Hand holding glass ball with inverted image of surroundings reflected in ball.

Flipping the Script: Adoption and Reproductive Justice

By Kimberly McKee

Adoption is a reproductive justice issue. Pretending otherwise ignores how adoption is used as a red herring in anti-abortion arguments. A recent invocation of this faulty logic occurred in Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s questions during the November 2021 oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Coney Barrett’s statements implied that the option to relinquish infants vis-à-vis adoption rendered abortion availability unnecessary. This line of thinking is one with which I am familiar, as both a Korean international, transracial adoptee, and a critical adoption studies scholar. 

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Austin, TX, USA - Oct. 2, 2021: Two women participants at the Women's March rally at the Capitol protest SB 8, Texas' abortion law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Organizing and Activism of Adopted and Displaced People

By Lina Vanegas

I am a transracial and transnational displaced person. I was separated from my country, language, and culture and taken to Michigan, which has no connection to me or my ancestors. I was taken there to create a family for strangers who had the privilege and resources to buy me. I had family in Colombia and I was far from being a true orphan. I was bought in Bogota, Colombia and sold to a white couple living in the Midwest in 1976. 

I use the word “displaced” intentionally, because the word “adopted” does not define my lived experience in an accurate way. The word “adopted” is language that was created by the child welfare-industrial complex, also known as the adoption industry. I do not subscribe to any of the constraints or barriers that they attempt to put onto my life with their language choices. Using the word “displaced” defines the intentional separation from my family by the child welfare-industrial complex. 

My lived experience has informed who I am and has inspired and motivated the work that I do online and in the world. It is very rare that adopted and displaced people’s lived experiences are seen, heard, validated, centered, and believed, so my mission is to do that online, on my podcast, Rescripting The Narrative, and in the work that I do as a social worker and with the organization Adoptees for Choice.

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Broken chain.

The Indian Child Welfare Act: Preserving Families Is in Children’s Best Interests

By Kathryn E. Fort

On February 28, 2022, the Supreme Court accepted one of the most consequential federal Indian law cases in decades, a direct constitutional challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). This challenge, brought by three states and three foster families, intends to not just dismantle a gold standard law in child protection, but all of federal Indian law. The plaintiffs who brought this case are not interested in improving the child protection system, or finding ways to support promising practices, or ensuring the resiliency for Native children affected by trauma. This case is about an attempt to dismantle the current federal protections for tribal governments, tribal citizenship, and tribal sovereignty. The case does so by ignoring the best interests of Native children and the voices of a uniquely unified Indian Country

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woman with iv in her hand in hospital. Labor and delivery preparation. Intravenious therapy infusion. shallow depth of field. selective focus

A Birthmother Reflects: The Perpetuation of Adoption Myths

By Angie Swanson-Kyriaco

During opening remarks for Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on December 1, 2021, Justice Amy Coney Barrett stated that the “obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy” and the “burden” of parenting are eliminated through adoption.

It is no surprise that a conservative, anti-abortion, adoptive parent would have an over-simplified opinion about adoption, expectant parents, and birth parents. In her remarks, Justice Coney Barrett demonstrated a common lack of understanding about the complexities of adoption, and a blithe unawareness about adoption ethics and the need for adoption reform.

As someone who worked for over a decade in the field of reproductive health and rights, and now as the executive director of one of the only nonprofit organizations in the country that exclusively serves first/birth mothers who have relinquished infants for adoption, I know both how detrimental the lack of access to abortion can be, and how significant the lifelong impact of an adoption can prove.

And, as a first/birthmother, I have a deep personal understanding of the significant trauma of placing my own child for adoption, and the lifelong grief and ambiguous loss that follows relinquishment. 

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Lexington, Kentucky / United States - 06 28 2020: Fire Station 22 in Lexington, Kentucky in the early morning idle hours.

Safe Haven Laws and Anti-Abortion Politics

By Laury Oaks

During the Supreme Court oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Justice Amy Coney Barrett acknowledged that previous cases addressing abortion rights relied on a consideration of the burden of parenting and forced motherhood. For Justice Coney Barrett, this consideration was a non sequitur: “Why don’t safe haven laws take care of that problem?”

The so-called “safe haven” laws to which Justice Coney Barrett was referring were passed in every state from 1999 to 2009, to designate places where or people to whom an unharmed baby may be legally and anonymously relinquished and then adopted. A Florida safe haven advocacy group argues, “Safe Haven babies are given a chance for a future. A Safe Haven baby might become the President of the United States, a Supreme Court Justice, a scientist finding a cure for cancer or most important, a great mom or dad to their children.”

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WASHINGTON D.C., USA - SEPTEMBER 27, 2020: A Protestor carries a sign that says "Our Vote, Our Voice, Our Choice," at a protest against the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

The False Choice: Adoptee Voices in the Fight for Reproductive Freedom 

By Michele Merritt

As legal scholars have predicted since the current composition of the United States Supreme Court became apparent, abortion restrictions are increasing; if Roe v. Wade is overturned with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision this coming June, over half of the states in the country will likely ban abortion entirely

During the Dobbs oral arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett suggested that adoption is a viable alternative to abortion. Her defense of overturning Roe, in other words, amounted to a belief that it’s not a violation of women’s rights to increasingly restrict access to abortion because adoption is always an option. 

But adoption is not a viable alternative to abortion. This is why several adoptees and I founded Adoptees for Choice, a coalition of adoptees speaking into the reproductive rights debate and rejecting the appropriation of our lived experiences without our consent. 

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Judge's gavel, handcuffs and scales on grey background, flat lay with space for text. Criminal law concept.

The Reproductive Violence of Family Policing & Separation

By Dorothy E. Roberts

In the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization oral arguments, Justice Amy Coney Barrett presented parental relinquishment as an alternative to abortion access. In the leaked Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade, Justice Alito referred to this idea approvingly.

We asked Professor Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, to highlight some of the problems with that claim. 

Drawing on her recently published book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families – and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World (Basic Books, 2022), Roberts explains in the conversation below how the child welfare system uses family separation (or the threat thereof) as a means of policing Black families (as well as Native families, other non-white families, and poor families). This, she adds, is a result of the state’s failure to invest in families in fundamental ways, and is a clear manifestation of reproductive violence.

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baby feet

The Freedom to Choose (to Give Your Babies Away)

By Martin Guggenheim

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s remarks during the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization oral arguments from last December reveal, as clearly as anything, the futility of continuing to debate the subject of abortion with religious zealots — whether those zealots are stalking abortion providers, harassing women outside of clinics, or wearing judicial robes. The chasm is simply too wide. On the one side is a deeply held belief that terminating a pregnancy means murdering a human being. On the other side is an equally firmly held belief that denying a woman the right to terminate an unwelcomed pregnancy treats her as an incubator and denies her agency over her own life, and, as a result, constitutes gender discrimination and allows the religious beliefs of some to control the lives of all.

We can spill all the words we want, but nothing clarifies more clearly the uselessness of bothering to continue this discourse. On one level, Justice Coney Barrett’s remarks are simply preposterous; they reveal a cluelessness about the human condition and the meaning of bearing a child and then placing a newborn for adoption at birth. 

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