July 14, 2001
Adoption: The Neglected Option
There is a disgrace in the pro-life movement.
The adoption rate of crisis pregnancy centers
''commonly are below one percent,'' according to a new report, ''The
Missing Piece: Adoption Counseling in Pregnancy Resource Centers.''
These agencies, which profoundly believe in
the importance of the life of a baby conceived out-of-wedlock, have been
utterly unable to persuade even the 390,000 pregnant teenagers who gave
birth in 1998, that their child would fare better in the home of a
married mother and father.
Why not? Certainly the data is clear. A child
born out-of-wedlock is six times more likely to be in poverty than a
child of a married mother and father, three times as apt to repeat a
grade or to become pregnant as a teenager, and a staggering 22 times
more likely to be incarcerated than a child from an intact home.
Yet pro-life counseling centers have no better
adoption record than family planning clinics, which typically advice
young women to have an abortion!
Not long ago, adoption was not a neglected
option. In 1970 when there were 400,000 babies born out-of-wedlock,
71,500 were adopted, reports the National Council for Adoption.
That's nearly one baby out of five.
Illegitimacy has soared to 1.3 million, yet
only 23,537 infants were adopted in a recent year. That's not even 2
percent of babies of unwed parents!
Why has adoption become the neglected option?
The Family Research Council undertook a major
study to identify underlying factors that either inhibit or motivate the
consideration of adoption in both single, pregnant women and by
pregnancy counselors. Fifty-one single women, who had experienced one or
more pregnancies were interviewed along with 12 pregnancy counselors.
''The Missing Piece'' by Rev. Curtis Young
reports results. Adoption has a negative image due to stories in the
media of adopted children desperate to be reunited with their mother. A
key image: adoption equals abandonment of a child. As one put it,
''Think about who would give up a child. What a mean person! It's like
your mommy doesn't want you any more.''
Adoption is also seen as ''The Big Lie.'' It
involves secrets or deceptions they think can hurt a child, and evoke
''pity on the one who was adopted and condemnation of the mother who
`gave the child away.''' It is seen as an unbearable sacrifice, the
breaking of maternal trust.
Pregnant women go through a two-stage
decision-making process. First, they decide whether to have an abortion,
which can be quickly implemented and protects women from being judged by
others and public shame.
But there are 250,000 fewer abortions now, as
more women have gone to the 2,000 crisis pregnancy centers which have
persuaded many to preserve the child's life. ''Once they decide to give
birth, it is, in effect, a choice to keep their babies,'' writes Young
who once directed the Christian Action Council (now CareNet), 650
centers who have 300,000 client visits a year.
However, the second stage of the decision
about what to do with the baby, stretches over months. It is here that
most crisis pregnancy centers fail. Neither do they make a case to marry
the father the best option for many women nor to relinquish the child
What I found shocking is that ''the psyche of
the counselor'' is the same as the women coming for help, for whom
adoption equals abandonment and an unbearable sacrifice. Many counselors
are volunteers who had a baby while unwed. Most will not even bring up
the adoption option, fearful ''their clients will no longer see them as
Counselors lack crucial information. Children
adopted as babies actually do better than average children, according to
Patrick Purtill, President of the National Council for Adoption.
Only 7 percent of adolescents adopted in the
first year of life repeated a grade in school compared to 12% of those
living with both birth parents and 30 percent of kids with a single
parent, according to a study by Nicholas Zill. Children living with
single parents are three times as likely to be suspended from school (17
percent) vs. those with adoptive parents (6 percent).
Adopted adolescents have higher self-esteem
than a national sample of teenagers (55 to 45 percent), and are much
less likely to see their parents divorce (11 percent vs. 28), reports
the Search Institute.
Further, mothers who relinquish their children
for adoption are more likely to graduate, be employed, and to marry.
The National Council for Adoption should
publish this data in pamphlets for pregnancy counselors. Pro-lifers
interested in helping the child and mother should learn to be
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus