A reader writes:
Thank you for your post regarding the gap between unwanted pregnancies and
infertility. My husband and I have suffered 11 miscarriages since 2004. I can get pregnant, but I can't stay pregnant. I'm 40 now, and for us, our options have narrowed to a few choices: perhaps one more try that would lead to an extremely high-risk pregnancy fraught with complications, surrogacy using my eggs and my husband's sperm, foster care to adoption, domestic adoption, or overseas adoption.
Because of our backgrounds in emotionally troubled households, my husband and I are not sure we're perfect candidates for a high-risk, high-needs kid. And let's be clear: to adopt is often to take on just such a kid, particularly if you're an older adopting parent. Our chances of getting a healthy infant (of any color) is slim.
We will likely end up buying (yes, buying is the correct word here) a child who has significant problems. Adoptive parents are forced to assume significant risks, including but not limited to potential financial losses, the emotional heartbreak of losing a kid to last-minute changes of heart, and the risk of getting a kid with a myriad of disorders or problems related to in-utero damages such as drugs or poor nutrition or early childhood neglect, etc.
The adoption system is broken.
To adopt domestically places the bulk of the risk on the adoptive parents' shoulders. To adopt internationally often amounts to buying a child in circumstances that can be highly coercive and unethical to the relinquishing parents. If the people who are talked out of ending their pregnancies but who aren't really equipped to handle parenting refuse to give up their kid until they've broken them, why should infertile couples be asked to fix these problems? Yes, there are lots of kids who are begging for want of a loving home, but why must the infertile be penalized or be expected to carry a higher burden than their fertile counterparts?
When I see parents with three or four kids who obviously are overwhelmed by their progeny or who are borderline abusive or who obviously can't afford to have that many kids, it makes me wish all the more that it was easier for people who desperately want a child to bring one into their lives.
In 10 days my husband and I will be traveling to China to adopt a little girl, after waiting almost five years to be matched with a child there. I've been asked often why I don't adopt in the U.S., and the short answer is there are very few young, healthy children available for adoption.
But I actually think that in the past half-century or so, society's attitudes toward unwed motherhood have changed. Where it used to be something profoundly shameful, and pregnant girls were encouraged to "give the baby up" and forget they ever gave birth, now even young teens with little means to care for a child are considered monstrous for "giving their baby to strangers." Parents with a pregnant daughter are expected to help her raise the child (or raise it themselves). Schools, churches, and community organizations are provide support for unwed mothers, and adoption is pretty much only considered an option for deeply religious families.
I'm not saying these changes are bad, necessarily, but an unwed pregnant teen today is given many more options than one 50 years ago, and abortion is only one of them. As your quoted article says: "Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted," (emphasis added) which means 99% are presumably being raised by their birth families. I don't believe that if a magic wand could be waved and all abortions were converted into live births that those statistics would change much. The choice isn't between adoption and abortion; it's between abortion and keeping the baby. Adoption is barely on the map.