Why Adopting is not a Very Feminist (or Liberal or Christian) Position

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Liz Latty has penned a very thought-provoking piece that is getting a good deal of reaction, most of it very deservingly positive. Entitled, Adoption Is a Feminist Issue, But Not For The Reasons You Think, it urges feminists to support “families that must be dismantled in order for adoptive families to be built.”

The truth, however, is that few families “must” be dismantled. Most can be assisted.

Latty writes as a feminist and as adoptee who found the truth of her adoption story and it wasn’t as simple – or as pretty – as she had been told, as is the case for many who are adopted. She found that her mother:

“…in reality, did not have the ability to make a real, authentic choice. And many pregnant people still do not have this ability. Because a choice made in the absence of other choices has nothing to do with choice.”

She writes of the lack of real informed decision-making based on real options, including the option to parent, which 87% of mothers faced with losing a child for adoption said would have been their preferred choice.

In many ways, there is MORE pressure on expectant and new moms today than there was for Latty’s mother. The demand for babies to adopt is just as high as ever, if not higher as a result of same gender couples and singles adopting, and the supply to meet that demand has shrunk drastically. The only difference between today and yesteryear is that instead of using shame as a tool, promises of continued contact with their children) - often with no intent to keep those promises - are being used to deceive expectant and new mothers in crisis within this country.

Latty asks feminists to:

“…incorporate an intersectional understanding of and position on adoption as part of their reproductive platforms. Read adoptee and first parent experiences. Listen to adoptee scholars, writers, activists, and artists. Listen to families who have been disrupted or broken through state intervention.”

All excellent suggestions, but we need to go further.

In 2009 I coined the phrase “Reverse Robinhoodism” in an article I co-authored with Bernadette Wright, entitled, “Reverse Robinhoodism: Pitting Poor Against Affluent Women in the Adoption Industry” which describes how adoption takes – by exploitation, coercion, all sorts of deceit and worse - the children of the less advantaged away from their parents, in order to provide those children to people who can pay tens of thousands per child and who have more to offer, materially.

Adoption - and surrogacy - pit women of means against those lacking resources. Women of means pay those of lower standing to do their dirty work literally and figuratively. ...and they call themselves feminists!

To Latty’s excellent thesis I add the following:

It is not just feminists who need to tackle these issues. All who consider adopting – and our lawmakers - need to educate themselves about the often not-so-pretty realities and change the current myth-based paradigms.

  • We need to stop believing the propaganda put out by the mega-billion-dollar adoption industry that there are thousands of orphans “languishing” in orphanages waiting to be rescued or saved. The fact is that nearly 90% of the children in orphanages worldwide have family who placed them there temporarily in order to get medical care or [of] an education and have no intention for them to be adopted.
  • We need to open our eyes to the fact that country after country has closed down international adoption because of the corruption…because children worldwide are stolen, kidnapped and trafficked for adoption.
“In May, Ghana became the latest country to suspend international adoptions, according to the U.S. State Department. It joins Bhutan, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Rwanda as states that have closed their doors.”

Why would this be so if there were abundant orphans needing to be saved?

  • We need to stop believing there is ever any entitlement to another family’s child, or that it is a reproductive “right” to acquire a child by any means we can afford. We need to stop seeing surrogacy and adoption as menu items that are equivalent to IVF.
  • We need to stop using women here and abroad as “handmaids” to fill a demand.
  • We need to reverse the social norm of thinking women in their prime for childbearing are “too young” to be mothers and should surrender to those more “established” while we waste away our childbearing years and then think we can simply snatch a baby like a fashion accessory and it will be just “as if” the child was born to us. NOT.
  • We need to stop commodifying babies, pricing them based on age, health and skin color.
  • We need to stop importing and exporting children, redistributing them worldwide without regard for their cultural losses or the difficulties of being raised in a family and community where they barely ever see their faces reflected – or respected. So called “color blindness” disregards colorful heritages and forces children to live lives not fully their own.
  • We need to fight against ethnocentricity that suggests western cultures are “better” than anyone’s culture of birth and origin.
  • We need to stop thinking that parents are interchangeable.
  • We need to stop falsifying the birth certificates of those who are adopted and permanently denying those who are adopted the same rights as non-adopted citizens in regard to access to their own original birth certificates.
  • Just as we try to prevent and reduce cancer and heart disease - without “balming” victims or survivors - we need to likewise add to H.S. health curriculum, what can be done to prevent or reduce infertility.
  • We need to recognize that adoption is not a win-win but that it creates a lifetime of trauma, pain and loss for the child and the family that child has been ripped from., and in recognizing it, we need to chose not to be party to it.
  • We need to stop exploiting poverty and those who are marginalized among us.
  • We need to realize that saving one child from a destitute family here or abroad does nothing to ameliorate any of that family’s problems but rather adds loss, sorrow, guilt and shame to whatever else they suffer. If we truly want to do something altruistic and humane for those in developing nations we would not steal their future, but rather provide medical and educational resources while allowing them to keep their families intact.
  • We need to recognize that the longing to have, raise, nurture, love, and care for a child is as real for those birthing children as it is for those seeking to adopt them – no matter their current, temporary circumstances.
  • We need to work together to provide affordable day care for all, while paying those who do the hands-on work of daycare a respectable living wage.
  • We need to see the unfairness of subsidizing strangers to foster and adopt, and giving adopters a $13k tax break, while giving the mothers and the extended families of their children no financial assistance to keep their struggling families intact. We need to recognize that this is not in any child’s best interest.
  • We need be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

That is what it truly means to be a feminist or a liberal or a Christian, or just a decent human being.

“If your neighbor lost his job a year after his wife died, and he had three small kids, would you ‘help’ him by taking away his kids? If a family in your church or congregation’s house burnt down and they had no family to stay with, would you help them by adopting their infant child?”

How then do we justify doing it to others?

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