Almost two years ago, I wrote about a distressing and eye-opening book called The Girls Who Went Away, which is about the women who surrendered their children for adoption under coercion in the years before legal abortion and when single or unwed parenting was ostracized. Most of the women who surrendered their children were threatened, taunted, scolded and otherwise coerced by Catholic or otherwise Christian-affiliated adoption agencies and maternity homes. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking read, and an important one on the subject of reproductive justice that I couldn’t more highly recommend.
Now there’s a terrifying and depressing article in the Nation about how the period of coercive adoptions is not one merely relegated to our history. It’s happening today, and it’s happening via the ever-infamous, deceptive and also Christian-affiliated crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). If you thought that pretending they were abortion clinics and then admonishing women to not kill their babies was bad — and how could you not? — you ain’t seen nothing yet:
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 children.
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.”
There is not much more to say other than go read the rest. Go read Jordan’s story, the story of other women like her, and the ways in which our government is supporting this absolute horror. And then share it with others. I did merely want to specifically highlight one more point:
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.
It’s desperately important to remember that when our government officials, including those who call themselves “pro-choice,” talk openly about “promoting” adoption, this, inadvertently or not, is precisely what they are supporting. “Promoting” one pregnancy option, any option, above another is not allowing women to make an objective decision based on unbiased facts and personal beliefs and circumstances. And I fervently believe that supporting adoption, the women who make the choice to put their children up for adoption, the families that adopt children, and the children who have been adopted, is a vastly different thing from promoting adoption to pregnant women as a more beneficial choice than abortion or parenting. The former is pro-choice and compassionate. The latter is anything but, and ought to be considered the nightmare that it is.