I was reading an opinion piece by E.J. Dionne Sunday morning in the Washington Post. The title of the piece is "What’s the Matter with Motherhood?" Thinking it would have something to do with women in the workplace, I immediately clicked on the link. Instead, in true Dionne form, it merely highlights a different area of the health care debate, while still targeting the conservative-minded. However, it was Dionne’s first sentence that struck me: “If you’re a conservative strongly opposed to abortion, shouldn’t you want to give all the help you can to women who want to bring their children into the world?”
For once, I’ll admit it. I agree with Dionne. If you’re conservative and opposed to abortion, you should want to help women bring children into the world (ignoring his vast generalization of doing “everything possible”). As a part of the 40% of Americans who believe abortion should only be legal in a few circumstances, I wanted to offer an addendum to Dionne’s claim. If you’re a conservative and opposed to abortion, you should truly believe that adoption should be a viable option to provide incentive for women to not abort.
In 2004, the Guttmacher Institute conducted a study to investigate why women had abortions. The vast majority, 75%, said they felt that having a baby would change their life. This assumes, then, that these women would keep the child in their custody. However, if adoption were a realistic option, this could seriously alter the calculus. While gestating a child for eight months would certainly change a woman’s life, it's safe to assume that this is not what the surveyed women are primarily referring to. Instead, if a woman were to put the child up for adoption, her life would not be permanently or significantly changed in the same way as it would be if she chose to keep the child.
Unfortunately, many women keep their children because adoption is an unrealistic or even fear-inducing process, due to the poor state of the foster care system in the U.S. Improving the foster care/adoption system in the United States is a crucial step in helping to weaken a woman’s rationale for abortion, and aside from deciding to adopt children themselves, conservatives should further support means that would support more families adopting. A great way to do this is by supporting gay partner adoption (through gay marriage or other means that recognize gay partnership).
Those who are pro-life and seek alternatives for “unwanted” children support familial adoption. My opponents may argue that single-parent households would not necessarily qualify as providing enough “family” to raise a child, or that children are better off in two-parent households. Generally they will cite statistics about how the children of single parents are at greater risk. If this is the case, there should be a way to encourage couples to stay together, foster family values, and support the presence of two parental influences to oversee the wellbeing of child.
Not only does gay marriage (or a recognized partnership) encourage these family values, it also provides two-parent households in which to raise children (virtually debunking the “single parent” argument). Gay couples are adopting more and more. And generally, they provide more care and protection than some heterosexual couples. Like many other couples who choose adoption, gay couples must jump through countless hoops in order to foster or adopt. However, in many states it is especially difficult for gay couples to adopt. Utah and Mississippi, for example, completely prohibit gay couples from going through the adoption process. And in states where gay marriage is illegal and gay partnerships go unrecognized, adoption for gay couples is especially challenging. As opposed to showing a loving couple, ready to welcome a child into their home, one partner must instead make the case for adoption and claim to adopt a child as a single person. This lessens the likelihood of adoption, since many adoption agencies are less likely to find that a “single” adopter meets adoption criteria. Just as children are less likely to get placed with a single adult as opposed to a couple, they are also less likely to be adopted by one partner within a couple that the state does not recognize. This happens despite the fact that in reality, the gay partner who adopts is actually part of a loving, committed couple that is prepared to support a child and begin a family. Anyone willing to go to such lengths to start a family has clearly demonstrated a real desire to have a child.
The recognition of gay marriage or commitment would readily permit the adoption of more children annually, as would the recognition of gay couples within the adoption system. We should have room in our hearts and in our system for those who are committed to one another and well equipped to welcome a child into their home. To do so would aid the current state of the adoption system, and more important, it would remind the women who are poised to choose abortion over life that they have other, realistic options.