As the wave of pro-life legislation continues to roll across the United States—nine states have passed significant abortion restrictions already this year—adoption inevitably comes up as an alternative. But it’s not a popular one.
Chuck Johnson, president of the National Council For Adoption, told The Atlantic in May that both pro-life and pro-choice pregnancy centers fail to adequately promote adoption as a viable option.
Among each, the rate at which women are referred to adoption agencies hovers around 1 percent.
As of 2018, Planned Parenthood performed 118 abortions for every adoption referral. And among the pro-life crowd, adoption comes up as a talking point, but usually on the other side of the equation: “We’ve done a great job of conveying that adoption is a good option for the family adopting, but not for the birth mother,” Johnson said.
But fewer moms are in the position to choose adoption to begin with. The birthrate hit a historic low last year. Plus, there’s far more support around single motherhood.
The Invisible Option
These days, expectant mothers see their choices as parent or terminate—and have a decision in mind by the time they make it to a crisis pregnancy center or abortion clinic.
“Generally, it’s an either/or,” said Laura Echevarria, director of communications for the pro-life National Right to Life Committee. “We really try to present [adoption] . . . as a real option.”
Many Christian advocates favor efforts to promote family unity and, ideally, avoid the need for adoption in the first place. In urging mothers to choose life, pregnancy center staff emphasize the inherent value and strength they see in each mother, so many leave seeing themselves as more capable to parent.
Those who are involved in adoption—particularly birth parents—know the stigma firsthand.
“People project their image of a birth mother on to me, thinking I’m irresponsible, uncaring, and a bad mom,” wrote one birth mom and open adoption advocate, Annaleece Merrill.
This view extends into pro-life circles as well, according to Kelly Rosati, a consultant and former Focus on the Family vice president.
“I don’t think the church, as a whole, has any idea how disfavored adoption is generally, but especially not within the community of women who seek support at pro-life pregnancy centers ,” she told CT. “Unless this changes, it will not be chosen in large numbers by women who will otherwise be choosing abortion.”