoption was based on their level of
maturity and selflessness, with "more mature respondents…able to feel
they are nurturing not only their children, but also, the adoptive
parents," and "less mature women" disregarding the baby’s needs by
seeking to parent. He wrote that CPCs might persuade reluctant women by
casting adoption as redemption for unwed mothers’ "past failures" and a
triumph over "selfishness, an ‘evil’ within themselves." Though Young
noted that some CPCs were wary of looking like "baby sellers," he
nonetheless urged close alliances with adoption agencies to ensure that
the path to adoption was "as seamless and streamlined as possible."

Young was speaking to a larger audience than the FRC faithful. Care
Net runs 1,160 CPCs nationwide and partners with Heartbeat
International to host a national CPC hot line. Kenny is tied to the
cause as a "Bronze"-level benefactor of the National Council for
Adoption (NCFA), the most prominent adoption lobby group in the
country, in the company of other benefactors like Bethany; Texas
maternity home giant Gladney; the Good Shepherd Sisters, a Catholic
order serving "young women of dissolute habits"; and the Mormon
adoption agency LDS Family Services.

The federally funded NCFA has a large role in spreading teachings like
these through its Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program, a
Department of Health and Human Services initiative it helped pass in
2000 that has promoted adoption to nearly 18,000 CPC, school, state,
health and correctional workers since 2002. Although the program
stipulates "nondirective counseling for pregnant women," it was
developed by a heavily pro-adoption pool of experts, including Kenny,
and the Guttmacher Institute reports that trainees have complained about
the program’s coercive nature.

In 2007 the FRC and NCFA went beyond overlapping mandates to collaborate
on the publication of another pamphlet, written by Kenny, "Birthmother,
Goodmother: Her Story of Heroic Redemption," which targets "potential
birthmothers" before pregnancy: a seeming contradiction of abstinence
promotion, unless, as DelBalzo wryly notes, the abstinence movement
intends to create "more babies available for adoption."

Even as women have gained better reproductive healthcare access,
adoption laws have become less favorable for birth mothers, advancing
the time after birth when a mother can relinquish–in some states now
within twenty-four hours–and cutting the period to revoke consent
drastically or completely. Adoption organizations have published
comparative lists of state laws, almost as a catalog for prospective
adopters seeking states that restrict birth parent rights. Among the
worst is Utah.

Jo Anne Swanson, a court-appointed adoption intermediary, has studied a
number of cases in which women have been lured out of their home states
to give birth and surrender their children under Utah’s lax laws–which
require only two witnesses for relinquishments that have occurred in
hotel rooms or parks–to avoid interstate child-placement regulations.
Some women who changed their minds had agencies refuse them airfare
home. And one Utah couple, Steve and Carolyn Mintz, told the Salt
Lake Tribune
that the director of their adoption agency flew into a
rage at a mother in labor who’d backed out of their adoption, and the
mother and her infant ended up in a Salt Lake City homeless shelter.
Many complaints have been lodged by birth fathers who sought to parent
their children but were disenfranchised by Utah’s complicated system of
registering paternity.

Utah isn’t alone in attacking birth fathers’ rights. From 2000 to 2001,
a Midwestern grandmother named Ann Gregory (a pseudonym) fought doggedly
for her son, a military enlistee, to retain parental rights over his and
his girlfriend’s child. When the girlfriend became pregnant, her
conservative evangelical parents brought her to a local CPC affiliated
with their megachurch. The CPC was located in the same office as an
adoption agency: its "sister organization" of eighteen years. The CPC
called Gregory’s son, who was splitting his time between home and boot
camp, pressuring him to "be supportive" of his girlfriend by signing
adoption papers. The agency also called Gregory and her ex-husband,
quoting Scripture "about how we’re all adopted children of Jesus

What followed, Gregory says, was "six weeks of pure hell," as she felt
her son and his girlfriend were "brainwashed" into adoption. She
researched coercive adoption and retained a lawyer for her son. When the
mother delivered, the attorney had Gregory notify a hospital social
worker that parental rights were being contested, so the baby wouldn’t
be relinquished. Two days later, as the adoption agency was en route to
take custody, Gregory filed an emergency restraining order. The matter
had to be settled in court, where Gregory’s son refused to consent to
adoption. The legal bill for two weeks came to $9,000.

Both parents went to college, and though they are no longer together,
Gregory praises their cooperation in jointly raising their son, now 8.
But she is shaken by what it took to prevail. "You’ve got to get on it
before the child is born, and you’d better have $10,000 sitting around.
I can’t even imagine how they treat those in a worse position than us.
They say they want to help people in a crisis pregnancy, but really they
want to help themselves to a baby."

"A lot of those moms from the ’50s and ’60s were really damaged by
losing their child through the maternity homes," says Gregory. "People
say those kinds of things don’t happen anymore. But they do. It’s just
not a maternity home on every corner; it’s a CPC."

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  • sweetpea4809

    The adoptee side of the story:
    I am an adoptee who has been reunited for almost 20 years. I started searching after the birth of my first son. The need to know my biological make-up was so important through my entire pregnancy. I couldn’t give them any background or information regarding any genetic issues I could possibly face. This along with the want to know my biological family was overwhelming. I entered into a search that soon became costly and near impossible. I decided to do the search myself. I registered with the Indiana State Registry that exists and this is a registry in which both the birth mother and the adoptee must be registered for or there is no match made. This registry is called a mutual consent registry that has very little promotion so few people know it exists and few people are matched through it.
    I did my own search through ten months of searching everyday and calling and spending quite a bit of money for information that is mine, but that I am not allowed to have.
    The result of my search was wonderful and is a relationship that still exists today. For most adoptees and birth parents out there, there isn’t the completion of this due to lack of funds and lack of education on how to go about this. I am amazed at the fact we have no better education, nor any way to let our adoptees and birthmothers make a match. There are currently 8 states that have open records, the adoptee can request to see their records only that pertain to them. Open records doesn’t mean all records are open for everyone to look at. Just the records that pertain to you.
    I believe we are in need of this for more reasons than I can list. The first and most important is the health history. and the need to know on a personal level to have some kind of emotional piece of closure.
    I hope my email will make it to you and help you know this is an important issue out there for all of us. It makes a difference to people who marry adopted people and want to start a family and have the need for knowledge and then it goes on to trickle down to the children and grandchildren, etc…


    Indiana Adoptee

  • led

    This is a very valuable article. I think as people who strive to make headway for women’s reproductive rights, we’re quick to accept adoption as a middleground. But unfortunately, it’s not that simple. For anyone interested in this topic, I would recommend the book by Ann Fessler mentioned in the article. As someone born post-Roe, it was truly eyeopening.

  • upfront

    The Pregnancy Center in our area has a policy of always referring three reputable agencies to anyone who wants to ask questions regarding adoption. The Care Net does not profit from adoptions. All services are free. They anly offer referrals for people who do not know where to begin looking for adoption agencies with good reputations. All agencies should be examined. Most offer open adoptions which keep records and visits open to all parties by an agreement.

  • crowepps

    How does Care Net establish that the adoption agencies have good reputations? Is it in contact with some State Agency to see if complaints disqualify agencies, or does it check to see if the agency has been sued in the past for not enforcing open adoption agreements?

  • christopher-f-vota

    …awakened something I have observed among social conservatives – the need to pass judgement. The "shepherding mother" was getting an endorphin rush when she practically called Jordan a slut having "no right to grieve for this baby." Fielding complaints from birth mothers must be the most rewarding part of her day. There’s something about rebuke and inflicting emotional pain that brings a gleeful expression to the faces of the self-righteous; I’m sure I’m not alone in this observation. 

    I work in a school whose Guidance Department and Infirmary promote adoption but show nothing about contraception nor abortion (don’t ask don’t tell). I wonder if the the girls they "help" know what they’re in for, especially something the article hinted at: post-partum depression.

    When these adoption agencies get a hold of these girls-in-trouble, who foots the bill if delivery gets difficult, perhaps very difficult? And who pays the bill for treatment of post-partum depression, or does that condition stay off the faith-based radar because harlot-in-question is redeeming her filthy dirty wretched self by doing the Lord’s will and give this baby to richer people, if at times grudgingly? 


    These people should be regulated into the ground. Deception is never the better part of valor. 

  • mary-ogrady

    The openness of any adoption in the United States is not legally enforceable. Once adopters are in possession of a child, in about 60% of cases they close the adoption, frequently wihout warning to the mother.

    Adoption is a mechanism for transferring children from economically powerless women to the more prosperous. It is a cruel and ruthless business.

    Women who decide to carry unexpected pregnancies to term should receive the resources they need to raise their children. That is what happens in civilized countries. In Western Europe adoption by strangers is practically unknown, because every mother is regarded as valuable and worthy of a dignified life and social services are decent. Here, the influence of religion makes it acceptable to punish women who dare to be sexually active outside of heterosexual marriage in so many ways, especially by manipulating them and harassing them into the meat grinder of adoption.

  • julia1220

    I am a bethany baby. My birthmother was not coerced. she and I have an amazing relationship that I have, since I was age twelve, been able to control the level of exposure. I understand that it is to be a birthmom, one of my best friends is a birthmom and she grieves, but I also know that I have had an amazing life with wonderful parents AND birthparents. My birthmom, birthfather, and biological sister, sent me yearly updates and pictures and I sent them the same.

    I understand that it is so important for birthmothers to grieve and I think more counseling should be offered, but you have to look at the children and how they are doing also. If you looked for them, most would tell you that they appreciate the selflessness of their birthmoms and that they were happy with how they grew up. You really need to do some more research before lumping all adoptions together.

  • karenwb

    Upront and crowepps.. therein lies the problem, imho. The Children’s Bureau and Child Welfare League of America set the standards of practice and those have not been followed. No one to police them. We still have no one policing adoptions whether open or not.

    The guidelines have been in place. Why haven’t they been honored? Because they haven’t, many hundreds of thousands of mothers have been robbed of their children and these children robbed of their rightful and willing mothers.

    This is why, again imho, adoption don’t and won’t work even with “reform.” ALL mothers must be FULLY assisted to keep. All adoption workers must be forced to do their social duties properly. If that fails, only kinship (all natural family members have FIRST LEGAL RIGHT to raise the child. Very last resort: legal guardianship whereby the child maintains original name and forever access to all natural family members and information.

  • colleen

    You really need to do some more research before lumping all adoptions together.

    Perhaps the problem lies with your reading comprehension because nowhere does she ‘lump all adoptions together’.

    Some people find the business of using religion to lie to women and bully and manipulate them into giving up their babies reprehensible. Perhaps you need to do more research before assuming such practices are always in the best interests of the child or uncommon. I also suggest that you rethink the notion that women should always be ‘selfless’ and willing to give up their children to someone with more wealth.

    What really gets me about these shotgun adoptions is the business of threatening women with additional debt if they don’t relinquish their child.
    ugly and cruel.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • faultroy

    I really don’t understand this article in the context of a possible abortion. I’ve known two people that have given up their children. One young couple did so after keeping the baby for a year. The father’s mother wound up taking care of the child for almost a year, and then she had to give up this baby. Can you imagine the heartache this woman went through? The other was a situation where both parents, in their early 20’s were both so disfunctional and incaple of even taking care of themselves that they decided to give the twins up. This was the Mother’s third relinguishment. If you are saying that women are not properly counseled, you’re probably right. I would lie cheat and do everything I could to get a mother to give up her child when she is pregmant and is considering giving up the child. And if you are so concerned about the alleged "coercion," perhaps you may be able to explain what we as a society should do to make people more aware and responsible for the procreation of a child. I have no pity for women that bring a child into the world and are not able to take care of the baby in a fiscally responsible way. And lastly I hope that any woman giving up a child feels remorse and cries–even animals do that.

  • equalist

    I have to say this article made me sick. I live in South Carolina. In 2000 I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy who went to live with a wonderful family in California. I was not coerced into this adoption in any way, and it has been a wonderful experience for all of us. Not all adoption is evil or coerced. Not all “open” adoptions are left closed or later closed. My son will be ten in February, and we still have contact with him and with his adoptive parents. He gets to talk on the phone with his little half sisters. My oldest daughter keeps a picture of him that she likes to carry around and show people her big brother. We exchange birthday and Christmas gifts, as well as phone calls, emails, and photos. He and his family are very much a part of my life and my family, and when they adopted my son, they adopted my whole family in the process. We often get letters addressed to “South Carolina Family”.
    I suppose the main difference between my story, and the stories of the women here is that I knew what I was getting into when I started the process, and more importantly, I knew what I wanted out of the process. I carefully chose my son’s adoptive family from the dear birthmother letters and websites I found on the internet. I had a large supportive network in my own family. I started looking when I first became pregnant to make sure I chose the right family if I decided to go in the direction of adoption. Adoption can be a wonderful, beautiful process, but when scared, naive, pregnant young girls are confronted with such pressure and just plain dirty tactics as these, the result can be horrific. These adoption mills should be regulated out of existence and shut down. Not all women in this circumstance have the kind of support system that I had, or are aware enough of their options to feel so determined as I did as to what they want out of the adoption process. “Agencies” like these focus only on what the adoptive parents want from the adoption, with no care as to what the birthmother needs or wants from the situation. As far as they’re concerned, she’s just a walking uterus. A dirty whore who shouldn’t have spread her legs if she didn’t want to be taken advantage of. Someone with this mentality should not be allowed anywhere near pregnant women, much less allowed to “council” them on how to handle their pregnancies. The best relief for these tactics is education and support for the pregnant women victimized by these organizations. If you know a girl in a situation like this, talk to her. Let her know that there are options. Let her know what those options are. The birthmother is ultimately in control of what happens to her child, and should know this. In the case of these dear birthmother letters, these are a wonderful tool for the birthmother to utilize in order to choose the family that will raise her child. Contact with the prospective adoptive parents is vital. Get to know them. Ask questions about how your child will be raised. Ask the tough questions. Ask yourself, is this how you want your child to be raised? Is this the environment you want him/her growing up in? Are you willing and able to provide adequate care for the child yourself? If the answer to the last question is yes, and you choose, the option to raise the child yourself is there, and a birthmother has every right to do so.
    For those of you demeaning birthmothers, you should be ashamed of yourselves. I have great respect for birthmothers in general. These women give a great part of themselves to complete a family, often in the process breaking their own hearts. For those of you looking to adopt, respect the birthmother. Give her reverence, for without her, you would never have that child you so desperately seek.

    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  • equalist

    Please, I ask you to define fiscally responsible.  Is fiscally responsible simply providing basic necessities for the child?   Is it providing the little extras that a child may want, but not need?  Is it providing the child with an expensive private school education, frequent lavish vacations, and expensive toys and treats?  

    More important than "fiscal responsibility" is a loving environment for a child to grow up in.  Involved parents who are active in the child’s life.  These are the things a child needs.  Handmedowns, and thrift store toys and clothes don’t affect a child negatively.  Parents who would rather buy an expensive gift than spend a little extra time with the child do.  

    The situations you describe above have nothing to do with class or financial status.  These have to do with parents who do not have the needed mentality to raise a child in a loving and supportive home, and have nothing to do with adoption in this context.  A parent who neglects or abuses their child should have that child taken away and placed in a home that can provide needed attention and care.  This has nothing to do with the amount of money a family can spend on a child, but the amount of time a family can spend with that child.  

    You would do well to reconsider your priorities before you go judging the ability of other women as parents.


    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  • equalist

    I apologize for the double post.  Could someone please delete this?

  • progo35

    Oh, please, Colleen. Don’t be so obtuse. Obviously, this site has an interest in portraying adoption as something cruel and wrong in many or most cases. In the entire time I’ve been frequenting this site, I have seen ONE article that had a semi-positive spin on adoption, and that was focusing on the negative repercussions of the economy on infant adoption.  All Julia is saying, and all I have said on many occassions, is that not all, or even most, adoptions are handled like those experienced by the mothers whose experiences are cited in this article. That doesn’t mean that their experiences aren’t significant and in need of attention, but it does mean that you are not presenting a balanced perspective if the only adoption stories you share are bad ones. Julia and I are happy and grateful to our biological mothers and our adoptive mothers. Most adoptees feel that way. 

    Moreover, for every bad adoption story, there is a bad abortion story. Like the teenage girl who is pressured into an unwanted abortion by her parents or boyfriend because of her age. Like the woman who is pressured to abort after she finds out that her baby has a disorder. Like the seven women who died in the US after taking RU4-86. Like the woman with down syndrome who died at Dr. Tiller’s clinic during a late term abortion.So, it seems clear to me that this site is emphasizing the bad things that sometimes happen during the adoption process, just like pro life sites emphasize the bad things that happen during the abortion process. Same tactic, different ideology. 


    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • progo35

    Dear Equalist,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so glad that your adoption went well for you and everyone else involved. I am sure that pro choice and pro life people can work together to make every adoption a voluntary, positive experience. I don’t have contact with my birthmother but I hope that she, like you, is at peace with her decision and doesn’t feel badly about it. 


    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • progo35

    But Mary-

    Some women DON’T WANT to raise their children but they don’t want to have an abortion. So, "better social support" woudln’t help in that situtation. Adoption by people who are not relatives is completely fine as long as the adoption is consensual. Frankly, the "anti adoption" vibe on this site is very offensive to adoptees and birth mothers everywhere who do not share RH Reality Check’s view of adoption or the experiences of women and children RH uses to depict adoption as ugly and wrong. 

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • progo35

    While I understand that it may be inappropriate to refer to a woman as a “birthmother” while she is pregnant or in reference to her original relationship with her child, I don’t feel that it is wrong to refer to a woman as a “potential birthmother,” as this is what she would be called if she goes through with an adoption plan. What would be wrong is if the woman involved is only being thought of as a “potential birthmother” and nothing else. I think that the term “birth parent” is acceptable because it is hardly appropriate for an adoptee to refer to his or her biological parents as the “real parents” or “natural parents” when he or she has never even met them and the adoptive parents have been doing all the parental things.
    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • equalist

    As a woman who has given up a child for adoption, I, my son, and the family that adopted him are most comfortable with the phrasing "birthmother".  I am the mother that gave birth to him, and his mother is the mother that raised him.  All biological parents may not feel this way, but to me, it gives the most respect and understanding to the act of birthing a child and giving him to another family to raise and care for.


    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  • emma

    Really. You feel entitled to lie and cheat women into making decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Of course, you don’t think that counts as coercion, which I suppose makes sense if you view women as something other and certainly less than human.


    So, as well as being a misogynist with no capacity for empathy for women, you also seem to have a pathalogical sense of entitlement.


     And a ‘fiscal conservative’ (see the scare quotes around those words? There’s a reason for that), of course. Waste of time.

  • paul-bradford

    I haven’t noticed your name under any other posts, but if I do I will be sincerely surprised if you say something useful or positive.


    We have almost three million unintended pregnancies every single year.  That means three million important decisions for three million different women to make.  Many times these women don’t get nearly enough support or sound advice.  Many times they’re overwhelmed by ignorant, mean-spirited or coercive comments (such as your comment about how you would "lie cheat and do everything" to get a woman to give up her child, or your "I have no pity" comment, or your comment that "I hope that any woman giving up a child feels remorse and cries".)


    Ideally, no couple would conceive a child unless they’re both ready, willing and able to do a good job of raising her/him.  To the extent that any of us are helping people move closer to that ideal, we’re doing everyone a favor.  No matter what, though, we’re going to have to deal with some situations where a woman is faced with a pregnancy she would be better off without.  When that happens it’s important to be mindful of what’s best for the mother and what’s best for her child — and the goal should be to find a sane, rational, ethical and supportive way to help her arrive at what’s best. 


    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • progo35

    "I would lie cheat and do everything I could to get a mother to give up
    her child when she is pregmant and is considering giving up the child."


    Faltroy-that is HORRIBLE. Who died and made you the judge? That is profoundly cruel to any woman who makes the heartbreaking and difficult decision to place a child for adoption. Moreover, it is rude for outsiders to refer to an adoption as "giving up" a child. Some people get pregnant and do not want to have an abortion, but they do not feel prepared to parent, either, so they make the difficult decision to place their child in the arms of a family who can. But, it has to be their decision, free of coercion. If they desire to keep an unplanned child, than they should be given all the support they need to do that. I am glad that my birth parents placed me for adoption instead of having an abortion or parenting me without the resources they needed, but I wouldn’t have wanted my biological mother or father to be coereced into doing so, and I definitely don’t want either of them mourning and crying over it.


    Also, where do you get off comparing women to animals? Yours is the kind of attitude that leads women to have abortions when they otherwise wouldn’t-in the context of a society that wants them to feel ashamed and mournful over having a child out of wedlock, it is no wonder that so many women go and have abortions without ever considering another alternative. If I had sex outside of wedlock and became pregnant, it would be an unfortunate thing but I wouldn’t go around beating myself up over it, and no other woman or man should, either. 




    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • equalist

    I hope that your birthmother is at peace with her decision as well.  I’ve met many that weren’t.  Most of these women were pressured into the decision to give their children up to adoption rather than being allowed to come to these decisions of their own accord. 
    In once case that I remember, when I was pregnant with my son, and we were planning out his adoption, a girl I knew in high school told me of her experience.  When it was found out that she was pregnant, she was informed that she would be giving the baby up whether she liked it or not.  It was her mother that made the decision.  She was not given any other choice.  She was not allowed to choose the adoptive parents, or even meet them, her mother handled everything.  When the baby was born and the nurses came to bring him to her in the delivery room, the nurse was sent away by the girl’s family, told that the baby was up for adoption, and she wouldn’t need to see him.  Again, the birthmother’s wishes weren’t taken into consideration.  She had one picture of her son that she still keeps.  He was about a year old at the time of the photograph, and it’s the only one she was ever given.  Along with it came a letter that there would be no further communication from the adoptive family or the adoption agency that handled the process.  This was a traumatic experience for her, and it was clear in the way she reacted to my son’s adoption with fear and even undertones of hatred towards the adoptive family of her own child.  Her story was one like those of the girls mentioned here.  The adoptive parents get the baby they want, the adoption agency and the lawyers get their fees, the individuals who set up the adoption process get the warm fuzzies of thinking they’ve taken a baby away from an undeserving mother and handed him/her over to a better home, and the woman who carried the child is left with nothing but a memory and dreams of what could have been. 

    Fortunately for me, this was not the case with my adoption, and there are good adoption stories out there, but there are also the sad stories where birthmothers are seen as nothing more than a walking uterus to be discarded when the process is over.  In these cases, it is no win/win situation, and the birthmother is the forgotten victim.

    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  • equalist

    If you want warm fuzzies about adoption, then you should visit an entirely pro adoption site, or a blog where participants in wonderful adoptions gather to share their beautiful stories.  This site is one about all the choices out there, and about educating women about the truths that are out there.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t come here looking for warm fuzzies and good feelings.  I come here to see the ugly truths, discuss what can be done to resolve bad situations, and perhaps change a few minds for the better in the process. 


    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  • equalist

    What you don’t seem to entirely understand is the good stories come from us.  You, and I, and all the women on this site who share their experiences and their voices.  You don’t learn anything from the good stories though, unless you’re already convinced that there are only the bad stories.  The good stories are a quick feel good for the reader, a happy ending, and a sigh of "Well, I’m glad that worked out for everyone".  However, you can’t ignore the bad stories because you don’t want to believe in them, or because you want them to be insignificant compared to the good ones.  They exist, they are out there, and to deny them is to deny the victims in those stories their voices.  


    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  • equalist

    But the methods you suggest should not be an absolute.  For some birthmothers, contact with a child that they cannot support or provide for, and no longer have authority over can be devistatingly painful.  For many adoptive parents, the constant threat of having the child they have lovingly raised as their own taken away can be brutal.  For many adoptees, unkept promises of contact with a birth parent can be traumatic.  Adoptive parents, birthmothers, and adoptees each have different needs, and ideally, these needs should all be taken into consideration, not just the needs or wants of one group in particular, or what one individual thinks would be best for all.  These people are all individuals, and as such, one size fits all does not apply, and never will.  Adoption will never be ideal until all of these factors are taken into consideration in every case.  When the wants and needs of the birthparents mesh with the wants and needs of the adoptive parents, at that point you can have a successful adoption case.  When one side views the other as less deserving of respect, then the adoption can be traumatic for all.


    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.

  • progo35

    You know, I was thinking about the fact that my adoptive parents weren’t informed of my availability for adoption/that they had been chosen by my biological parents to raise me until AFTER my biological parents had made their decision and the adoption papers were signed. I think that this is how all adoption agencies should handle the situation unless the woman involved wants to meet the adoptive parents beforehand and have them be part of the process. That eliminates pressure and heartbreak for both sets of parents.


    quot;Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • progo35

    But Equalist-I’m not denying that there are bad adoption stories. Of course there are, just like there are  bad abortion and parenting stories.  What bothers me is that this particular website seems gun hoe on highlighting the most terrible stories that they can possibly document in order to present abortion as a better alternative.  

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • equalist

    In SC, the adoption papers can not be signed until the baby is two days old to give the birthmother a chance to see her baby before making the final decision. In my adoption, it was important for me to get to know the adoptive parents before any decision was made.  I started contacting the adoptive parents at about 15 weeks, and had decided that I was going to give him to them about two months before he was born.  I decided a few days before Christmas, and actually wanted to wait until Christmas day to call and give them the news, but I couldn’t wait and called them three days before.  They came down from CA a week before he was born and spent that week with me and my family waiting for him to be born, and then were in the delivery room when he came.  His adoptive mother cut the cord when he was born and it was a wonderful experience for everyone involved.  I know this is not the ideal situation for everyone, but for me, and for his adoptive family, it was.  I think it’s important that each adoptive parent and birth parent have the opportunity to arrange the adoption as best suits them.  Some birth parents don’t want contact with the adoptive parents or the child after the adoption is finalized, others, like me, feel that it’s important to retain contact to some degree, and both of these should be an option.  


    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.