Human Rights, Motherhood, Reproductive Exploitation … and Adoption

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This is a post about human rights.   Rights that we all enjoy because, well, we are human beings and not tadpoles, buttercups, or granite slabs.  We are born human, and in a special position in the world even if we share most of our DNA with a host of other similar creatures.

Humans have the ability to commit both magnificent acts of good and terrible acts of evil.  In the mid-20th century, the world was recovering from a horrific world war and related events of genocide and destruction, which had ripped apart families and left much death and suffering in their wake.

A coalition of “civilized” nations swore that this evil should never happen again, and worked to create what became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations ion December 10, 1948.

Included in the Universal Declaration are rights that are belong inherently to all living human beings.  They include rights to dignity and equality, the right to be free from slavery, and the right to equal protection of the law.  Also included in the Universal Declaration are rights  that protect even the most vulnerable of our citizens  from systemic cruelty and exploitation.  Rights that our governments try to conveniently forget.

A mother and her child together are one of the  most precious and yet are often the most vulnerable families in any society.  Vulnerable, that is, because in some cultures, they are rendered without protection from external forces that work to separate them. In many patriarchal nations, a mother is often only certain that she will be able to keep her baby if:  (1) she is married and thus financially/socially protected by a man, or (2) she has sufficient status  in the employment market such that she can independently support her baby by herself.

Men and women are equal, but due to biology they are very different, an example being when two people of the opposite sex make love.  The man can walk away from his responsibility for any resulting child — he may not even know he is a father.  The woman cannot walk away.  She must deal with the consequences in a directly personal way.  During her pregnancy,  social sanctions limit not only her options, but stigmatize her into solutions that society either provides or withholds from her.  A baby is a part of her body for nine months, and that experience is one she can never walk away from.

To be a woman means the inherent capability (or implied capacity) to create and give birth to a child.

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone

Human rights factor into the experience of every woman who becomes pregnant.   Firstly, human rights are universal, guaranteed to all human beings.  Article 2 of the Universal Declaration states:

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Article 16 states:

“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” A mother and her child together is a family. There can be no doubt, and no argument, about this. They thus have the right to protection by society and the state.

But perhaps most explicit is Article 25, which states:

“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

This explicitly provides every family — every mother and her child — with the support and means required to keep them together, as a basic human right.   It also means that women have the right to social protection, the right to keep their children, without having to be the “social property” of a man  (did you know that until very recently, in many areas the birth certificates of the children of unmarried mothers were stamped “Illegitimate”?).   It means that marriage is not required to “legitimize” a woman fulfilling the natural function of her body, a natural function of being a woman:  giving birth to her child.  Marriage or at least a long-term parental commitment from both partners is indeed the ideal situation, but for many mothers it is just not feasible or possible.

This Declaration agreed to in 1948 protects all mothers and their children.  It provides mothers with rights such that no mother need be forced by poverty, coercion, or social pressure to surrender her baby for adoption. Every mother has the right to protection and social support for herself and her child as a family unit such that horrific trauma of surrender, the coerced separation from her infant,  is not inflicted upon her.

“Almost everyone believes that on some level, [mothers] made a choice to give their babies away. Here, I argue that adoption is rarely about mothers’ choices; it is, instead, about the abject choicelessness of some resourceless women.” (Solinger, 2001).

It is clear that if the basic human rights of ALL mothers were respected, protected, and codified into the laws of each nation, that there would be far fewer unnecessary adoptions.  Fewer families would be destroyed, fewer mothers would be forced to surrender their beloved infants, and the world would be a far more ethical and safe place for mothers who are giving birth — mothers left vulnerable to the  adoption industry because their human rights have been violated.

* * *


  • “Elizabeth Stone Quotes” at
  • Solinger, R. (2001). Beggars and choosers – How the politics of choice shapes adoption, abortion, and welfare in the United States. New York: Hill & Wang.

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5 thoughts on “Human Rights, Motherhood, Reproductive Exploitation … and Adoption

    Lissa said:
    January 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm


    What a great post!

    I sincerely hope that people will start to question what was done to mothers and their children in order to separate them.

    Mothers have been subjected to various tactics by baby brokers:
    -we didn’t have independent legal advice;
    -we were not allowed to read the documents we were ordered to sign, nor were we given any copies;
    -we were lied to, pressured constantly, harassed, stalked and manipulated;
    -we were treated with contempt and screamed and yelled at;
    -we were abused physically and subjected to mental and emotional abuse and manipulation;
    -we were threatened with having our child taken from us in order for the sw/baby broker to claim our child had been “abandoned” or was “unwanted” if we refused to sign a “consent”;
    -mothers were confined, drugged and separated from their children – or in the case of some, told their child had DIED in order to be “placed” for adoption;
    -information was deliberately withheld from us that would have enabled us to keep our precious child… it goes on and on… how can society not see how wrong and horrific this is?

    Adopters mercifully do not know the agony of having lost their child. And no, infertility does not entitle anyone to another woman’s child. Being blessed with a child is just that – a blessing. No one is entitled to take another woman’s child because they are unable to have a child of their own. There are so many things people can do to love and care for a child(ren) that doesn’t include severing that child from her or his family and denying their true identity.

    Not only were our civil and human rights violated – the methods we were subjected to were illegal and morally repugnant. Not only were our rights violated – our children’s rights violated as well. Our children then lost not only their family but their very identity and heritage. Adult adoptees are fighting for the right to obtain their true birth records. They do not deserve having their true identities withheld from them.

    Adoption needs to be abolished. Why not assume guardianship of a child who needs a home? Why not foster children in care who truly need a home? I don’t understand why some individuals believe the only way to love a child is to take away their family and identity. Adoption is not about the child. It’s about catering to the wish of those who want a child. No one has the right to take another woman’s child.

    I am waiting for the day when adopters will do what is best for a child in their home. I am waiting for the day when adopters will welcome that child’s mother into their lives. That is what is in a child’s best interests. Adopters cannot claim “ownership” in loving a child. The more love a child receives and the less lies they are forced to live with will make guardianship more humane.

    Unnecessary separation of a mother and her child is beyond cruel. It’s deplorable.


    another mom said:
    March 6, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    I really like your blog. There is another crisis for moms too. Even when moms have been married like society likes to force women to do, when women are divorcing abusive men, the men are taking the kids from the moms. There is a whole industry based on “Father’s Rights” They get funding from the government, and there are thousands of lawyers and psychologists to accuse the moms of the fictitious “Parental Alienation Syndrome” if they try to get aware from someone who abuses the mom and/or kids.

    See Stop Family Violence and the Leadership Council. This taking of children from women is an abomination of nature. Whether it’s forced adoption, or CPS, or in a divorce, there are many people out there making a living off of taking children from their mothers.

    victoria mayers said:
    April 15, 2010 at 8:58 am

    please i need assistant with my daughter adoption,i came to london in 2003 with my son he then subtain an injury in 2004 while leaving with family friend then the social services took him away from me i try all my best to take him back but instead he was giving to his father,shortly after that my daughter mary mayers was born in 2005 i manage to look after mary for at least 2yrs without any problem before my arrest into prison for my son charges then mary was also taken away for adoption we went to court and the judge order mary to be adopted. please i need your help i am now in immgration detention center to be remove back to nigeria even though my immgration lawyer is trying to fight for me to remain in uk,my contant has been reduce also my no longer allow to call my daughter on phone again.please help me………..

      Cedar said:
      April 15, 2010 at 6:53 pm

      Victoria, if you are in the U.K., why does your IP address come from Germany?

    Nodumo said:
    April 17, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Another sad issue that leaves women scared for life is the coercion to have an abortion. Many women and girls suffer alone and have to live with the thought of having aborted a child that they would have kept if their right to reproductive health, and motherhood was recognized. Some people blame women for their own actions but there is more behind the story than sees the naked eye. In some countries it is legal but this does not make it a right for men to force women to abort. However, funny enough more abortions are taking place in countries where it is illegal than in those countries where it has been made legal. How can human rights organizations address this issue. “It is a concern that should not be ignored!”

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