Reproductive Justice

Yesterday, this blog was about the rights of fathers, today it is about the Reproductive Justice Movement. Reproductive justice includes the right to abort a pregnancy but also the right to raise a child in a safe and supportive community.

Why Reproductive Justice ? The experiences of Black, brown and Indigenous women who have been sterilized, abused, or punished for bearing children. Welfare laws based on misleading impressions of so-called welfare queens – Black women who allegedly had babies to collect welfare checks but wasted the money. These stereotypes have led to welfare policies that discourage welfare recipients from having more children by reducing their benefits.

The white-dominated reproductive rights movement’s “choice” framework privileges the most socially advantaged people in society. Those who have the ability to make choices. It doesn’t take into account social structures, power arrangements of race, class, gender, heterosexism, immigration status, religion – all of which shape one’s ability to have reproductive autonomy.

High Black maternal mortality is a matter of reproductive justice. States that have passed or will soon pass abortion bans have the worst healthcare systems, the highest maternal mortality, especially Black maternal mortality, and the highest infant mortality. As a result of [the supreme court decision] Dobbs, we’ll see increases in maternal mortality – deaths of pregnant people who intended to carry to term – because their health will be compromised.

It includes ending police violence, abolishing prisons, and all the inhumane carceral approaches to meeting human needs that have a profound impact on one’s reproductive life. Prisons are a major impediment in the United States to reproductive freedom. People who have had their children taken away by a discriminatory child welfare system that targets Black neighborhoods for family separation do not have reproductive freedom. To me, reproductive justice is inextricably linked to the fight against the prison industrial complex and the family policing system.

The reproductive justice framework is more effective than the reproductive choice approach. the movement for reproductive justice must be aligned with movements for housing, abolishing the prison industrial complex, environmental justice, and economic justice, because all of those movements are essential to supporting freedom, including reproductive freedom.

Movements seeking to limit or abolish the power of the criminal legal system and the prison industrial complex are relevant to opposing Dobbs’ assault on reproductive freedom. People are already being arrested and imprisoned for stillbirths and miscarriages; that standard will be applied to abortions as well. Recognizing the interconnected nature of these challenges is essential.

Today’s blog leans heavily on an interview in LINK> The Guardian of Dorothy Roberts. She is an internationally renowned scholar of race, gender, and the law at the University of Pennsylvania, who has dedicated her career to exposing attacks on Black women’s reproductive rights dating back to slavery and persisting to the present. 

You can learn more about Reproductive Justice at this LINK> SisterSong. Reproductive Justice combines reproductive rights and social justice.

The Anti-Adoption Movement

There is definitely a movement to reduce the adoption of newborns from unwed mothers and from people whose only sin is poverty. That’s not to say that it is not also important that children are never left in a seriously abusive situation. Unfortunately, what is “abusive” to some who insist on interfering in other people’s lives is not what true abuse actually is. Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. 

Already hopeful adoptive parents living in Texas are celebrating a bumper crop of adoptable babies in about one year from now. I suspected that as one of the motivations all along.

One woman describes her experience. The adoption agency had her move to another state while pregnant, purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing.”

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

One issue is where an “open” adoption is promised but the adoptive parents sooner or later renege on that promise. So one reform is seeking to guarantee that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. Activists also want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. Given time with their newborn, many new mothers change their mind about adoption and decide to give parenting their child a serious effort. Young women who find themselves pregnant and unmarried still face pressure to choose adoption. 

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. Adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. 

Adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. Adoption is not a risk-free panacea.  It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endures for decades. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognize these.

There are other options, such as kindship placements or guardianship, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships. When we do not provide financial support to families in need but instead take their children away from them, we have to ask ourselves – Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin? It would appear that we do not.

Some of the above was excerpted from The Trauma of Adoption. Other parts of this blog were excerpted from Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement. Some comments are my own.

What Is Wrong About Adoption ?

As a society, we don’t really take care of one another.  Lately, it may seem to people hoping to adopt that the whole possibility has been hijacked and beaten up.  Adoptees and their original family feel they were sold out and ripped to shreds by those who’s financial interests took their parents or children away from each other.

The methods by which adoption has been practiced in this country are a shackle upon the most vulnerable members of the triad.  Sealed adoption records, hidden indentities, have kept people genetically related apart and have treated adoptees like second-class citizens who are denied the same basic civil rights so many people without adoption in their family history take for granted.

The rainbows and unicorns IDEAL of the adoptive experience is scarred now by battles waged by those who the practice has hurt the most.  Families formed by adoption are only seen through the smoke of lies and deception.  But that is changing and in no small part because of adult adoptees who are speaking out about the damage and about their rights to a genuine and authentic identity, even if it is a sorrowful and tragic beginning to their own life.

Back in the late 1980s, the origins of an adoption story may have started this way – An 18 year old girl becomes pregnant from an affair with her employer.  She denies she is pregnant until it is too evident to conceal.  Maybe she looked in the Yellow Pages, where she found what looked like help for her situation.  She moves to a large city and lives with a “host family” (strangers who she’ll lose contact with once her baby is born).  At birth, her child is handed over to a couple she knows only as a photograph.

By moving this young woman to a different state, she was isolated away from family and friends – those who cared about her and may have allowed her a different outcome.  Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency may have advised her not to tell him about his child.  She was encouraged to surrender her child by being told how deficit she was to raise that child.  This kind of practice went on for many decades, certainly in the 1930s when my parents were surrendered to adoption and as recently as the late 1980s, when Roe v Wade and the emergence of single mothers as an accepted aspect of society reduced the number of babies available for adoption.

So if you have begun to sense that there is simmering an anti-adoption movement you are not mis-interpreting the noise.  One could even call this the next frontier for reproductive justice.

Adoption is not the solution to Abortion

The argument is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start.  One thing that really irks me is when people and organizations use adoption as an excuse to be anti-choice.  Being pro-choice is not the same as being pro-abortion.  Abortion is often a difficult decision and sometimes haunts a woman for the rest of her life.  She should not be forced into back alleys and dangerous procedures when she sees no other way to end a conception that she never intended.

Adoption is not a solution to abortion. Adoption is a choice about whether or not to parent. A lack of family support is often at the root of a decision to abort or surrender to adoption.  The separation of a child from its mother has wounds that well-meaning people neglect to understand.  The bonding of a child with its mother begins in the womb and no substitute mother is similarly prepared by nature.

How much of a choice is abortion or adoption when you don’t have any other choices?  3 of the 4 children in my family line surrendered to adoption were because there was no other viable choice.  Only one intentionally chose to surrender and intentionally chose the adoptive parents.  Due to a mental illness that manifested quite strongly after that event, I am grateful she made that choice – the young man has grown into a phenomenal person within a nurturing environment.

I am a believer in Reproductive Justice.  Access to safe, legal, and free or affordable contraception and abortion, informed and sensitive adoption policies, comprehensive sex education, and ethical and compassionate immigration policies that don’t criminalize asylum seekers are all examples of reproductive justice issues. Reproductive justice is a framework for considering your ability to control your reproduction and your destiny, safely and with dignity.