Shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a majority vote, several states passed some of the strictest abortion bans in the world leaving many in shock. An influx of people on the Right and Left urged those who had a problem with abortion to adopt babies as a solution for forcing pregnant persons to carry until birth.
Facebook groups like “The Other Option” were created and began pledging to support women who do not have the option to get an abortion and to match up with potential mothers in their area. Meanwhile, all across social media and in person, people began proudly toting signs saying, “We will adopt your baby.” But despite adoptees being at the forefront of arguments on either side, the public often forgets that people who were adopted, like me, have strong opinions on abortion based on our lived experiences.
…despite adoptees being at the forefront of arguments on either side, the public often forgets that people who were adopted, like me, have strong opinions on abortion based on our lived experiences.
As an adoptee and adoption educator, I’ve always hated being at the center of this argument with stories like mine used almost as a “gotcha” moment for both sides—with many people clueless about the trauma that adoption has on expectant parents and adoptees. A savior mindset about adopting children forgets the very real impact of children growing up in homes where parents are focused on saving children rather than realizing what goes into parenting an adopted child, supporting them unconditionally, and embracing their culture. It also puts children at risk of rehoming, abuse, and in some cases, death.
The adoption crisis in the United States
There has been an adoption crisis in our country for many years as international adoption laws became more strict to protect children after several ethical and safety issues occurred in the United States. The number of available babies to adoptive parents is about 36-1.
Additionally, over 70 percent of adoptive parents in the United States are white and about 40 percent of adoptions that occur are transracial. When I think of the number of Black, Indigenous, and other children of color that are raised in mostly white majority families and white majority communities, it makes me sad to know that more children are going to be assimilated into their adoptive families beliefs instead of incorporating their culture.
Looking at the statistics and considering the disproportionate number of children of color in the private and public foster system, we can see that the system is overrun and underprepared to provide adoptive parents with the proper education and resources to parent successfully.
Pushing more people to adopt children is not a solution to the large systemic issues that are a part of the current adoption industry. Adding more children in crisis—along with adoptive parents who have not been properly educated about the nuances of adoption—is a recipe for disaster. Particularly where prospective parents are more likely to pursue private adoptions that are highly unregulated and unethical, many occurring through social media. So many backdoor adoptions are sliding under the radar until some fall through. Then families take to social media to share how they have been wronged in viral posts.
It wasn’t until recently that I understood the impact that these restrictive abortion laws had on my own birth mother‘s choices and the intergenerational harm that came from placing children with parents who fell into the savior narrative.
My (adoptive) parents knew how time-consuming and difficult it was to adopt a child in the United States, so they went to another country to obtain the baby of their dreams—it was a convenient coincidence that at the time Colombia just so happened to have one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. This meant that pregnant people in crisis had limited support from friends and family and typically had very limited options besides placing their children in orphanages in hopes of a better life for their children and themselves. I can only fear that this is what is to come for pregnant people in crisis in America.
Other adoptees on why adoption is not a solution to abortion
I know I’m not the only adoptee concerned, so I reached out to other adoptees to ask how they feel about Roe v. Wade decision. Here are their stories:
Claire Hudson, 36, Domestic Infant Adoptee
As an adoptee watching the final SCOTUS opinion on Roe v. Wade, all I could think about was how this would impact our adoption community. What we are all witnessing and continue to experience is a blatant attack on women’s rights, but the more painful part as an adoptee is watching both sides of the debate carelessly use my lived experience of adoption to further their own agendas.
I wish people understood the complexities of adoption: that even in the best of circumstances, profound loss and trauma are inherent. Adoption, as is, is not a safe choice in this country: Women and their children are treated like objects and an entire industry of facilitators and consultants exists solely to take advantage of women in crisis. The general public turns a blind eye to the lack of support for adoptees, foster youth, and birth parents. The general public does not want to hear that adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide. Most importantly, I need the population to understand that adoptees and birthmothers are the experts in our own experience, and we are the voices that should be highlighted and respected anytime adoption is being so widely discussed. This decision by the Supreme Court has very real and drastic implications for our community. We will see an increase in abuse, coercion, and legal human trafficking, all in the name of adoption.
I am a pro-choice adoptee. Being adopted has given me a unique perspective on the circumstances that led my birth mother to choose to give birth and subsequently relinquish. I firmly believe that all expectant [pregnant] people should have a choice, especially after witnessing the aftermath of crisis pregnancy and how that affected my birth mother. No person should be forced to endure the continued trauma that she willingly (albeit unknowingly) took on.
Keturah, Transracial Adoptee
Watching Roe v. Wade being repealed has been demoralizing and devastating for me. On the day of the ruling, I felt like I didn’t get any work done. I sat at my desk and tried to process a world in which women had no option but to have a child if they were pregnant; a world in which the role of a caregiver would be continuously thrust upon them and they would never get to have full autonomy.
As an adoptee, there’s always been rhetoric around adoption being a “solution” to abortion, and I reject this statement completely. Many adoptees have had to explain and defend their existence from an early age. Adoptees’ existence has always been used to further the agenda of pro-life politicians, religious extremists, and starry-eyed strangers who push a narrative of familial and social gratefulness on us. We never asked for this. Losing ties to my biological family and to both sides of my ethnic culture has caused me great pain throughout my life.
While I exist due to my birth mother’s choice not to have an abortion, I don’t want to take away abortion as an option for women to utilize. Allowing women who are pregnant and are aware of the lifetime of emotional dissonance that adoption will bring both mother and child allows the mother to make the best choice. I am pro-choice because I am an adoptee.
Jessy Forsmo-Shadid, 26, Adopted at 8 years old
The Roe v. Wade hearing affected me a lot more as an adoptee than I anticipated. I’ve been seeing a lot of white folk, particularly religious white folk, offer to adopt children since many people with uteruses are being forced to give birth.
I’ve been in the system. It’s often mismanaged, and a lot of things are swept under the rug. My abuse was swept under the rug until I told my teachers at school.
People don’t realize the effect that foster care or adoption has on a child. Not only that, there is still going to be a disproportionate amount of children who aren’t adopted and aren’t able to receive the honest parental support humans need. People need to have options. I think being in the foster care system really made me pro-choice, though.
Kelsey Hanson, 30, Adoptee
I was adopted at birth from a private open adoption company. As an adoptee, the Supreme Court’s decision has made me extremely scared for the babies who will now be placed up for adoption. I fear this decision will affect future adoptees greatly and that the issue needs to be looked at from the root. From my personal experience, I believe that if my birth mother would have had resources, support, and love, and was not influenced by adults who looked at her and her baby as a way to make money and provide a family “with money” with a healthy newborn, maybe she wouldn’t have sold me before I was even born.
Adoptees are not clean slates to be sold. We have families and longing for our biological families. Those who feel the need to buy babies are not prepared for the lifelong traumas that come with being taken away from our biological families. Adoption is not black and white, it’s not a bandaid or a way to discard your child. My heart breaks for the future adoptive children who will grow up with questions they don’t even know how to ask or comprehend. I beg of you to please listen to adoptee voices before anything else. Those babies do grow up and become full adults with lifelong trauma, and no one knows better than us.
Sierra Wetmore, 28, Transracial Adoptee
I was always pro-choice, so I can’t say it changed my mind, but it did reinforce my advocacy for adoptee voices. The overturn of Roe v. Wade means that Black children will be adopted by white families like I was. No one socialized me on what it meant to be Black. No one taught me my culture. I didn’t even know anyone who looked like me or had hair like me. Instead, I was in an environment where my family was colorblind. It is equally as painful to hear people tout adoption as a valid alternative when it is traumatic and painful, and your entire identity gets erased.
Sara Allen-Nehrbass, 28, Adopted from Foster Care
The first time I was asked if I would have rather been adopted or aborted, I was about 8 years old and sitting at the kitchen table for dinner. I didn’t really know what abortion was other than “murder” at the time. To be completely honest, I didn’t even have a good understanding of adoption until I was in my mid-20s. The question made me feel more than uncomfortable at the time, and I didn’t really have the language to express [my feelings]. I was only 8. So, of course, I said I would have rather been adopted because it was less complicated.
The older I got, the less and less that question made sense to me. I am a foster care adoptee, and I wasn’t even sure if my biological mother had ever considered abortion. How was that question even remotely relevant to my situation?
As I learned what I had been taught about abortion was false. Abortion and adoption are not the same conversations. It seems people synonymously use the terms “unwanted” and “unplanned” for pregnancies when the only thing those two words really have in common is nuance—and this doesn’t even account for the nuance of extenuating circumstances.
All of this to say, I’m exhausted. I’m so tired of my trauma being minimized to fit everyone else’s agenda.
I’ve pretty much given up on anti-choicers understanding this nuance…I’m used to being their poster child. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be seen as fully human to an anti-choicer but rather a project to be conditionally saved.
I’ve come to terms with the fact I will never be seen as fully human to an anti-choicer but rather a project to be conditionally saved.
I’m [also] incredibly deflated because of pro-choicers. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I’ve seen so many pro-choicers tell anti-choicers that they should be responsible for adopting and fostering. What pro-choicers aren’t understanding is many “pro-life” circles think adoption and fostering are cool—many of them never address their internal biases.
For those interested in learning more about the impact of strict abortion laws and a more extensive history of adoption, here are a few valuable resources that elevate adoptee voices.
This book breaks down the hidden history of adoption before Roe v. Wade and its generational impact. The author, an adoptee who was surrendered during this time, elevates the voices of hundreds of women who vulnerably share their stories in hopes of shedding light on birth parents' experience.
Many adoptions in America are transracial, meaning that parents are adopting a childing of another race. This book breaks down the history, impact, and how people can ethically adopt cross-culturally while considering things like white privilege and the impact of colorblindness.
American Baby discusses the impact of post-war adoption in the United States during the baby boom in the 1960s, the impact of birth control being difficult to obtain, and abortion being illegal during that time. It sheds light on the harm of an exploitative industry and how pregnant persons were at the mercy of unethical deals with adoption agencies, doctors, and researchers who would pressure them into placing their children for adoption.