I disagree with several points in this post, and I thought I would return to the topic (see my comments in the thread some years ago here) and stir the pot a bit since I haven't commented on the subject in a while.
In general, I think there are some matters on which it is difficult for public policy to be neutral. Adoption is one of them. Policy can encourage it or discourage it, and several of the proposals made by the author of the post would discourage it, which I think would be a shame.
Moreover, it does not seem to me, though many will disagree, that the things she advocates are required by absolute justice. Therefore, they are matters of prudence and of seeking the commonweal, in particular seeking those policies which are likely to be best for children conceived out of wedlock who are most often placed for adoption.
If you haven't been reading W4 for very long or happen to have missed this, full disclosure: I am an adoptee, having been adopted as an infant. It was an old-fashioned closed adoption in the mid-60's when the law was somewhat different than, in many states, it is now. In my early thirties I was able to make contact with my biological mother, but only with her consent, obtained by the adoption agency before giving me any contact information. I will return to the issue of contact with birth parents below.
One item suggested by the blogger is this:
Adoption professionals must present, however scant, the known research about the consequences of long-term grief, the true stats of adoptee outcomes, secondary infertility rates, and the legal truth about open adoption agreements. Adoption counseling should be from a true unbiased source and care must be made to ensure that mothers considering adoption do have real options insofar that they have parallel parenting plans and realistic recourses available. I can't imagine this is "anti-adoption" but instead see it as asking that mothers who "choose" adoption are really doing so freely and knowingly. I am asking for the word "informed" to be a true action rather than a pretty descriptive version of lip service.
The problem with this way of wording matters is that it treats placing a child for adoption like a medical procedure. "Informed consent" and all that. But in fact, the considerations involved in deciding to place a child for adoption are much vaster than those in a medical procedure and, crucially, they involve the good of another person, not just the birth mother. This blogger's suggestion is not, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, neutral. It actually would amount in practice to an attempt to discourage adoption by emphasizing the emotional pain of placing one's child for adoption. In no way do I deny such emotional pain. (Though I do find it a little odd that she is urging that research on this subject be made known to a birth mother considering adoption even though it is, by her own admission, scant!) I know that my own birth mother wondered all my life whether I was okay until I made contact with her. In fact, it's for that very reason that many women choose abortion rather than adoption. They believe that abortion will bring more closure.
But even though the grief and pain of separation for a mother placing her newborn for adoption is very real, how is it remotely possible to write out in some "disclosure" statement the possible or even plausible emotional consequences both for the mother and for the child of keeping the child and raising him without a father, as will almost certainly be the case if there is no adoption? Or only maybe finding a stepfather somewhere down the line? Not that all stepfathers are such great shakes, either! Shall we inundate the poor woman in a crisis pregnancy with studies on the ill effects of fatherlessness, both material and spiritual, on a child? What about the difficulties for herself of raising a child alone? That sounds rather cruel, and unfortunately almost any information one would give along those lines, even though perfectly accurate as far as it goes, could well have the horrible consequence of motivating a woman to abort her child. Yet if we are being told that we have to give a woman some sort of clinical "full information" about the psychological risks of giving up a baby for adoption, accuracy alone would seem to demand telling her the other side of the story. Common sense, contrary to both of these, would dictate that this incredibly complex and emotionally charged decision--whether to keep and raise one's baby or place him for adoption--isn't even remotely a good place to apply the mechanical "informed consent" model which we use for, say, surgery. You aren't going to be able to fit the relevant considerations onto two single-spaced sides of a piece of paper, with a place for the "I have read this" signature at the bottom.
And in the absence of that, requiring "disclosure" of the possible psychological risks to the mother of giving up a baby for adoption is, whether this author realizes it or not, simply going to discourage adoption by means of public policy. Which will mean that more babies will be raised by single mothers, which in my opinion is not a good thing.
The blogger also suggests that adoption agencies should not work with crisis pregnancy centers. She says that it is outright "wrong" (her word) for adoption agencies to use "crisis pregnancy center connections to recruit mothers to consider adoption for their babies." Why in the name of goodness is that wrong? With whom else should they work? As far as I can tell, her idea is that this is getting at women when they are vulnerable. No kidding. That's why they call it a crisis pregnancy! The mother in such a situation is going to be vulnerable for, I dunno, a few years now, at least. If you wait until she isn't vulnerable to propose that it might be best for the baby if she were to place him for adoption, it will be too late. The baby will have already bonded to her and she will be raising him de facto. If adoption is to be suggested, it needs to be suggested early, and there is no way around the fact that this will be during a time while the mother is vulnerable. There is nothing unfair about that, unless you think of the adoption proposal as per se a suspect one or unless you have an unrealistic idea that important decisions should never be made by people in an emotionally fragile state. But life isn't some kind of libertarian fantasy. Very often in the real world important decisions have to be made by people in an emotionally fragile state. Again, this idea of women's being insufficiently informed of the possible badness of adoption, of women as being exploited by the adoption proposal, conveys the idea that adoption is probably a bad idea, bad for women, and that both public and private policy should discourage it rather than encouraging it. The author might not admit that. In fact, she seems to think there is some kind of neutral ground on this. But placing a firewall, even if voluntary (because to do otherwise is deemed unethical), between adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers is far from staking out neutral ground. It is cutting off women in crisis pregnancies from ready access to people who, if the agencies are well-screened, can be trusted to find good and loving parents for their child.
If anything, it's my opinion that crisis pregnancy centers don't seem to push adoption enough. They seem to be all about giving the women baby clothes and such, implying a default assumption that the baby will not be placed for adoption, that the single mother will keep her baby. So if there was ever a situation where crisis pregnancy centers were hard-selling adoption through connections to adoption agencies, I see no trace of that now in what I know of crisis pregnancy centers. Frankly, we could maybe use a little more of that, for the sake of all the children who will be better off with two parents and a stable home.
The author also proposes this:
I believe that as a country we must restore to adult adoptees the access to their original birth certificates. Currently adult adoptees are the only classification of US citizens that are denied the right to access their original birth certificates based on the fact they were adopted. This is a classic case of discrimination. This issue touches on the right to know one’s identity, the normal desire to know the story of one's birth if desired, access to genetic history and medical information, genealogy, and sometimes even the ability to get a passport, a driver's license, to vote or to have health insurance.
I cannot for the life of me imagine what in the world she is talking about concerning the ability to vote or get a driver's license. What? What? I was adopted in one of those evil, old-fashioned adoptions with the sealed birth certificate, and let me pass on a little tip: There's a birth certificate out there that isn't sealed. It has your adoptive parents' name on it. That's the one you get if you apply to your birth county for your birth certificate. As far as I know, that's how it has always worked everywhere in the U.S. Foreign adoptions might present unique problems, and I can't speak to them, but here she is explicitly talking about U.S. closed adoptions with sealed original birth certificates, and unless some states are doing something really bizarre that I've never heard of, she's just flat wrong. This has nothing whatsoever to do with being able to get a driver's license or other ID.
Now, about that "story of one's birth" and "identity" and such. Perhaps it sounds crass to point it out, but whether one gets that or not depends in part on whether one's biological mother and/or father wants to tell you the story. Speaking as a person who was curious and did seek out the story, I want to say here and now that I did not have some kind of right to force my birth mother to chit-chat with me and tell me her whole story.
Moreover, as a matter of prudence, forcing biological mothers to have their identity revealed to their birth children may very well discourage adoptions in some cases, which could result in more abortions. (More below about the abortion connection.) Unless you can come up with an argument that it is absolutely required by the fundamental moral law that biological children be able to hunt down their biological parents without their consent, I think that prudential side of things must be weighed. The biological mother goes through the psychological pain of giving up her child. One small thing she gets in return, in a closed adoption, is that the child cannot, unannounced and without her consent, return to her life, possibly even revealing her past to others to whom she has not explained it (e.g., later children she might have after getting married). I am unable to find it now, but my recollection is that there is evidence that, in the UK, adoptions have dropped off in part because of the opening of past birth records. That seems quite a probable consequence, and it is one we must consider. Again, this is not a neutral matter. Public policy is either going to favor or discourage adoption, and requiring birth certificates to be open, whether the mother wants it or not, will discourage adoption.
In passing (because this isn't related to policy), I want to address something else the blogger (whose name is Claudia) says. She claims that it is hurtful to an adopted child if he later makes contact with his biological mother and she says that she "has no regrets" regarding her decision.
"Please, Claud, promise us, if you ever do search for Max, if he finds you, please do not say that you have no regrets. For us, the adopted, that means that you did not miss him in your life and that will hurt his feelings."
Please, people, don't speak for "us, the adopted." Speak for yourselves. I understand that this is a sensitive issue, and I cannot imagine being a birth mother and figuring out what to say to an adult child you placed for adoption who makes contact with you later. I can definitely say that my own birth mother has handled our (entirely electronic) contact extremely well, with kindness, warmth, and tact. But to me, this statement about what is hurtful sounds exaggerated and self-centered. We shouldn't be so bound up in our own feelings that we're looking to get our feelings hurt, and there is nothing intrinsically hurtful about a birth mother's statement that she does not regret placing her child for adoption. Is she obligated to regret it? Where does such an obligation come from? Such a wide-ranging statement implies that the birth mother has an obligation to feel guilty or to think that she should not have placed her child for adoption. For goodness' sake, people! The poor woman will probably be spontaneously inclined to feel guilty anyway. Don't deliberately guilt trip her! It would make more sense, unless you actually encounter evidence that makes this attitude untenable, to thank her for loving you enough to give you up.
Now I'm going to move on to what is, knowing our readership, likely to be the most controversial part of this post. In passing, the author says,
I want fathers’ rights upheld.
In an adoption context, this sentence almost certainly refers to the idea that unmarried fathers should have equal rights to those of unmarried mothers when it comes to releasing a child for adoption. I realize that a phrase like "fathers' rights" is going to push positive buttons for some of our readers, but let me try to forestall some of that by saying this: This is not about divorce. I repeat, this is not about divorce. This is not about child custody in cases of divorce. (Do I need to repeat that, too?) I resolutely refuse to have the thread on this post devolve into a discussion of child custody in divorce cases.
Traditionally (and I do think that matters) there was a great gulf fixed between the prima facie custody rights of a man married to a woman when she gave birth and a man not married to her, even if in the latter case paternity was acknowledged by both parties. Until the 1970's, biological fathers not married to a baby's mother could not block adoption, period. Obviously, married fathers could. It was feminism and the sexual revolution, and the effects of these upon law, that made changes to this. The whole idea was that men and women should be treated identically in law and that it was "unfair" that a birth mother had any more say-so over whether her baby was placed for adoption than a birth father. This all had to be made identical in the name of gender sameness.
Well, I don't buy gender sameness, and life isn't fair. It isn't "fair," for example, that the woman has to bear the child through the pregnancy and go through childbirth. Let's not forget that this same attitude that the effects of unexpected children have to be made the same for men and women was also what gave us the abortion holocaust. It isn't "fair" that an unmarried woman, if she doesn't end up placing her baby for adoption, is going to be prima facie responsible for the child's daily care. And it also isn't "fair" that a biological father, unmarried to the child's mother, should be unable to disallow the child's placement for adoption. But none of this is about what is "fair" in that reality-challenged, abstract, gender-equality sense. Nor should it be. There are a great many ways in which the effects of an unintended pregnancy fall harder on a woman than on a man. If the mother can place the baby for adoption and the unmarried father can't stop it, that is just one way in which the effects of the child's existence and the laws surrounding it might be considered "worse" for the man than for the woman.
Now, once again, full disclosure: I know who my biological father was, though I do not propose to tell the story here. I have never met him, but it was possible to do some research, partly through corresponding with his friends and family after he was dead. (My information did not by any means all come from my biological mother.) He was an extremely bad person, and I thank God every time the matter comes to mind that I never had any contact with him as a child and that he had no power to block my adoption, which he would undeniably have done had he had the legal power. He argued for a long time with my birth mother on the subject.
As I said at the outset, these are not matters that are instantaneously and absolutely given by the natural light. It is not simply a given that it is unjust for an unmarried father to be unable to block an adoption while the birth mother, unless her rights are formally terminated, can refuse adoption. The research I have done indicates that now, in many states, a birth father can block an adoption if he simply registers his putative paternity. A subsequent custody battle will tend to focus on whether the biological father wants and is capable of having a part in the child's life. This is an extremely low bar.
Even the threat of such a challenge would be enough to discourage many women, lacking the resources to fight such a legal battle and lacking knowledge of the law or access to legal aid, from placing their children for adoption. And couples desiring to adopt are understandably worried about an adoption that is legally shaky, open to challenge by a birth father after they have bonded with the child and are happily raising him. Giving the birth father equal rights over the adoption to the rights of the birth mother places another block in the way of adoption for illegitimate children and, de facto, discourages adoption. It is by no means neutral.
We pro-lifers should also solemnly consider the following: Such a threat as "I won't let you place this baby for adoption" is an extremely powerful weapon in the hands of an abortion-minded boyfriend. Sure, if the mother is strongly pro-life and would never even consider abortion, it won't have that effect. But many are not. Nor is a crisis pregnancy the easiest time to learn to think rationally about such matters. If her boyfriend tells her that he has a say-so over the adoption question and won't let her do it, she may well feel trapped: Either she raises this baby herself or else puts it into the never-ending limbo of the foster-care system by convincing the relevant authorities that she is unable to care for it. Is it rational to say, "I'd rather kill this baby than put it into the limbo of foster care"? Of course not. Is it exactly the kind of thing that many women would say? Undeniably. It is extremely psychologically plausible that a woman in such a situation, with abortion allegedly "safe and legal," would abort the child. This is a grave prudential matter, and conservative pro-lifers should think long and hard before they endorse a "fathers' rights" position that has such a strong potential for such an evil consequence for the innocent. I have little doubt at all that the shift since the 70's in the direction of unmarried fathers' rights over adoption has resulted in the deaths of more than a few unborn babies. In fact, even if abortion were illegal, it is not at all implausible that, "If you have this baby, you will have to raise it, because I won't let you place it for adoption" would be just the kind of thing that would motivate a woman to find some way to obtain an illegal abortion, even if she had to cross borders to do so.
Ironically, the sentence right before "I want fathers' rights upheld" in the blog post I'm critiquing is "I want to see children's needs come first." Really? If we're talking about fathers' rights in an adoption context, those two may well not be compatible. Those of us who think a child is going to be best off in many cases with a married father and mother are especially likely to see a tension between those two priorities.
One more point: We pro-lifers have often argued, rightly, that a father should be able to prevent a woman from aborting his child. Is there an inconsistency between my supporting paternal consent for abortion, even when the mother is unmarried, and my opposing paternal consent for adoption? There is not, unless my argument for paternal consent is that the father ought to have exactly the same rights as the mother regarding what happens to the child, even if they are not married. (By the way, as far as I know no pro-life law has ever actually proposed paternal consent for unmarried fathers. My recollection is that that aspect of the Pennsylvania law in Casey applied only to married fathers, but I don't have time to look that up right now.) Let me be quite frank: Nobody should be able to give consent for an abortion--neither the father nor the mother nor the grandparents. Abortion is the murder of a child. Any consent law, be it paternal consent or parental consent, is ipso facto, for the devoted pro-lifer, merely another attempt to prevent and discourage abortions. Such proposals should not be based on abstract principles regarding the equality and rights of the adults involved. If we believed that this was about "fathers' rights," we would seem to be saying that a father should have the right of life or death over his innocent child. But that cuts both ways: In ancient Rome, a father could demand that his newborn child be exposed on a hillside if unwanted. I am not required to argue for a law that requires paternal consent for an abortion by arguing that an unmarried father has prima facie custody of the child, or should have, equal to the mother's.
In passing, I note that no one seems to think that parental consent laws mean that the unborn child's grandparents (the parents in "parental consent" for minors' abortions) automatically have custody, either. So this isn't, even legally, about giving prima facie custody to someone in the name of equality or rights. This is about trying to protect children from abortion and discourage abortion. In fact, my willingness to admit that point strengthens my case: "Fathers' rights" in adoption is de facto a legal approach that discourages adoption just as paternal consent for abortion is a legal tool to try to discourage abortion. What one thinks about this will depend upon what one thinks about public policy that discourages adoption, but there is no point in pretending otherwise.
I am by no means saying that adoption is always, everywhere, and for every child the best option. That's why somebody has to have prima facie custody and make that decision. Another somewhat appalling fact is that, the more the government messes with adoption agencies and forces them to place children with, e.g., homosexual "couples," the more difficult it will become for a loving birth mother to feel confident that she is doing the best thing for her child by merely placing him for adoption with an agency. The agency may be required to choose parents "without discrimination" out of a pool that includes those she would (rightly) regard as unfit. At that point a responsible birth mother might have to be heavily involved in the selection of adoptive parents herself, as indeed already is sometimes done. Adoption itself can be distorted by other social and policy factors in such a way that it becomes a bad choice, depending on how adoptive parents are selected. Nonetheless, as of now it opens up the possibility of a child's being adopted by a married father and mother who will care for and love the child and raise him in a more normal and normative context than single-mother rearing. This is a consideration that we should never lose sight of, and given this consideration, I maintain that public policy should favor adoption rather than discouraging it.