July 6, 2022

In Brief: Adoption After Dobbs

It should be presented as a viable, even empowering, option for unprepared mothers.

Conservatives don’t care about women or the children they’re forced to bear, say some critics of the latest Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. That’s not true at all, of course, and Naomi Schaefer Riley of the American Enterprise Institute explains one reason why.

If you have spent any time reading the news or browsing social media since the leak of the Dobbs decision earlier this spring, you’ve probably come across the message that, absent easy access to abortion, women’s only option is forced birth followed by a lifetime of maternal servitude. As UC–Irvine law professor Michele Goodwin wrote in the New York Times, Justice Samuel Alito’s failure to find the right to an abortion in the Fourteenth Amendment “craftily renders Black women and their bondage invisible.”

Some abortion-rights advocates apparently believe that, in order to make this narrative true, they must also work to remove the possibility of adoption. As one writer with 30,000 followers tweeted a few months ago: “I would rather get an abortion than have a brown child who ends up being adopted by white evangelicals. It is not a kindness to children of the global majority to give them to people who will traumatize them with self and ancestral hatred. An abortion is an act of love.”

Following the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Boston University professor and author of How to Be an Antiracist Ibram X. Kendi tweeted: “Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children. They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.”

So just to be clear: it’s racist when the law requires black women to raise their own children, and it’s racist when white families offer to adopt them. The only thing that is not racist, according to these activists, is aborting black fetuses right up until the moment of birth.

The racial slur about white parents and black children isn’t new, as she points out. But it’s also not common.

Such views are at odds with the opinions of most Americans today, who find interracial families to be either unremarkable or a generally positive development. A Pew Research Center poll in 2017, for instance, found that “roughly four-in-ten adults (39 percent) now say that more people of different races marrying each other is good for society — up significantly from 24 percent in 2010.” The share saying it’s a bad thing fell from 13 percent to only 9 percent. A 2017 survey of potential adoptive parents by the Dave Thomas Foundation found that almost half had no preference at all about the race of the child they would adopt. It is hard to express just how remarkable that result is, not just in twenty-first-century America but also in the context of history.

Public opinion on interracial adoption is more than just a sign of racial tolerance; it also makes clear the importance that American families place on the well-being of children, even those not their own.

Nevertheless, she says, the number of adoptions has declined for years, perhaps mostly because single motherhood has “lost its stigma.” This happened in part because, again at odds with the Left’s charge, conservatives do care about women and their children, and they show it with lots of tangible help. Even so, there will be more babies born after Dobbs, and we should focus on “presenting adoption as a viable and even empowering option early on.” Riley concludes:

Nothing about adoption is ideal; every one starts in some kind of tragedy. But there is also much to celebrate about the families that form in these difficult circumstances, and they are far preferable to situations in which a woman bears a child but then neglects or abuses him.

For mothers whose other children have already been removed, a private infant adoption may be the best way forward. But there is a fine line here. Presented with the choice of having yet another child bouncing around the foster care system or one who is in a safe home with loving parents, many mothers would gladly pick the second option. The choice cannot be coercive, but adoption should become a part of our national conversation again.

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