Women’s rights, reproductive rights, and adoption

Wow–I am not sure why I am wading back in to this minefield, except that this issue, or more accurately set of issues, will continue to dominate (even if silently) the debate over non-biologically based families…..

I have run into a few blog posts that compare the horrific abduction of Jaycee Dugard to adoption in general…Yikes! It should be said that there are a number of very angry critics of adoption, domestic and international, and who take the view that all adoption (assuming the child has living biological parents) is a form of child stealing.  Much of this writing is hard to respond to, as it is so totalizing–adoption is conducted by a scheming “industry”, and adoptive families are not real families and so on. I understand that people who write in this way have probably experienced a great deal of pain. I don’t discount that.

But I also find a failure in such writing to make the link I tried to draw in my last post between abortion and adoption (see my comment on the piece entitled “Shotgun Adoption” in The Nation magazine) and also a failure to differentiate between women’s rights and children’s rights. Because, for better or worse, these sets of rights are sometimes not one and the same.

There is no question about the fact that women live their lives in the context of social relations that are seriously unequal–in almost every respect. If there were gender equality in family structures, for instance, many of the children (in a variety of countries) who end up in dire circumstances outside of family care, and those who are lost to gendercide, would have remained under the protection of their mothers. To say that there are problems that require a long term approach is not to reduce the sense of urgency all of us feel. It surely makes little sense to include children in this long-running set of problems, if there is an alternative,  permanent family available to them?

I tend to think that gender equality and a welcoming attitude towards all children would reduce abortions a great deal…And it may be that over-emphasis on biological fathers’ rights pushes women in the direction of abortion. One cannot make sweeping generalizations. But I cannot quite grasp the argument that adoption always and inherently violates mothers’ (and thereby women’s) rights–whereas abortion, by contrast,  is an aspect of reproductive freedom and choice.

In fact, abortion does not so much represent as mask or cancel out the women’s rights dimension of the problem. The life difficulties that lead women towards relinquishing children seem to me not dissimilar from those that lead in the direction of abortion….It is just that in the former case, the issue remains an ongoing issue, a reality of living separation. I find that many of the more lurid depictions of adoption–based on corruption and lies etc etc–become easier to understand–that is, the phenomenon of presenting adoption in that way–when seen in the light of this set of dramatic relationtionships.

It may also be convenient to pretend that the members of adoptive families do not have deep and abiding relationships–but of course, they do.

I have long maintained that bad or corrupt adoption procedures, or culturally based removals of children are completely, utterly wrong.

But my point in this blog has been that we can return the argument to its proper foundation if we turn our attention to the way social orphans–children without permanency and without sound family care–are actually living.  Of course they are there because of profound imperfections in the lives of adults. 

But these children do also have their own lives. That is the message of children’s rights, isn’t it? Empirically, actually, and in fact.


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