Adoption is a feminist issue
Within the debate over the "Raising the Baby Question" article and my response to said article was a question of why I would throw in adoption to the conversation. It's pretty simple and quite complicated, but I hope you'll stay with me on this. To do this, I am going to use as simple of terms as possible – in other words, I will use birth mom, adoptive mom and giving up a baby:
- 1. Women are at the center of adoption. I know it seems pretty obvious, but I think we overlook this point by focusing on the baby and its need for a good home, which isn't a bad thing. But we need to remember that a woman is giving up her child and feminists are most likely the only group of people who can look out for her. There are too many agencies that are focused on the money aspect. Adoptive parents are focused on their needs. That's why I absolutely love the Shaker who wrote a moving piece on being a birth mom. Of course there are wonderful feminist agencies and adoptive parents out there, but on the whole from someone peering into the adoptive process I feel that the birth moms get the short stick.
- 2. Economics are at play no matter how feminist we are in the adoption process. Throughout the anti-choice debate a lot of focus goes towards talking women out of abortion and giving up the baby for adoption as it were simple. But implied in this line of thought is "I know you don't have the money to keep her, so love her by giving her to someone who does have the money." This is why I say that economic justice is essentially linked to reproductive justice. Without women being able to say, "OK, I'm pregnant, there is a child care center in my workplace and I get 3 months paid maternity leave, but you know I am just not ready to be a mom." there is no real choice.
- 3. And yes there is the class difference that is prevalent in many adoptive relationships. It takes a lot of freaking money to adopt a child in this world. Domestic or international, there is money exchanged. To ignore this is naive. It doesn't mean that there is baby selling, but we must acknowledge the class differences at play.
- 4. E.J. Graff has made a splash in the adoptive parent community with her series of essays on international adoption and baby selling. Many are denouncing her work as undocumented and reactionary. I see it as forcing us to face a possible consequence of adoption. I have friends who have adopted and who want to adopt. I've thought about it myself. If people like E.J. Graff pressure governments to craft laws and regulations that can ensure adoptive parents that they are baby stealers, then I think it's a good thing. I read though Dawn's posts about her adoptive mom guilt. I can only imagine that it might be heightened if one was to adopt from a country like Guatemala or India where baby stealing is alleged if not proven in a handful of cases. I want adoptive families to start off with hope not doubt.
But essentially adoption is an issue that feminists must know about inside and out. It's the option that people throw out when discussing abortion. We can't dismiss its importance. It is important to frame choice as a decision to carry a pregnancy to term or not. The next choice if abortion is not an option is whether a woman has to make is whether to parent or not. Anti's can talk until they are blue in the face about the dangers of post-abortion depression, despite the fact that studies show that most women are relieved post-abortion or if there is any mental health issues, they were present before she became pregnant. We must talk about the impact of adoption on women, good and bad. We have to be vigilant that we never return to the days when unmarried teens are forced to give up their wanted children.
If there is one group of people who have the power, will and ethics to ensure a fair, safe and loving adoptive process, it would be feminists.