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.
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References

American Civil Liberties Union. (n. d.). Reproductive freedom. Retrieved from: https://www.aclu.org/issues/reproductive-freedom

National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. (n. d.). Healthy Pregnancies. Retrieved from: http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/what-is-choice/healthy-pregnancies/

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

Planned Parenthood. (n. d.). Thinking about Adoption. Retrieved from: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/pregnant-now-what/adoption

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

Are Facts Stubborn Things or are Lies “Well-Rounded” Points of View?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Good night, why do I do this to myself? I will be sailing along and then on a whim, decide to go drop by the R House, just to see what’s up in Adoption Nirvana. Lindsey, the blog author, recently posted about Steve Jobs’ passing. As an Apple devotee, I thought it was a nice tribute.

Until I followed the links.

The first site she links to is a blog “My Inspirational Quotes.” http://www.my-inspirational-quotes.com/inspirational-stories/steve-jobs-inspirational-story/ This particular blog states:

When Steve Jobs was born February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California , his unwed mother decided to put him for adoption because she wanted a girl. So in the middle of the night, his mother called a lawyer named Paul Jobs and said, “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?”

Uh….so how much of this story is a fabrication? Well, pretty much all of it.

Let me dissect it.

  1. When Steve Jobs was born February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California” – all true, but after this point it pretty much falls apart.
  2. “his unwed mother decided to put him for adoption because she wanted a girl” False. According to his natural parents, Steve Jobs was placed for adoption because his grandfather forbade his parents to marry. In short, his grandfather was a racist and didn’t want his white daughter marrying a Syrian.
  3. It was the FIRST set of prospective adoptive parents that wanted the girl and turned down the chance to adopt Steve Jobs. In his commencement address delivered at Standford in 2005, Steve Jobs said, “…everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out *they* decided at the last minute that *they* really wanted a girl.” (Start viewing at 01:14, ends at 01:36.)
  4. So in the middle of the night…” Whew – a bit more truth finally! His future adoptive parents did get a call in the middle of the night. Steve Jobs said, “So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night…” But it most certainly wasn’t from his first mother. It was most likely from an adoption agency representative. While good, decent, and loving parents, Paul and Clara Jobs were no one special – they just got the next baby in the que.
  5. “his mother called a lawyer named Paul Jobs…”  Paul Jobs was Steve Jobs’ adoptive father, but he was not a lawyer. He was, in fact, a high school drop out and a machinist. (Not that there is anything wrong with dropping out of high school – I did myself and now hold a PhD). And to reitterate, it was most likely NOT Joanne Schieble who called Paul and Clara Jobs in the middle of the night. It would have been a representative of the adoption agency calling the next people in line.
  6. “…and said, “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” According to Steve Jobs in the commencement address, this is how it went down so I will take his word for it since it was er..uh…HIS LIFE STORY. And of course, Paul and Clara Jobs jumped at the chance and the rest, as they say, is history.

So there it is.

A little teeny bit of truth mixed up with a whole pack of lies about Steve Jobs’ mother and his life. When I pointed this out to Lindsey and suggested she might want to remove the link to the blog-o-lies, her retort was,

“I do not personally know Mr. Jobs and therefore do not know the intimacies of his adoption story nor do I pretend to. And seeing as his story was reported differently in EACH of the links listed above, I decided to post them all and give my readers a well-rounded POV to read.” (emphasis added)

To which I replied:

But Lindsey, how is a lie a “well-rounded POV”? We have the TRUTH about his life, from Steve Jobs’ *own* mouth. Is it respectful or right to let others reconstruct his truth simply to provide the allusion of a “well-rounded” point of view?

Lies are never “well-rounded” points of view. They are always lies.

Would you stand for the same treatment of your own adoption stories? Would you be perfectly fine with someone posting a bunch of links, some with outright lies on them about your beloved birth mothers, simply to give a “well rounded POV” of view of you or you children’s experience? Let me repeat: Lies are not “well-rounded” points of view, whether they be told about Steve Jobs or about your own children.

You are right, we don’t know Jobs personally and we cannot pretend to know his adoption experience. However, the author of the first blog you have linked to IS pretending to know. By removing the link the blog that perpetuates a lie about his beginnings, you would be honoring *all* adoptees – the only ones who didn’t have voice in the adoption process. LET THEM SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES. Let Steve Jobs’ OWN WORDS stand as a testimony for what happened. It is *HIS* story – what other “point of view” is needed?????? (emphasis added)

P.S. I DID watch the entire video on the SECOND link. I even included the transcription of the text in my comment above. It is the part where Steve Jobs *clearly* states in no uncertain terms that is was the wealthy, educated PROSPECTIVE ADOPTIVE COUPLE that wanted a girl and therefore turned down the chance to adopt him when he “popped out.” To quote: “…everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out *they* decided at the last minute that *they* really wanted a girl.” (Start viewing at 01:14, ends at 01:36.)

And I really feel that way. Adoptees should have the final word on what their adoption story is and how adoption affected them.

I hope that you are able to find your voice and find a tribe of people who will respect and honor your voice – even if the TRUTH makes them feel uncomfortable.

In the words of the immortal John Adams,

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” ~ Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’ December 1770

Much love,

M.

Updated: While writing this blog post, Lindsey over at The R House read my response and graciously left this comment in return:

I see what you are saying, Melynda and would be happy to remove that link. Thanks for the comments. :)

To which I say Thank you, Lindsey. I fervently believe adoptees should have the last word about their life and their experience, even if it doesn’t fit our agenda.