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Adoption as an Alternative

Updated: Feb 26

Content Warning: Mentions of r*pe, and incest

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively stripping women of their federal protection and right to abortion. This ruling came a month after Justice Samuel Alito's draft opinion was circulated, leaked, and eventually published on Politico. In his initial draft opinion, it was revealed that the court had voted to overturn the 1973 ruling calling Roe "egregiously wrong" and then writes saying that there is no constitutional right to seek an abortion. Based on the draft, it was evident that Alito's companions: Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett were all in favor of throwing Roe out. Though draft opinions are not final decisions, the sweeping 6-3 conservative majority stayed true to the leaked document. Within the hour of the ruling, abortion opponents and supporters descended upon the Supreme Court's steps. Some denounced the ruling while others played celebratory music. Whether there are tears of joy, anger, or fear, many women in "trigger law" states had their right to an abortion stripped away. Now, women must look for alternatives and many of them are easier said than done. Adoption may be one of those alternatives, but it is not the solution.

A common argument for anti-abortion supporters is that life begins at conception, and in the event, the mother cannot care for the child - just put the baby up for adoption. These advocates see adoption as the better alternative for women who cannot or do not want to support a baby. Elizabeth Bartholet, a law professor at Harvard University and an outspoken advocate of adoption, said, "It’s ridiculous to say it’s no problem to eliminate abortion — just place the kids for adoption." However, to just "place the kids for adoption" oversimplifies the implications of the process of forced childbirth and adoption.

The act of carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth isn't an easy task, and adoption isn't exactly an easy choice. Based on a 2017 study conducted by Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco, 91% of women who were forced to carry to term decided to parent. Only 0.5% of births in the US currently end in adoption and birth mothers who chose to give their babies up report feeling anxiety, depression, and grief. According to that study, financial strain appears to be the major reason to give a child up for adoption, not because it was the first choice. Sisson discovered from adoption agencies that women who relinquished their babies for adoption were in their twenties, receiving public welfare, and earning less than $5000 a year. These women were also more likely to be people of color and unmarried. Another study that Sisson conducted in 2015 also supported the notion that women would have preferred to parent their babies but due to financial instability, they felt that adoption was the only viable option for them. Adoption may seem like a viable option for some women, and it will be, but it won't be one for all women.

Contrary to Justice Amy Comey Barrett's beliefs, who is an adoptive mother herself, adoption isn't the end-all-be-all solution to prevent abortions. "It’s just not the reality," said Ashley Brink, manager of a clinic operated by the abortion-rights group Trust Women in Wichita, Kansas. "It’s undermining people’s decisions and choices and ability to control their lives and their futures." Pro-life supporters frame adoption as a win-win for mother and child, when in reality it is anything but. Adoption can be traumatic for birthmothers like Hunter or Bri C. and they experience extreme grief and anxiety after putting their child up for adoption. "It threw me completely off. I didn't know what to do with my life anymore. So many times after visits, I would go home and cry until I burst blood vessels in my eyes," she said. Not to mention, adoption can be a traumatic life-long experience for adoptees as well. "Relinquishment is traumatic for adoptees, even for adoptees who had a good adoption experience," said