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Leveraging Dobbs

Considerable outrage has been expressed over the phrase "the domestic supply of infants"[1] in a footnote cited in the recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Like many others, I find the phrase commodifying and offensive.

A segment of Adoptionland has apparently (and wrongly, in my opinion, which is shared by AP, USA Today, Snopes, Politifact, Fact Check, VerifyThis, and the Statesman, for starters) interpreted the citation as a not-so-subtle signal that the SCOTUS is plotting in collusion with the adoption industry to separate as many babies as possible from their mothers in order to fuel the pipeline. Some have even adopted social media handles like "domesticinfantsupply1963" in protest.

But when I ask people if they have actually read the opinion, or at least read the relevant section of the opinion to place the citation in context, the uniform answer so far has ranged from "no" to crickets. Given that the ruling is now law, the question is not so much about whether adoption reform activists like it (some do - some don't), but how can we leverage it for our cause?

The idea of restoring OBC/records access to adult adoptees has often been met with objections from conservative lawmakers who fear that such legislation would increase the abortion rate among women who might otherwise place their child for adoption. It is a belief rooted in the shame that has caused immeasurable damage to (usually) unwed pregnant women for decades.

But, based on available statistics, states that have done so have either seen a drop or no significant change in abortion rates, pointing to the conclusion that there is no correlation between the two decisions. Mothers I know who have both relinquished their parental rights and had an abortion agree. They confirm that one decision is about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, while the other is about whether or not to raise a child. Closed adoption, as it turns out, it actually an incentive to abort. As one mother puts it, "If my baby, in effect is going to be dead to me anyway, why go to the trouble to carry the pregnancy to term?"

As adoptee and Louisiana State Representative Chuck Owen wrote in a letter to the editor, "When parents relinquish a child to be available for adoption, they surrender all claims or ability to control that child in perpetuity." (The Advocate, April 24, 2022).

This information should be enough to put the issue to rest.

But now the Dobbs decision adds a "But wait, there's more!" component to the conversation. In a recent meeting with committee staffers, a lobbyist working on an OBC access bill in a conservative state pointed out:

"If you are concerned that this bill will increase the abortion rate here, you now have the power to draft legislation to address that."

Stunned silence followed by mic drop. Moving on to the next question.

[1][1] The preceding paragraphs start on p. 33 and frame the context of the citation:

"Defenders of Roe and Casey do not claim that any new scientific learning calls for a different answer to the underlying moral question, but they do contend that changes in society require the recognition of a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Without the availability of abortion, they maintain, people will be inhibited from exercising their freedom to choose the types of relationships they desire, and women will be unable to compete with men in the workplace and in other endeavors.

"Americans who believe that abortion should be restricted press countervailing arguments about modern developments. They note that attitudes about the pregnancy of unmarried women have changed drastically; that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of a pregnancy (footnote omitted); that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases (footnote omitted); that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance (footnote omitted); that States have increasingly adopted "safe haven" laws, which generally allow women to drop off their babies anonymously (footnote omitted);..."

Then comes the full footnote found on p. 34 of the opinion, in support of the phrase, "…and that a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home." It reads: "46. See, e.g., CDC, Adoption Experiences of Women and Men and Demand for Children to Adopt by Women 18-44 Years of Age in the United States 16(Aug. 2008) ("[N}early 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants (emphasis added) relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent"); CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, Adoption and Nonbiological Parenting, https:// (showing that approximately 3.1 million women between the ages of 19-49 had ever "[t]aken steps to adopt a child" based on data collected from 2015-2019)."


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