What's Wrong with the Adoption Option?

By Doerr, Edd | The Humanist, March-April 1994 | Go to article overview

What's Wrong with the Adoption Option?


Doerr, Edd, The Humanist


Each and every woman has a fundamental right to decide for herself if and when to become a mother--free of even mild coercion from the state, the church, or anyone else. For this reason, I have long been a staunch supporter of reproductive rights, have served on the boards of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (which recently modified its name to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) and the National Abortion Rights Action League (which has just changed its name to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) and co-edited, with James W Prescott, the book Abortion Rights and Fetal "Personhood" (Centerline Press, 1990).

Several years ago, I gave a talk on religious freedom and church-state problems at a meeting in Dallas, Texas. The talk included a defense of abortion rights. At its conclusion, a young fundamentalist couple told me they believed that abortion was immoral and should be outlawed, and added that the appropriate alternative was to continue the pregnancy to term and give the baby up for adoption.

I responded that adopting children and giving children up for adoption were laudable, even noble, actions, but that no one has the right to compel a woman--whether she is 14 or 40--to continue a pregnancy against her will. I added that, based upon admittedly limited information, I believed that giving up a child for adoption would result in severe and long-lasting trauma for the mother, an outcome far worse for the woman than having a first-trimester abortion.

We know that carrying pregnancies to term is seven to 25 times more likely to result in the death of a woman than a first-trimester abortion; that 91 per, cent of all abortions in the United States are performed during the first trimester; and that, according to Dr. Carl Hogue of the Centers for Disease Control, abortion generally does not affect subsequent fertility.

We also know, thanks inadvertently to Ronald Reagan, that "there is so little evidence of psychiatric problems following abortion, and so much evidence of relief, that therefore abortion does not cause more psychiatric problems than unwanted pregnancy." This was the conclusion of the paper submitted by the American Psychiatric Association to Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop, who had been directed by Reagan in 1987 to prepare a report on the physical and mental health effects of abortion on women. Although Koop reported in 1989 that the Public Health Service's studies were inconclusive, the Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Relations, chaired by the late Representative Ted Weiss, dug out and published the surgeon general's real findings. The committee also found transcripts of Dr. Koop's meetings with anti-choice groups in which he told them that the adverse effects of abortion on women were "minuscule," affected very few women, and did not constitute a public health problem.

The question of the effects of relinquishing a child for adoption intrigued me, and I thought surely there would be a vast literature on the subject. …

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What's Wrong with the Adoption Option?
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