Is adoption a reproductive right?

The writing prompt from this week’s Human Behavior in the Social Environment class for my MSW program instructed us to read the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Family Planning and Reproductive Choice position paper. We then had to select one topic and then tell whether we agreed or disagreed with the NASW’s position on the subject, as well as how it might affect serving our clients.

Here’s my response.

Reproductive rights are things such as access to affordable birth control, safe abortion, and even perhaps infertility treatments and assisted reproduction techniques. However, a trend in recent years is to include adoption as an alternative to abortion as part of a broader range of reproductive services.

This trend is reflected in the NASW (2009) position that “the fundamental right of each individual throughout the world to manage his or her fertility and to have access to a full range of effective family planning and reproductive health services….these services include….adoption rights.” The NASW also supports, “public and private adoption services that better address the needs of birth parents….to consider adoption as a genuine alternative to abortion or parenting, contributing to a broader range of options.”  Additionally, Planned Parenthood (n.d.), NARAL (n.d.), and the ACLU (n.d.) all hold the belief that adoption is a third reproductive choice.

Opponents on both the Right and Left of the political agenda frame adoption as one of three choices in the marketplace of reproduction: abortion, parenting, or adoption.

However, I disagree, as adoption is not a third reproductive choice but a parenting choice.

When a woman is faced with an unplanned pregnancy, her choice is binary: to continue to carry the pregnancy to term or abort. If a woman chooses to not terminate a pregnancy but to carry the pregnancy to term, she will be a mother of a child, whether a mother who raises her child or a mother who voluntarily terminates her parental rights.

Her reproductive rights have already been exercised when she chose to continue with the pregnancy. 

That being said, women do have the right to voluntarily terminate their parental rights and relinquish a child for adoption after the child is born, based on what she feels is in the child’s best interests. Just like breastfeeding, good schools, access to day care, and prevention of child abuse are not reproductive rights issues, but issues centered on the well-being of a child, so is adoption.

Additionally, framing adoption as a reproductive right is at odds with the rights of the child once he or she is born.  Those rights are outlined in Articles 7 through 10 in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and include the preservation of a child’s identity and family relations, the right of the child to maintain direct and regular contact with one or both parents, and that the child be provided with essential information about their family.

By framing adoption as a reproductive right of the birth mother or adoptive mother, it becomes easier for the state to violate these essential rights and deny adult adoptees factual information surrounding their original identity in the form of sealed original birth certificates and the issuance of amended ones.

However, reproductive rights of a mother do not last forever—those rights end with a live birth.  Even if a mother voluntarily terminates her parental rights at birth and relinquishes her child for adoption, she is not guaranteed privacy in perpetuity.

My belief that adoption is a parenting choice and not a reproductive right will affect how I interact with my clients who are already members of the adoption constellation because birth parents are not guaranteed anonymity and therefore, all adult adoptees have a right to their original birth certificate. I realize this may sometimes come in conflict with both adoptive and birth parents’ feelings, but the rights of the adopted individual trump those feelings.

By removing adoption from the marketplace of reproductive choices and situating it soundly in the realm of parenting choices, it places the child at the center of the process and protects their rights—as a separate and unique member of the human family, independent of the biological process of reproduction—to have access to factual knowledge surrounding their birth and heritage.

Additionally, when working with a woman facing an ill-timed or unplanned pregnancy, my position will affect how I counsel them and the sequencing of the questions I ask. Instead of asking if she wants to abort, parent, or place for adoption, I will ask if she wants to continue her pregnancy or not? If she wants to continue with the pregnancy, then I will help her decide between parenting her child or placing her child for adoption.


American Civil Liberties Union. (n. d.). Reproductive freedom. Retrieved from:

National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. (n. d.). Healthy Pregnancies. Retrieved from:

National Association of Social Workers. (2009). Family planning and reproductive choice. Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Planned Parenthood. (n. d.). Thinking about Adoption. Retrieved from:

United Nations General Assembly. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. United Nations, Treaty Series, 1577(3).

13 thoughts on “Is adoption a reproductive right?

  1. Wonderful!

    Again, the problem is that the adoption industry has done such a good job convincing society that adoption is a reproductive choice.

    Because that’s how they make money, by selling newborns. We are products and products don’t have feelings. Humanizing newborns costs the agencies money, and that cannot, and will not be allowed.

    The suicides all happen after the money has changed hands, so they don’t matter to the adoption agencies. Collateral damage, the cost of doing business in human flesh.

    I am cynical I see the worst in humans because I have been made into a product and sold.

  2. Even if we would accept that “Abortion, Acceptation or Adoption” trilemma, as one which may be one a pregnant woman may face, we should never forget that this is a false trilemma as the existence of foster care options(s) provides a “none of the above” option.

  3. Lord,now it’s a “right” to adopt? And it’s not a “right” for that child to know his own heritage in most states? This is so ass-backward that it is hard to wrap my mind around it. It’s up there with the “right” to own slaves. My guess is this was written by someone from the group of people who want to think that adoption will always be available to them (and there will be enough children!) should they need or want to adopt to “build their family.”

    This kind of thinking leads to our voices being muted. So glad you responded like this.

    • The push to frame adoption as a “right” began in around 2007 and got wings from the ACLU. It was packaged with marriage equality reform efforts. I do not think the LGBTQs should be prohibited from adopting, but it is far from a “right.”

      • I attended the conference at MIT in 2010. Arguments were made that everyone should have equal access to children. To say biology matters was called pro natalism and an example of heteronormative thinking. To me it was just another theory to separate us from our children. I wrote a post about it on my blog and will send you the link if you are interested.

      • I would absolutely love to read that! Could you please send me your blog for that, as well? Thank you!

  4. Hi, there. I’m an adoptee, Social Welfare student (undergrad), prior pro-choice lobbyist, etc. I have to say your blog is a gold mine. I am always talking about women’s rights, adoptee rights and in that mix is always reproductive access and activism.
    I wonder how we could reach the NASW, PP, ACLU, etc with adoptee voices to make this change? I am very interested in this. I am going to present the issue to the adoptee rights activists working on legislation and see if we can get something going. I loved reading this!

  5. Reblogged this on PSYCHE CAFE and commented:
    What about the rights of the unborn child? What about the feelings and mental wellbeing of the being within? What about the responsibility of the woman carrying that life? Is not life sacred? We must look at these moral dilemma. We must pass humanities class. Free will is not a ticket to ride, but a responsibility. Our free will affect us all! Wake the hell up!

  6. I bet if we sued there asses, they would stop this! I bet if the american adoptees would pull together, and sue the united states for infringing on our rights, we could establish a precedence to stop it all together, which would make everything have to adjust. Like the churches would have to address the doctrines that allow this to go on. The whole country as I see it is brain washed. And our truth is the medicine to wake them like snow white. But we must speak our truths, they will protest, because what we have to say is heinous, but they must know, what this really is. WE the grown Adoptees must stand up and expose this for their sakes. We must. It is our calling.

  7. Hi there. As an adoptee, I appreciate your linking the U.N. Convention on Human Rights to an adoptee’s (or any person’s) right to equal treatment under the law (article 7). You said: “Additionally, framing adoption as a reproductive right is at odds with the rights of the child once he or she is born. Those rights are outlined in Articles 7 through 10 in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and include the preservation of a child’s identity and family relations, the right of the child to maintain direct and regular contact with one or both parents, and that the child be provided with essential information about their family.”

    Thanks for your clear statement that an adoptees right to THEIR original identity documents is an essential right. Interestingly, the ACLU has been an advocate for sealed records in recent instances not an ally of adoptees, without an understanding of the actual history of adoption records practices in the United States that gave adoptees and birth mother the ability to view and access their original birth records through the early 1950s, before state legislators and public health record keepers ushered in the misguided era of shame and records secrecy that remains mostly intact today. If you have haven’t done so, you may wish to read E. Wayne Carp’s Family Matters and any article by Elizabeth Samuels (Law Professor, University of Baltimore). Her articles are here: She’s a great scholar, balanced, and insightful. She has done good work on what was and wasn’t promised to birth mothers when they relinquished their children.

    FYI, here’s my recent post on the right of all persons to be treated equally under the law, including access to the most critical documents we all have: our original identity documents: I enjoyed your blog.


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