You know those "crisis pregnancy centers" that set up shop near abortion clinics, pretending to offer "options"? Turns out they won't just terrify you into having the baby; they'll terrify you into handing it over to them.
Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, writes in The Nation:
While there is growing awareness of how CPCs hinder abortion access, the centers have a broader agenda that is less well known: they seek not only to induce women to "choose life" but to choose adoption, either by offering adoption services themselves... or by referring women to Christian adoption agencies. Far more than other adoption agencies, conservative Christian agencies demonstrate a pattern and history of coercing women to relinquish their children.
It's like this: You're single, pregnant, and scared. Maybe you're even Christian, in some form and to some extent. You find these nice Christian people who tell you they can help. If you're still considering abortion at this point, they'll show you gruesome films and lay on the guilt and shame until you're not. And then, once you've agreed to give birth, they start telling you there's no way you can hack single motherhood — perhaps adding that God disapproves of the sex you've already had and will be even more pissed if you raise this kid without a father or a marriage certificate — and explain that keeping your baby would be selfish and sinful, because there are wealthy, childless Christian couples desperate to give it everything you can't. Or, as Carol Jordan, who got sucked in by a CPC in 1999, puts it: "[O]nce you say you won't kill it, they ask, What can you give it? You have nothing to offer, but here's a family that goes on a cruise every year."
While waiting to give birth, Jordan was taken into the home of a "shepherding family" the agency hooked her up with, where — despite the fact she hadn't yet decided on adoption — she was referred to exclusively as a "birth mother." Says Jordan, "I felt like a walking uterus for the agency." After she settled on an adoptive couple and gave birth,
Jordan cried all day and didn't think she could relinquish the baby. She called her shepherding parents and asked if she could bring the baby home. They refused, chastising Jordan sharply. The counselor told the couple Jordan was having second thoughts and brought them, sobbing, into her recovery room. The counselor warned Jordan that if she persisted, she'd end up homeless and lose the baby anyway.
Jordan signed the adoption papers and went back to live with the shepherding family, who were "celebrating and asked why Jordan wouldn't stop crying." 5 days later she left, and when she later called the agency looking for the counseling they promised, her shepherding mother told her "You're the one who spread your legs and got pregnant out of wedlock. You have no right to grieve for this baby."
Many other women, says Joyce, have had similar experiences. Lured in with promises of support, counseling, a home, money, and an open adoption that will allow them to keep in touch with their children, they later realize that all the CPC folks ever wanted them to do was have the baby and get lost.
These coercive operations are part of a larger movement in the evangelical community to promote adoption in ways that show just as much respect for pregnant women's autonomy as you'll find at an anti-abortion rally. It's not just that they want to "save" babies, apparently — they want to own them. Healthy white ones, anyway. As Lynn Harris puts it over at Broadsheet:
[I]t's not hard to connect certain dots. First, there's the notion of single motherhood, for anyone who is not Bristol Palin, as a threat to the "proper" two-parent Christian family. There's also the conservative Christian effort to promote embryo donation as "embryo adoption," not only as a bolster to fetal "personhood," but also (it occurs to me now) to steer available embryos toward conservative Christian families. There's "race panic." (Ah: That answers my second question.) And of course... there's Quiverfull, the extreme Christian movement determined to create, by birth or adoption, as many "arrows" as possible to prepare for battle in the culture war. So, if you ask me, these people are not just coercing. They are recruiting.
And it doesn't matter if you're in a committed relationship with the father, or even an evangelical Christian yourself. Karen Fetrow was both those things when she got pregnant at 24 (and has now been married to the father for 16 years), but was convinced to relinquish her baby because the Christian agency she approached for support "told her that women who sought to parent were on their own." After that, "for thirteen years Fetrow couldn't look at an infant without crying."
That's the part that's often left out of discussions of adoption as a happy alternative to abortion — such as Obama's speech at Notre Dame this summer or William Saletan and Steven Waldman's fool-headed suggestion that offering women $1,000 to choose adoption is a brilliant "common ground" solution, both of which Joyce points out. One of my best friends from college gave a baby up for adoption at 17, and having seen how that loss tormented her for years afterward, I have never been able to stomach arguments that adoption is necessarily a better choice for the mother than abortion or single parenthood. As Amy Benfer put it in her takedown of Saletan and Waldman:
The same people who ask women to consider a three-month fetus that may only vaguely resemble a proto-human on an ultrasound as a "baby" seem to be utterly indifferent when it comes to asking a woman to disregard her connection to the actual baby she has nurtured in her womb for nine months, delivered through the mostly torturous process of labor, and held at the moment of birth, with that familiar gooey feeling of counting fingers and toes and recognizing grandpa's eyes, dad's nose and her lips. At that point, "it" is not a product for exchange, but that woman's child. Most women, having gone through that experience known in every other circumstance as "the miracle of birth," will end up looking for any way possible to keep their babies and raise them well. They will need real long-term solutions: scholarships, day-care solutions and other programs that help them to get through school and get good jobs to support their families.
Instead, the ones who turn to CPCs for support are abandoned the moment the umbilical cord is cut and the baby can be spirited away to some stranger's quiver. Never mind if they want the baby. Never mind if they wanted an abortion months earlier. As soon as they stumbled into a CPC, what they wanted ceased to be a factor, because CPCs are not in the business of helping pregnant women but, as Joyce says critics put it: "separat[ing] willing biological parents from their offspring, artificially producing 'orphans' for Christian parents to adopt." If you think that sounds a lot like the "Baby Scoop" era of the mid-twentieth century, when at least 1.5 million pregnant girls and women were hidden away, often in maternity homes, until they gave birth to babies they didn't dare raise in a society that wouldn't tolerate single mothers, well, you're onto something. Says Joyce of that time: "The coercion was frequently brutal, entailing severe isolation, shaming, withholding information about labor, disallowing mothers to see their babies and coercing relinquishment signatures while women were drugged or misled about their rights." In other words, pretty much what CPCs are doing now. Oh, and in case you haven't vomited yet, under the Bush administration, CPCs received over $60 million in federal funding. Have a pleasant day.