Saturday, November 10, 2007

Duty to Adopt

Pro-lifers, including myself, often promote adoption as a great alternative to abortion. Mitt Romney, for example, has been making it an issue. It's hard to see a reason where it would be acceptable to choose abortion rather than adoption, except those already listed by the Church as valid reasons for abortion such as the threatened health of the mother. So it's no wonder why pro-lifers promote it so much. A year ago the Church did a presentation in our ward about encouraging unwed mothers to put their babies up for adoption instead of abortion, and even instead of keeping the baby themselves.

While I support these efforts, I also think there is a problem with this strategy.

Currently, my understanding is that many parents need to wait years before being selected to adopt. In the Church system, birth parents can select the couple of their choice from many qualified couples. In other agencies, it might be the system that chooses and not the birth parents, but still I think there are waiting lists. (To be balanced, I've also read about children waiting to be adopted. I'm not sure where the disconnect is here. Why do some parents have to wait to adopt while there are children also waiting? But that's not central to my point.) When there are numerous qualified parents willing to adopt, it makes sense that unwed and unprepared mothers should give their children a better alternative.

However, what if we were successful? What if each of the close to a million abortions a year would instead be adoptions? Would there be enough adopting parents? I was unable to find hard numbers, but my impression is that there is not a million waiting parents. Even if there were, many of them have been waiting years and so that number would not replenish itself next year to keep up with the number of abortions.

Of course the ideal solution would be to eliminate both abortion as well as unwed, unprepared pregnancy. But if we only get rid of the former without the latter, we have a problem.

So the questions I'm considering are these: Are us pro-lifers willing to step up to the plate and adopt to support our strategy of adoptions over abortion? If my hypothetical situation were to come to pass, would the Church give a presentation encouraging married, fertile members to adopt in addition to (or perhaps even instead of) having biological children?


Paul said...

“When there are numerous qualified parents willing to adopt, it makes sense that unwed and unprepared mothers should give their children a better alternative.”

I am not smart enough to have all the answers, but if I had been conceived outside of marriage to a teenage mother, I would have wanted my real, although teenage, mother to raise me instead of some other couple, no matter how much better off I would be financially or otherwise. If my biological mother was of a reasonable, sound mind, and capable of demonstrating motherly love and care, then with the help of her parents, who would of course be my grandparents, or other responsible, close family members, then I would do okay. My mother was the main presence in helping me raise my kids and that worked very well. Of course I wasn’t a teenage mother, but rather a professionally employed male, but if I conjecture: “Would my kids have done better in a standardized, intact, in-the-box, Mormon family?” I think not. We are a very close family today, and the important thing is my kids know who they are and where they come from. That, without any doubt, would be paramount to me as long as my teenage mother would be willing and wanting me along with her (MY) family. Just my thoughts on the matter.

Horebite said...

Thanks for your comments Paul.

My post was mostly about the decision between adoption vs. abortion, where in my opinion adoption is clearly the best choice in general. However, I did mention that the Church presentation encouraged unwed mothers to consider adoption as an alternative to keeping the baby. So your comment is relevant to that point.

On the decision between keeping the baby vs. adoption the decision is more difficult and personal. I would not try to convince a potential mother that really wants to have the baby and has a good support system, such as the one you describe, to give the baby up for adoption.

However, I do think the effort to promote adoption as an alternative is a good one because there is a strong feeling among some (and based on your comment, I think I would include you) that adopted kids somehow start off with the odds against them, and so if a parent gives up their child they are doing so for selfish reasons and not in the best interest of the child. If a mother wanted to keep the child out of guilt, I would definately encourage her toward adoption.

While I agree with most of what you said, I disagree with your implication that children who are adopted would necessarily have a harder time understanding "who they are and where they come from." I think adoptive parents have to do a good job of communicating and shaping the child to understand that biological child-birth is one way, but not the only way, to make up a family. Giving the doctrine of sealings and eternal families taught by the Mormon chuch, once a family is sealed there is no difference between an adopted child and a biological child in the eyes of God. Good adoptive parents should be able to help the child understand who he is (a child of God) and where he came from (the presence of God).

Like yours, this is just my opinion. I'm not adopted so I'm trying hard to imagine what it would be like to be adopted or to adopt (something we considered at length when we were having trouble having kids.)

And I appreciate your input.

Paul said...

“Giving the doctrine of sealings and eternal families taught by the Mormon church, once a family is sealed there is no difference between an adopted child and a biological child in the eyes of God. Good adoptive parents should be able to help the child understand who he is (a child of God) and where he came from (the presence of God).”

I think we are on the same page in regards to most of what we have stated about this subject, however I’m not sure about how a child may really feel regardless of whether they are sealed into a non-biological family. I can’t help but feel that blood is always thicker than water no matter what the circumstances. And how can anyone really be sure about the circumstances anyway? Maybe “in the eyes of God (or the Mormon church and the adoptive parents)” there is no difference, and I have no argument against that, but what about in the eyes (and heart and mind) of the adopted child and the mother who gave up her baby? In fact, what about in eyes of the father (who is perhaps never given any consideration in the decision making process)? I could write a script that goes something like this: Fifteen-year old Caroline has a baby out of wedlock. The boy who impregnated her is not capable of maintaining a family (age, maturity, etc.) and cannot marry Caroline. Caroline feels pressure from the church, and also from her family to give up the baby. Caroline, under duress gives up the baby. The baby is named John by the adopting parents and is taken to the temple when he is twelve years old and sealed to his adoptive parents. John goes along with this sealing at least because of the earnest desires of his adoptive parents (they’re so excited about it making ‘big’ plans for the event), and their continual reminders of church rhetoric, “we will be an eternal family,” etc. To be sure, he certainly doesn’t want to do anything that will make his adoptive parents unhappy. John grows up and leaves home for college. In the meantime Caroline has also ‘grown up,’ but she has never stopped earning for the son she gave up for adoption eighteen years ago (remember: She did so when she was under duress and stress of circumstances at the time.) She attempts and succeeds in contacting her son (I am not knowledgeable about how adoption laws work so I am just stating that regardless of law she makes contact with John). They meet and then meet again, and then again several more times. John’s heart is tormented. John loves his adoptive parents, but he also identifies with his biological mother, Caroline. Caroline tells John about his biological family history and learns that both his mother (Caroline) and father are Italian. John has olive skin even though his adoptive parents have skin as white as Wonder Bread. John ‘feels’ a great earning to learn more of his biological roots. He has said nothing to his adoptive parents about his meetings with his biological mother, but during the summer after his freshman year he travels to Italy to make contact with some of his Mother’s biological family relatives who still live there. While there, John sees photographs of his biological mother’s parents (his grandparents) and also of his mother right after they emigrated from Italy to America (Caroline was only one year old at the time and her ‘Italian’ name is ‘Carolina’). John starts feeling like he is one of them. He ‘feels’ Italian. John returns to home to America and announces to his adoptive parents (after much deliberation and inner turmoil) that he has been in contact with his biological mother and her (and really his as well) family. His adoptive parents show immediate great concern over this in their demeanor and in their comments. His adoptive parents remind John that he has been sealed to them and ‘what has been bound on earth is also bound in Heaven.” John is not happy with his adoptive parents reaction and retorts by saying, “And ‘what is loosed in Earth is also loosed in Heaven.’” John’s adoptive mother, Lucy, rushes out of the room in tears. His adoptive father, Mark, angrily snaps at John by saying, “How could you do this to us, and especially your mother who has raised you and love you!” and rushes out of the room to comfort his wife. John begins to weep profusely and leaves the house. John eventually has a meeting with is Bishop who was ‘recruited’ to ‘assist’ John in his ‘re-education’ as to what family he ‘really’ belongs to. John cannot accept the fact that he is not connected in an eternal way to his biological family. John meets with his biological mother and explains what has transpired. Caroline, who is also a believing, faithful member of the church is tormented as well. She is married and has two children – a boy and a girl (John’s half brother and sister). John wants to meet them and does. The boy, who is six years younger than John, looks so much like what he looked like when he was about twelve years old. He is also fascinated with having a ‘sister’ as John was the only child in his adoptive family’s household. John learns that his mother, her husband, and his two half siblings have been sealed in the temple. Then John is told something even more profound and disconcerting. Caroline’s husband is also John’s biological father. He is told that his brother and sister are not ‘half,’ but rather full or ‘whole’ siblings. He is told that Caroline and the ‘boy’ who impregnated her eventually married three years after John was born and although they had to struggle financially and in other ways for many years, they were now nonetheless a happy ‘eternal’ family.

You finish the story if you want to.

Horebite said...


I think the story you told is the exception rather than the rule. While I admit that my experience with these matters in real life is limited, but I do have some anecdotal experience and from what I can see the Church's Family Services which manages the adoption process is very good at counseling the young woman to make sure she is doing it for the right reasons and not doing it under duress, and also to help both the young woman and the adopted parents understand what is happening, prepare for it, and prepare to help the child. With that in mind I think the vast majority of adoptions don't end up like your story does.

I also think your story is based on the assumption that the child is going to have some inate need to be close to his biological family. While this might be true in some circumstances, I think it's entirely possible for the adoptive parents to help the child learn from an early age that child-birth doesn't necessarily make a family. I don't have much to back that up exception my own feeling however, that the sealing power is much more important that biological connections.

From the detail in your story I'm inclined to think it's not a hypothetical. If so I feel greatly for the child and the families involved, but it doesn't change my opinion that efforts to encourage (not force) adoption is general are good, since I think it is the exception rather than the rule.

As you said though, I think we agree on the majority of our points. We are talking about edge cases here.

Pam's Place said...

Just found your blog via another LDS member blog where you commented. I've been reading your "Duty to Adopt" and although I don't have any personal experience with adoption, I would like to comment.

I'm saddened that John and both of his families, mentioned in Paul's story, are in such turmoil. Without having been in any of their positions, I can only imagine their angst. I know there is church doctrine that suggests that he is sealed to his adoptive parents, but I think in some of these situations we just have to have faith that they will be resolved by the Savior on the other side of the veil. And those involved will be happy about the resolution.

Anonymous said...

I found this post of yours interesting. Why is it that you want less abortions? What is it about abortion that you dislike? I do not like the thought of late term abortions but what is the harm in abortions in the first few months of pregnancy?

Horebite said...


The point of my post is not to rationalize the pro-life position, it is to point out the possibility that pro-lifers might have some responsibility to adopt in the hypothetical circumstance that abortions actually cease. So I won't go too far into the pro-life argument.

But I will say it seems the only difference between your view and mine is where we draw the line. You say you don't like the thought of late-term abortions. Why is it that you don't like the thought? It's probably a similar reason to why I don't like the thought of any abortion. To me, the fetus is either a human life or at least the potential for a human life (I'm not sure which), so choosing to end it would be morally wrong to me except in extreme circumstances. Additionally, many couples sadly aren't able to have children but want them. Therefore, it seems that the better choice would be to allow another family to adopt the child, rather than aborting it.

That being said, I don't necessarily think that abortion is equal to murder, as some pro-lifers do. Like I said above, I don't know (and I don't think it's possible to know since it depends on your definition) if the fetus is a human life, but it is at least a potential human life. So it's not the same as murder to me, but it is morally wrong on a lesser level, in my opinion.