This post was inspired by the article “Adoption as a Feminist Issue,” and is expanded from a comment I posted there.
The awareness of adoption as a feminist issue, as a women’s issue, goes back decades. Feminism as a movement is concerned about the exploitation and oppression of women. It speaks out against the violence and abuses which are perpetrated against women because they are women. Reproductive exploitation is thus a feminist issue. And reproductive exploitation is the basis of the adoption industry.
In her landmark book Death by Adoption (Cicada Press, 1979) feminist policy analyst Joss Shawyer states:
“Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage. The crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned.”
(I would also like to recommend Shawyer’s article “Adoption ‘Choice’ is a Feminist Issue.”)
And, in 1986, Celeste Newbough wrote the landmark article “Adoption, Surrogate Motherhood and Reproductive Exploitation” in the feminist quarterly Matrix: for She of the New Aeon.
Shawyer’s quote, to me, sums up adoption. Along with the statistics that show that the majority of women who surrender babies to adoption do so against their will. These are babies they love and want to keep, but there is a thriving industry that currently sells newborns for $25,000 and more. See some sample price-lists for newborns. Just google “adoption situations” to find many more.
In most other nations, it is illegal to sell children, it is considered to be human trafficking. In Canada and the U.S., however, it is just considered to be business. See Gerow’s article “Infant Adoption is Big Business in America” (PDF) for a good analysis of why this unregulated industry exists. It is easy to exploit a woman if you deny her the supports she needs in order to keep her baby, and then convince her that she is undeserving of her child and that surrender is “heroic, noble, and selfless.” It is even easier if you get her to meet people who are eager to adopt her child, who she may then “fall in love with,” and who she then won’t be able to bear to disappoint by “changing her mind” and keeping her baby. Coercion takes many forms.
How is it not a feminist issue when women are being harvested for their babies, due to combination of a lack of legal protections and an enduring stigma against “un-manned mothers” (or now, “teen mothers” who are now the new “undeserving mothers,” striking fear into the hearts of the populace). Pregnancy and childbirth is an experience unique to women, it is part of their innate biology, a natural process that defines womanhood. When governments violate human rights by withholding the support necessary for a mother to keep her baby, this is blatant sexism and in effect punishes her for being a woman.
Let’s look an example illustrating the sexist double-standard. Men are not punished for fulfilling their reproductive imperative. Men don’t have body parts amputated off by agencies in retaliation for impregnating a woman (another natural act that is specific to their sex) — so why are women’s babies taken away from them (or women being manipulated into surrender (“choosing adoption”) by the NCFA’s “adoption is the loving option” crap), a traumatic act that feels like an emotional and physical amputation, if they get pregnant at a time that “violates” the artificial mores of society, who has “offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality…”?
A friend of mine, Karen Wilson Buterbaugh, who lost her baby to coerced surrender during the Baby Scoop Era, approached N.O.W. for their support. They refused to talk to her, and a woman there implied that it was because many in N.O.W. are adopters:
” When I was working in Washington, D.C., I called the N.O.W. office to schedule an appointment to speak with a representative. I wanted to discuss the issue of adoption surrender, especially during the Baby Scoop Era, being a major feminist issue. I wanted to see what they thought of this and if they were aware of the fact that so many babies were removed during that time from mother, mostly under age 21, who wished to parent their baby but were denied that right by social workers practicing in adoption, many of whom worked at maternity homes around the country such as the Florence Crittentons and Salvation Armies.
” I arrived and was told to wait. I waited and waited. An hour later I asked how much longer it would be. I was then told that I would not be seen. I asked why. She said she didn’t know but that no one wished to speak to me. I left and walked down the stairs to the lobby of the building. A woman approached me saying that she had overheard why I was there. She said, ‘Don’t you know that the women of N.O.W. adopt?’ I admit that I was startled at this as I had not considered that to be a factor!
” She then said, ‘Don’t tell anyone but here is the email address for the current President of N.O.W.’ (whose name I do not recall at this time). This would have been approximately 1997 or 1998. I thanked her for her flagging me down and for the information she shared with me. When I arrived back at work, I composed an email to the President of N.O.W. and sent it. Not hearing back, I sent it again,. I never received a reply. Not even a response saying she had received my emails or even saying she wasn’t interested in speaking to me or even defending adoptions. (My concern was specifically infant adoptions.)
” That experience was certainly a rude awakening to the fact that NO ONE cared, not even other females, about babies being removed from unprotected single mothers. “
So, mothers who have lost children to adoption have no advocates to speak for them and no support from the feminist community. I would like to call out to all feminists to help change this.
In Canada, our situation is so very sad. We are in the middle of an election, and if you look at the party leaders, the selection is pitiful. No women, no persons of colour, no-one under the age of “Seniors Day at Zellers.” In essence, no-one to represent the interests of women, the young, or the disenfranchised.
I feel like we’re in a time-warp. Nothing has changed. Like I stated in 2008, all we can choose from are Old Rich White Men.
So the sorry fact is that, even if your party’s platform pretends to pay attention to you, you can be certain that the corporate culture in Ottawa will not even know you exist. Even the women who are elected to Parliament end up finding out that they have to obey the rules of the “Old Rich White Boys’ Club.”
“Ottawa is old, white and male” — John Ibbitson, in “Five reasons Ottawa is turning you off” (Globe and Mail)
And, I know my readers will remind me about the Green Party leader, Elizabeth May. But what does it say about Canada that the only female leader is heading up a party that stands no chance of being elected under our current “First Past the Post” system?
No wonder there is no support for young, single, poor mothers to keep their children. The life experiences of the people whom our political parties nominate for leadership do not reflect their experiences, values, beliefs, or struggles.
I can give you a clear picture of this: A young First Nations woman I know well, struggling to raise three children on welfare, has bills this April of $740 not including groceries. Her total income is $600. She is already in subsidized housing. Child support? What’s that? She has to call the father of her children every month to try to hound him to pay up. If she makes even a little bit of money, the welfare office takes it away. The stress of trying to figure out how to afford to feed her children, how to pay her bills, and how to get herself out of the crushing student debt she is in (the college she had enrolled in went bankrupt so she ended up with a staggering debt and no diploma. She is overwhelmed with “How do I get the money to feed my children?” and this constant stress is on her mind even when her daughter is demanding attention — how can you focus on two critical things at once? Her stress is harming her health and she already has chronic neck pain. Working? How do you afford daycare for three children? She already has lost children to adoption due to poverty alone. Canada is still forcing women to surrender their babies and children due to poverty. Is this not systemic financial coercion?
But is there anyone who cares? Obviously not. And nothing will change as long as our only choices for political leadership are old rich White men.
This page contains an example of open records legislation that can be used by open records action groups to propose legislative change. It is non-discriminatory in that it open records to both adoptees and natural parents, and also recognizes that family includes siblings and grandparents who may also wish to search. It recognizes that — yes, adoptees have rights to know their original identities — but also that recognizes people do request records, at least here in Canada, because it is the only way to be able to find your lost family member unless they have registered with a search registry. Search and reunion is recognized in these type of open records campaigns, frankly addressed, and hence anti-open-records lobbyists cannot bring up the topic of reunion as a “cheap shot,” using it as scare-mongering.
Both Canadian and U.S. adoption laws are handled on the provincial/state level, and all of these laws are based on the same original law (Massachusetts 1951), legal principles, and social pressures (e.g. records closing to “protect” adoptive families from the natural parents). In Canada, each piece of existing provincial law has a name and collectively they are usually referred to as the acts and regulations, the laws and regulations, or the statutes of each province (with the exception of the Quebec civil code). In the U.S., the compiled laws are known as state codes and each code has a title, chapter, and section. As examples, here are links to see Ontario statutes and regulations and the California State Code.
To see the laws or your state or province, google “state code” or “provincial law” for your jurisdiction.
This model legislation provided below is based on B.C.’s current open records legislation (Sections 63 to 67 of British Columbia’s Adoption Act), but eliminating the appalling disclosure and contact veto provisions and instead including a contact preference provision from Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.
British Columbia was the first province in Canada to open its records, which it did in 1995 with the Adoption Act (Bill 51). Alberta obtained open records in 2003 via Section 74 of the Child Welfare Amendment Act (Bill 9) , which modified the old Child Welfare Act.
This model legislation, below, is also the type of legislation that does not change existing flawed legislation by “nickel-and-diming” it to death. Instead, it is meant to be passed as a bill to replace old legislation (as was done in B.C.) and any bill would begin with a clause to repeal the old legislation. Sometimes you need a fresh start.
In the following example, replace the phrase “Director of Vital Statistics” with the name of the office or official in your state or province who takes care of maintaining all state/provincial birth, death, marriage, and adoption registrations. Replace the phrase “Vital Statistics Act” with the name of the statute, legislation, code, etc. which authorizes your state or provincial government to collect and maintain this information.
Sample Open Records Legislation:
Section 1 – Disclosure to adopted person 18 or over:
(1) An adopted person 18 years of age or over may apply to the [Director of Vital Statistics] for copies of the following:
(a) the original birth registration,
(b) the amended birth registration that was substituted for the adopted person’s original birth registration, and
(c) the adoption order.
(2) When an applicant complies with Section 3, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must give the applicant a copy of the requested records.
Section 2 – Disclosure to natural parent or natural family member when adopted person is 18 or over
(1) If an adopted person is 18 years of age or over, a natural parent named on the adopted person’s original birth registration may apply to the [Director of Vital Statistics] for a copy of one or more of the following:
(a) the original birth registration,
(b) the amended birth registration that was substituted for the adopted person’s original birth registration, and
(c) the adoption order.
(2) When an applicant complies with Section 3, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must give the applicant a copy of the requested records
(3) Before giving the applicant a copy of the requested record, the [Director of Vital Statistics] must delete the adoptive parents’ identifying information.
(4) Other natural family members (grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, etc.) may also apply upon presentation of the death certificate of the natural parent
Section 3 – Applicant must comply with [Vital Statistics Act]
A person who applies to the [Director of Vital Statistics] under this Part must:
(a) supply any proof of identity required by that director, and
(b) if the application is for a copy of a record, pay the required fee.
Section 4 – Contact Preference
(1) An adopted person, a natural parent or any other person whose personal information may be in orders, certificates or documents may register a contact preference with the [Director of Vital Statistics] that indicates the person’s preferences concerning contact with a person who makes a request under Sections 1 or 2.
(2) The [Director of Vital Statistics] shall advise a person making a request under Sections 1 or 2 of any contact preference registered with respect to the requested information.
Recent Related Blog posts from Other Natural Mothers:
“Unsealed with a K.I.S.S.”
“Hey Wait a Minute…”
“What Does Adoption Reform Activism Look Like?”
This post was prompted by a thread on an adoption-related discussion board this morning. I wanted to share it here, because even though my thoughts on adoption and ethics might be known by my regular readers, some of my new readers may appreciate a summary.
“Adoption ethics” is a contradiction in terms.
Why? Because as long as adoption contains falsified birth records, coercion, reproductive exploitation, human rights abuse, and fraud, it is NOT ethical in the slightest. But one has to back up and examine the elements which constitute child adoption in order to see this. The only reason that most people accept modern day adoption and so few have questioned it is because or a long time it has been all around us as an accepted part of society. But, the same once held with domestic violence and child abuse (anyone else remember “Spare the rod and spoil the child’?). And, just like these ethically unacceptable acts, reproductive exploitation and coercion happens behind closed doors. But society can change.
Adoption, as it was invented in 1851 and practised ever since, has been institutionalized in Western nations in such a way that these following elements are inherent to it:
- Falsified birth records: Fabrication of a legal lie that the people who are adopting gave birth to the child. Forbidding the mother from filling out a birth record. In any other situation, intentional fabrication of a federal or state government record is a felony offence.
- Coercion — See the “Coercion checklist,” “Open Adoption: They knew it would work,” “Proof of Coercion in the Industry’s Own Words“, etc.” Coercion is ANY method that is intentionally employed in order to increase the percentage chance that the mother will surrender her baby. Includes pre-birth matching, separation of mother and baby at or near birth. To get an idea of what constitutes coercion, compare practices pre-adoption industry (1930s, 1940s) to practices once the Post-WWII adoption industry arose. Compare to practices in the U.K. (e.g. mother has 6 wks protection post-birth to recover and experience motherhood before signing) and Australia. The Trackers International survey of 1000 natural mothers found that 98% had been pressured to surrender their babies. That means only 2% who were NOT coerced!
- Fraud: Withholding vital information from the mother regarding social services and financial support that would have enabled her to keep her baby, withholding information or blatantly lying to her about the devastating emotional consequences of surrender for most mothers, convincing her that she is unworthy of keeping her baby and that the adoptive family are perfect and almost “heaven-sent.” Convincing her that parenting is overwhelming and that she is emotionally or financially incapable of doing it.
- Human Rights Abuse: Many articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but especially Article 25, which guarantees mothers the support and resources they need to keep their babies, and in effect guarantees babies the support and resources they need to keep their mothers! Also the recent guidelines for substitute care of the child published by the General Assembly in 2009.. We are ALL human beings. We are not dogs or pond scum. To treat us like animals, like livestock, is act of violence aganst the inherent dignity and personhood of each one of us.
- Reproductive exploitation : Just as bad as sexual exploitaiton. Why should it be considered any better, any more excusable?
- Human Trafficking (Baby Selling): Adoption is an industry that thrives because baby brokers profit from the exchange in human flesh. This is no different from slavery, where people “paid for” human beings to work as labourers for them. Similarly, in adoption, people “pay for” human beings to act as “offspring” for them. Children sell up for $50,000 or more, and this pricing does depend on race: white children are “worth more” than children of colour. Check out an online price-list (there are many) for buying yourself a child, where babies are euphemistically called “situations”:
“The following are a few situations available to our clients from the agencies we work with:
“African American baby boy due Oct. 5 in UT. Agency fees are 16K plus medical.
“Caucasian/African American baby girl due Oct. 17 in UT. Agency fees are 22,500 plus medical.
“Caucasian/African American baby boy due in Oct. Agency fees are 26,500 plus 4K in assistance to mom.
” Caucasian baby boy due Jan. 11 Agency fees are 30,500 plus medical”
Gee, in case #4 the mother even gets a cut of the profits!
The United Nations has even reacted with alarm over the sale of babies:
“During the course of 2002, the Special Rapporteur received many complaints relating to allegedly fraudulent adoption practices. Where such practices have the effect that the child becomes the object of a commercial transaction, the Special Rapporteur, like his predecessor, considers that such cases fall within the “sale” element of his mandate. The Special Rapporteur was shocked to learn of the plethora of human rights abuses which appear to permeate the adoption systems of many countries” (p. 25, “Rights of the Child: Report submitted by Mr. Juan Miguel Petit, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/92.“).
It is my serious opinion that adoption is SO flawed that it is impossible to reform. That is why I do not believe in “adoption reform.” What we need, instead, are laws that protect mothers and children from exploitation and coercion, from babies being sold like loaves of bread. We need provisions that are based on ethics, not on exploitation for profit.
Shortlink to this post: http://wp.me/p9tLn-ju
I have always said that the theft of my baby was an illegal adoption. No adoption could be legal when it begins with an abduction, a baby being taken from a tied-down mother against her will, withheld from her forever more from that point, the choice to keep her baby robbed from her, the “decision” of adoption made by others but not herself.
So, in Western Australia, exiled mothers are going to receive an apology from the government for exactly the same practices that myself and tens of thousands of young and unwed Canadian mothers endured!
I will include the full article here, because I do not want readers to have to surf over to second site to see what I am talking about.
Of course, an apology does not make up for the fact that criminal acts and human rights violations were committed. For that, IMHO, the perpetrators should be brought to justice. There should be recompense for the victims, and the people who illegally obtained children for adoption purposes (the sole reason WHY these crimes were committed, to supply the market for healthy white infants wanted by infertile people who were deemed to deserve our children more than WE were!) should be treated in the exact same way as anyone in possession of stolen property. But an apology if it is actually an admission of guilt, is a good first step.
Unmarried mums get State apology
DANIEL EMERSON, The West Australian September 1, 2010, 6:32 am
The State’s apology to unmarried mothers illegally separated from their babies under harsh adoption practices is set to happen within weeks.
WA is to become the first State or Federal government worldwide to admit hospital and welfare authorities were wrong to immediately separate mothers from their babies after giving birth out of wedlock. Mothers from around Australia keen to hear the apology have been told it will be delivered in Parliament on October 19.
Experts say tens of thousands of WA babies were adopted illegally when their unmarried mothers were prevented from seeing, touching, naming or bonding with their children immediately after birth between the 1940s and the early 1980s.
Health Minister Kim Hames said the exact format of the apology was still being finalised but it would be “to unmarried mothers of adopted children who were adversely affected by past adoption practices”.
Christine Cole, of the NSW-based Apology Alliance, said it was also important for the Government to say sorry to the children taken. “They were denied their family of origin and the culture of that family,” she said.
This is a little list i first began drafting a few years ago which has been sitting on my hard drive ever since. These are the promises, guarantees, and blanket statements that the adoption industry (comprised of baby brokers such as adoption agencies, lawyers, and facilitators) routinely promote as being the gospel truth. And they work — the industry now makes over $3 billion a year in profit. Don’t let it fool you.
Lies the Industry tells to Prospective Adopters:
- All families, both adoptive and natural, are the exact same.
- The bond between parents and children in all families are the same. The amended birth certificate will say that you gave birth, so act as though you did. You are now the only mother.
- The child needs only you and not the love of their natural parents.
- Environment is everything – the child is a blank slate (“tabula rasa”) – all the chid’s skills and aspirations will be yours.
- Rest assured that the natural family can never search because the records are sealed tight.
- The natural mom is just an incubator, a “b—-mother” and thus her only purpose is to gestate that child and then hand it over.
- This child is unwanted, the mother will never return.
- If loved enough, this child will never want to search.
- Adoptees will never feel hurt by being taken from their natural parents; love from adoptive parents will solve everything.
- “The Primal Wound” is a myth.
- This is a lifetime guarantee.
Lies the Industry tells to Expectant Mothers:
- Your child will be grateful to be adopted and won’t be angry at you for it. Your child will not be damaged by adoption
- Adoption shows you loved your child enough to give him/her two parents.
- You are not giving him away, you are giving him “more.”
- Children need two married parents.
- You will get over it and forget your child.
- You may feel “a type of grief’ but it will go away.
- Young and Unwed = unfit.
- The grief is resolvable. Only flawed women or those who “cling to the past” can’t resolve the grief.
- It won’t hurt, or won’t hurt for long. The satisfaction of providing a wonderful future for your child will make any “regret” go away.
- Keeping your child will involve more pain, struggle, and sacrifice than surrendering him/her.
Lies that the industry tells to adoptees:
- Your mother chose adoption.
- Your mother “gave you away.”
- Your mother does not love you.
- You only need your adoptive parents.
- You should be loyal and grateful to your adoptive parents for raising you as your natural mother dumped you and who know where you’d be if your adoptive parents weren’t heroes for rescuing you.
- Searching is disloyal and will hurt your adoptive parents
Lies that the industry tells to society:
- Infant adoption is natural (false. it’s a relative recent (last 150 years) social experiment)
- Adoptive families are exactly like natural families, with no problems at all specific to adoption.
- Raising an adopted child is like raising a child of your own.
- Infant adoption has been common since Babylonian types (false. adult adoption was common but NOT infant adoption – infants were fostered but seldom legally adopted)
- Adoption is about finding homes for unwanted babies.
What is is all about? Filling post-WWII consumer demand for infants.
“Because there are many more married couples wanting to adopt newborn white babies than there are babies, it may almost be said that they rather than out of wedlock babies are a social problem. (Sometimes social workers in adoption agencies have facetiously suggested setting up social provisions for more ‘babybreeding’.)” SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS, National Association of Social Workers, (Out-of-print) copyright 1964 (quote provided courtesy of BSERI).
The broker (agency, lawyer, social worker, doctor, or whomever else took the baby for adoption) made promises to the adoptive parents that permeate the entire adoptive relationship and even impact upon reunion. And the promises are lies, nothing but a sales pitch. Brokers knew there was a consumer demand out there from people who wanted newborn babies to adopt. Brokers knew they could make money by meeting this demand — now $25,000 or more per infant. So the brokers give promises that these infants neither knew about nor could keep. And adoptees are expected to live up to these promises, which they had no part in making in the first place! It is all done for money’s sake. It is time to take the profit motive out of adoption.
A Mothers’ Bill of Rights
Expecting? Considering adoption? The adoption agency may not have told you all your rights!
If you are considering surrendering your baby for adoption, remember that you are still the only mother that baby has until you have signed the surrender papers and until any revocation periods have passed (this varies from within 30 days of birth in British Columbia, to no revocation period at all in some states such as Florida and Illinois). Some adoption agencies publish “Birthmother Bills of Rights,” which invariably neglect to inform the “birthmother” that she has rights that every other mother takes for granted – including the right to change her mind.
This list below is provided so that expectant mothers considering adoption can take this to adoption agencies and potential adopters and ask right-off-the-bat if they’ll honour these rights. And if they refuse to, then mothers go to a different agency or different potential adopters that will. According to an article (“Love for Sale”) in Adoptive Families Magazine, there may be up to forty couples vying for every baby available, so there is no lack of choice if one couple says “no” to you. And in fact, the best parent for your baby may well be you!
As a mother, maybe being called a “birthmother,” these are your rights.
~ Your Rights as an Expectant and New Mother ~
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO:
- … see your baby after he/she is born.
- … choose to hold, nurse, and care for your baby in the hospital.
- … decide if the potential adopters can be in the labour or delivery room, and the right to change your mind and ask them to leave at any time.
- … have independent legal counsel (i.e not also representing the potential adopters, known as “dual-representation”) to explain the surrender papers and to be present when you sign them.
- … choose to care for your baby without feeling pressured to decide about adoption within ANY certain time period.
- … choose to take your baby home from the hospital if that is what you want to do.
- … say “No” to adoption at any point before or after the birth without fear of hurting or disappointing the potential adopters.
- … adequate financial support from the state which would enable you to keep and raise your baby.
- … expect child support from the father of your baby, and take him to court for enforcement if this is not provided.
- … be free of any monetary obligation, such as repaying living or medical expenses, should you choose to keep your baby (potential adopters can buy insurance to cover all costs if a mother changes her mind, it is a risk they knowingly take).
- … choose to decide on adoption after recovering from birth and any post-partum depression.
- … be treated as the mother and a parent of your baby until and unless papers are signed, and to be thus treated with the respect granted any other mother.
- … be a mother. No matter if you’re unmarried, young, or financially strained, you still have the right to be a mother.
These rights come from the application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (at http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html), which since 1948 has guaranteed these protections to ALL citizens of the U.S., Canada and all other nations that signed it. Articles 12, 16 and 25 of the Declaration specifically guarantee protection and social support to mothers and families:
- Article 12. – No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, FAMILY, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
- Article 16(3) – The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
- Article 25(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.
Copyright © B. Lake 2004. This article may be reprinted on other not-for-profit websites as long as it is reprinted in its entirety with copyright statement included.
Reprinted with Permission of the Author