Coercing women to give up children for adoption in the name of Christianity

From The Nation comes Shotgun Adoption, an article by Kathryn Joyce about how Christian-run crisis pregnancy centers use deceptive tactics to convince pregnant women to place their child for adoption.

Reminiscent of the "baby scoop" era documented by Ann Fessler in her excellent book, The Girls Who Went Away, what is frightening about this article is that it is happening now, not "in the past."

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), the nonprofit pregnancy-testing
facilities set up by antiabortion groups to dissuade women from having
abortions, have become fixtures of the antiabortion landscape,
buttressed by an estimated $60 million in federal abstinence and
marriage-promotion funds. The National Abortion Federation estimates
that as many as 4,000 CPCs operate in the United States, often using
deceptive tactics like posing as abortion providers and showing women
graphic antiabortion films. While there is growing awareness of how CPCs
hinder abortion access, the centers have a broader agenda that is less
well known: they seek not only to induce women to "choose life" but to
choose adoption, either by offering adoption services themselves, as in
Bethany's case, or by referring women to Christian adoption agencies.
Far more than other adoption agencies, conservative Christian agencies
demonstrate a pattern and history of coercing women to relinquish their

I thought this part of the article was especially telling:

The cultural shift that had followed World War II switched the emphasis
of adoption from finding homes for needy infants to finding children for
childless couples. Karen Wilson-Buterbaugh, founder of the Baby Scoop
Era Research Initiative, has compiled sociological studies from the era,
including Clark Vincent's speculation in his 1961 book
Mothers that "if the demand for adoptable babies continues to exceed
the supply…it is quite possible that, in the near future, unwed
mothers will be 'punished' by having their children taken from them
right after birth"–under the guise of protecting the "best interests of
the child."

and as for supporting women? Only if they give up their child. According to Joyce,

Most homes are religiously affiliated, and almost all promote adoption.
Many, like Christian Homes and Family Services (CHFS), reserve their
beds for women planning adoption. Others keep only a fraction for women
choosing to parent. Most homes seamlessly blend their advertised crisis
pregnancy counseling with domestic and international adoption services,
and oppose unmarried parenthood as against "God's plan for the family."

My adoptive parents were (and still are) big fans of James Dobson. It's no surprise to me that he and his organization, Focus on the Family, have advocated strongly for adoption.

In recent years, the antiabortion push for adoption has been taken up as
a broader evangelical cause. In 2007 Focus on the Family hosted an
Evangelical Orphan Care and Adoption Summit in Colorado Springs. Ryan
Dobson, the adopted son of Focus founder James Dobson, has campaigned on
behalf of CHFS and Unruh's Alpha Center. Last year 600 church and
ministry leaders gathered in Florida to promote adoption through the
Christian Alliance for Orphans. And a recent book in the idiosyncratic
genre of prolife fiction, The River Nile, exalted a clinic that
tricked abortion-seeking women into adoption instead.

Finally, I thought this was also chilling.

Such enthusiasm for Christians to adopt en masse begins to seem like a
demand in need of greater supply, and this is how critics of current
practices describe it: as an industry that coercively separates willing
biological parents from their offspring, artificially producing
"orphans" for Christian parents to adopt, rather than helping birth
parents care for wanted children.

These are just small excerpts, please read the entire article. I think it's worth noting that we often think of unethical and corrupt agencies are a thing of the past or that coercing women to relinquish babies only happens in "foreign" countries. This article is a reminder to all of us that we should look at what's happening in our own back yards. The article in full is here.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

3 thoughts

  1. Being adopted in the early 60’s thru catholic charities, I have found out that my parents were contractually bound to raise me catholic from birth thru college, only allow me to marry another catholic and encourage me to raise my children in complete and total catholicism as well. While the church was not promoting out of wedlock birth, the extent of the control it wanted over my parents choices to raise me as they, not the church, deemed best is obvious. I think the christian church’s involvement today is as innapropriate as the catholic church’s demands of the past. Religion is a wonderful thing. however churches are opportunist businesses living off our backs and our tax dollars while preying our human emotions and weaknesses. I am disgusted at organized religion and their intrusions into our lives, adopted or not, for the sake of building larger churches and a larger piece of the non profit organization pie offered by the federal government.

  2. Immediately what I think to say is: Oh my.
    I try so hard to be tolerant, but when we run into this mindset – and we do – we flee.

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