Friends, colleagues and clients have asked whether more women will place children for adoption now that Roe v Wade is overturned. They seem to think that because a woman can’t have an abortion, she will logically or necessarily choose adoption instead. Maybe this sounds like common sense, but in my experience, I don’t think this will happen. Backed by years of experience, below is my professional insight from helping pregnant women all over the country navigate this life altering decision.
I think it’s unlikely that more women will choose adoption if abortion isn’t an option.
Women choose adoption for very specific reasons. Lack of access to abortion has not typically been one of these reasons. Many women who choose adoption do so because they believe abortion is wrong. Some women are pro-choice but wouldn’t choose abortion. In my discussions with pregnant women considering adoption, many would not have chosen abortion in the first place even if they had access. On the other hand, in my experience, women who choose abortion do so because it doesn’t offend their beliefs.
Why don’t women choose adoption if they can’t have an abortion?
Adoption and abortion are so different. First, a woman can have an abortion and no one will ever know. When a woman has an abortion, she doesn’t have to get permission. It is a confidential matter between her and her doctor. Also, an abortion is final. A woman might have emotional or physical complications as a result of the procedure (many don’t), but the pregnancy is over and her future is in her control.
When a woman chooses adoption, she chooses to be pregnant and everything that comes with that. When she starts to gain weight and the baby starts to show, her choice may longer be confidential. People will see she’s pregnant and will ask questions.
Adoption isn’t always a confidential matter.
Adoption cases are confidential in courts, but socially they absolutely are not. It’s pretty obvious when a woman carries a pregnancy to term. Her family and friends will likely know. Her doctor and their staff will know, nurses and doctors and social workers at the delivery hospital will know. The only way a woman can continue a pregnancy and deliver a baby without anyone knowing is to isolate herself and hide the pregnancy. Then deliver at a hospital where she won’t know anyone and abandon the baby at the hospital. When a woman abandons a baby, Child and Family Services places the baby in the foster system, hopefully to be adopted.
While this might sound like a viable option, the thought of abandoning a baby is heart-wrenching and agonizing. For some women, however, they must balance this awful option with the potential shame and ostracizing she’ll get from her family for the rest of her life for having a baby and placing it for adoption. I’ve spoken to women who say they can’t choose adoption because their family will disown then.
The rights of the Birth Father.
Even if an expectant mom has a supportive family and community, most states laws require that anyone who may be a potential father must be given notice of the proposed adoption. This means that anyone the expectant mom has been sexually active with will know that she has made an adoption plan and they can try to stop it in court if they want to. This further complicates choosing adoption as an obvious choice for a woman who does not have access to abortion.
There have been just a few times that I’ve worked with women who choose adoption because they couldn’t afford an abortion.
Abortion isn’t typically a free procedure unless a woman has really good health insurance and her OBGYN can perform the procedure. If a woman can’t afford an abortion, it’s usually because she’s on state funded insurance that won’t pay for the procedure. She has to go to a clinic, like Planned Parenthood, who offers the procedure. Typically, it’s going to cost several hundred dollars. Usually, the only person willing to help cover the cost is the baby’s father. In some situations, however, the father is uncertain and getting that much money from him can be near impossible.
I think women who don’t have access to abortion are more likely to choose to parent.
Or at least a lot of them will. I think this is going to mean a huge burden on the states where abortion is not an option. Single moms without financial means are going to have more children. These moms will almost certainly need government assistance to raise them. It’s true that many women choose adoption because the government doesn’t offer enough programs and assistance for struggling single moms, but I also think that when they take away the option to terminate a pregnancy, the backlash will likely be that the government needs to pick up the slack where deadbeat dads have failed.
Women with limited financial resources need access to abortion.
I’ll be curious to see if adoption numbers increase due to lack of access to abortion. I believe that women with financial resources will find a way to get the procedure done. I don’t think this reality will be a surprise to anyone. The fallout may be brutal. Women who can’t afford or have access to birth control will slip further into poverty as they struggle to support another child. Maybe these are women who are just getting on their feet, their kids in school, and finally getting some breathing room will be starting over with a newborn. Many don’t have family support or family who can offer support, and many will be unable to get child support from the children’s fathers.
Adoption isn’t right for everyone.
For adoption numbers to go up, adoption must be a viable choice for every women. For many women this just isn’t the case. Over the years I’ve spoken to women who tell me that they can’t do an adoption because the father will never agree. Sometimes they say that their family will disown them. Other women know themselves and know that they can’t go through a full-term pregnancy and then give up their baby.
Ultimately, I think that most girls and women have thought about what they’d do if they got pregnant unexpectedly. It’s still a common topic in middle to high school debates and opinion essays. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, I think most girls and women have already thought about and know what they’d do. For some, adoption would not be a consideration; for others, abortion isn’t an option.