Why Conflating Adoption and Abortion Isn't Really Helping Anything

Some activists, on both sides of limiting or expanding access to abortion, tend to shy away from critically discussing adoption. Some have strong opinions that adoption is an option for unplanned pregnancy, but lack an understanding adoption's impact on those who live it. For those whose primary definition of adoption is that it is alternative to abortion, they may be hesitant to question or change adoption policies. Some go as far as to support bad adoption policies based on how they feel it may impact abortion issues.  This brings me to ask the obvious question.  Shouldn't people active within the abortion debate expand their knowledge of adoption itself, before forming their opinions?

Indeed, there are pregnant people who become pregnant and do not wish to have an abortion and also do not wish to parent. However, when this becomes every pregnant person's story, we've created a stereotype. With stereotypes, we overlook the needs of pregnant people who have abortions for reasons relating to health and pregnancy. We then also fail to see people who have unplanned pregnancies but wish to parent their babies.  When we make policies based on stereotypes, we become oblivious to the net effect of a policy on the real people that we failed to take into account.

One example of this problem is seen in how legislators and activists alike tend to assume that higher adoption rates means lower abortion rates. As a result, people tend to favor an increase in adoption rates in the United States without questioning why or if there are other needs not being met. In my time as an activists, I have encountered legislators supporting bills that seek to limit the time period when surrendering patents can revoke their consent to adoption. As another example, I have encountered adoption policy that encourages pregnant parents to surrender rights to children to whom they have yet to give birth. 

These policies no doubt contribute to an increase in adoption. Not allowing someone adequate time to make a decision predicts that people will choose adoption who otherwise might not have if given more time to process. Campaigns that use isolated findings from less-than-credible research to make claims like "100% of birth mothers choose the level of openness in their adoptions," may influence this decision simply by inspiring a false reality.

Bottom line: making it difficult for pregnant and new parents to change their minds about children they've already birthed (and therefore increasing adoption rates) had nothing to do with preventing an abortion. This simply isn't something ill-informed activists consider when they rely heavily on promoting adoption to solve abortion's problems. When adoption is a "solution" to another social issue, questionable campaigns and policies don't get the scrutiny they deserve.

If we don't properly scrutinize, we run the risk of not only missing our goal but causing problems simultaneously.  For example, the bi-product of abortion-adoption conflation has caused many Pro-Life advocates to oppose the right of adult adoptees to have access to their original birth record. They are afraid that, if original parents cannot remain totally anonymous, that they would opt for an abortion instead. Adoptees are told they cannot have access to the same record all other citizens have in order to control the separate social issue of abortion.

Interestingly enough, states that change policies to treat adoptees equally have seen abortion rates decline. In Oregon, abortion rates went down by 25% after passing its historic adoptee rights law. I don't mean to suggest that passing the adoptee rights law caused abortion rates to decline. However, this this does refute claims that passing the adoptee rights law would cause abortion rates to increase.  This is just one area where it's been proven that the abortion-adoption stereotype is a poor foundation for social policy.

The moral of this story is: abortion and adoption are not two versions of the same decision.  Having an understanding of abortion issues does not mean you automatically have an understanding of adoption issues.  Having an understanding of adoption issues does not mean you automatically have an understanding of abortion issues.  Every issue involving the lives and welfare of human beings deserves attention and not to be understood by stereotypes.  We must always seek to understand how issues intersect and how intersection may intensify or complicate issues human beings may face. Having a stance on abortion does not give you everything you need to know about adoption--there's still much to learn.  Education is the vital key to change in every institution.

This post was last updated on 9/22/2020 and was inspired by Vlog #1 of The Declassified Adoptee YouTube channel. You can watch the Vlog at this link.