State Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-TX), an anti-abortion Democrat who lent his support to a package of abortion restrictions recently enacted in Texas, is currently pushing a measure that would require women seeking an abortion to complete a mandatory adoption certification course. Lucio, who apparently assumes women don’t know anything about adoption already, hopes that they will decide against having an abortion after being “presented with more information on adoption resources and services.”
But people who have more experience with adoption services aren’t exactly supportive of Lucio’s proposal. RH Reality Check interviewed employees at adoption-related organizations, as well as parents who have formed their own families by adopting children — and none of them were particularly excited about the prospect of a government-mandated adoption course.
One of the most common anti-choice arguments against abortion is the suggestion that terminating a pregnancy always harms a woman’s mental health. (Research has found that’s not actually the case, since the women who decide to have an abortion overwhelmingly say it was the right choice for them.) In that context, it’s ironic for abortion opponents like Lucio to be pushing women toward adoption — since experts say those lingering negative emotions are actually more typical for the women who choose to have a baby and give it up for adoption.
“Living after an adoption, life can be harder for a woman than living after an abortion,” Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) who has conducted extensive research on birth parents, told RH Reality Check. She pointed out that giving up a child for adoption “is just as much about separating a family as it is creating a family.” Sisson thinks it’s “inappropriate” for Texas to present one option as preferable over the other, since every woman will be in a different situation.
Those familiar with the adoption process expressed skepticism that Lucio’s three-hour adoption course could actually be helpful to women who want to learn more about adoption. Dawn Scott, a board member at Austin’s Adoption Knowledge Affiliates and an adoptive parent herself, pointed out it’s a “complicated reality” that likely wouldn’t fit into a three-hour state-sponsored class. And Tricia Neerman, a pro-life adoptive mother, would love for more women to choose adoption but doesn’t think this is the way to do it.
“You’re not going to force someone to change their mind by putting them in a room for three hours,” Neerman noted to RH Reality Check. “We’re already making them go through a sonogram and now a three-hour course? To me that almost seems tortuous a little bit.”
Adoption isn’t actually always a viable choice for women seeking to end a pregnancy. Obviously, adoption requires women to go through the process of giving birth — which is actually more medically risky and more expensive than having an early abortion. The average U.S. women racks up between $10,000 and $15,000 in medical costs to have a baby. For economically disadvantaged women who are seeking to end a pregnancy because they can’t afford a child, that may not be doable. And even before childbirth, continuing a pregnancy in the United States can put some women’s financial security at risk: Without adequate labor protections, some low-wage pregnant women end up getting forced out of their jobs.
Of course, that doesn’t mean women should never choose adoption. It’s the right choice for many women and families. But Sisson’s research has found that women who are considering adoption are typically deciding between either parenting their child themselves or giving their child to someone else to parent — and abortion is never even a factor in their decision-making process. In other words, women tend to make a choice between parenting and adoption, not abortion and adoption — making Lucio’s mandatory course just yet another unnecessary barrier standing into between adult women and their reproductive health care.