Hey, Bastardette’s friend, BEA (Buckeyes for Equal Accss) stalwart, and blogger Dawn Friedman takes the National Council for Adoption to task big time in BITCH today! Adopt-ation: A feminist take on the state of the adoption industry (NOTE TO DAWN: How can Bastardette pitch to BITCH!)

Here’s a couple snips (NOTE: go to the original to download her links. Some aren’t working with this format)

The NCFA is so all about adoption that they commonly speak out against the rights of adopted people to make their point. Their fight against the open records movement, (which argues that adult adopted persons have a right to their original, pre-adoption birth certificates) is based on the belief that it causes people to abort otherwise adoptable children.

Obviously, some number of women with unplanned pregnancies, who would otherwise choose adoption, would choose abortion if they could not choose adoption with the assurance of privacy. What that number would be is impossible to tell, but what does it need to be? The loss of human potential from even one abortion that would have been an adoption is unknowable. And the ratio of adoptions to abortions in New Hampshire is already extremely low. In 1996, New Hampshire had only 43 domestic infant adoptions placements for every 1,000 abortions.

From Consent versus Coercion: How SB335 Harms Adoption (a position paper about a New Hampshire bill that would allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates)


Right now the dominant voices in our cultural discussion of adoption are those like the NCFA who perpetuate stereotypes about the women who place their children and the women who receive them. It’s a conversation that tries to erase the presence of the women who give birth to those children by pushing t-shirts that equate adoption with pregnancy thereby obliterating the origins of adopted people. The way we look at adoption – especially domestic infant adoption – is a manifestation of our Madonna/whore complex where birth mothers are saintly sinners – angelic enough to give away the babies they aren’t good enough to keep.

We feminists need to start looking at adoption in new ways. We need to let the first mothers among us speak about their experiences past and present because their voices have been missing from our discussion. In the blogosphere we have feminist thinkers like FauxClaud, like Suz, like Jenna. (Suz and Claud right, blogging at the 2007 Ethics in Adoption conference). They can tell us how Juno will likely feel five years from placement, ten, twenty or more.

One quibble. Dawn writes:

Adoption is a feminist issue because it is a reproductive rights issue. It is an issue about the value of women as mothers and who has “earned” the right to be one. It’s about how the states supports or does not support women who fall outside of the “good mother” rhetoric. It’s about privilege. It’s about class.

I absolutely agree with the last three sentences, but disagree on the first. Adoption is not a reproductive rights issue. Reproductive rights involves personal autonomy and right to decide to carry to term or not. Adoption involves a born, separate live person with fundamental rights.

Unfortunately organized mainstream feminist talk about adoption hasn’t moved beyond the 1970s’s consumerist/choice nobody-held-a-gun-to-your-head blather that blames a specific group of de-priviledged women for their own de-priviledging–that privileged feminists have been all too happy exploit without a care to get their hooks into babies. But as Dawn pointed out, adoption IS about privilege. I would add that adoption is mainly a middle class issue as well, since today the rich and poor are seldom on the giving end of the “adoption option.” (Of course, that can always change with the economy)

There is little feminist critique of adoption outside of academia, and even there it is top-heavy with adopter discourse–some of it spot-on., and I don’t want to dimiss it. But, Feminist Bastard and Feminist First Mother voices are generally limited to blogs, forums, and obscure conference workshops. I don’t know why.

I’ve addressed adoption as a feminist issue here before in Open Letter to NOW: Is Maria Elena Salinas a Friend to Women , Surprise! No Reply from NOW! and probably some other entries I’ve forgotten about. Other Bastard Feminists who have written extensively on adoption are Baby Love Child and Janine Baer who published the pioneering Bastard Lesbian newsletter, Chain of Life.

I wrote this in my Open Letter to NOW, and I think it’s worth repeating here now:

A few years ago I received an email from a member of New Jersey NOW who opposed the restoration of identity rights to adopted adults. She smacked my fingers and accused me of lacking “feminist credentials” and respect for women, especially “courageous” birthmothers.” I should shut up and be grateful that somebody adopted me and I wasn’t tossed in a dumpster.

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  1. Great post Marley, and WAY TO GO DAWN!!!

    Interesting through, reading this as a DC adult from a single-mother-by-choice, I wonder about the seemingly contradictory role of this motive. Why are birth mothers, unwed, deemed unfit to be mothers and are coerced into relinquishing their children, whereas an unwed woman who doesn’t get knocked up in a one night stand but rather in her doctor’s office, is hailed as a hero??

    If the condition is that these children are brought into a home without two parents, stable income, etc – then how can be legitimize donor conception for SMCs?!

    Seems to me that hypocrisy is alive and well in both the NCFA, AARM, and RESOLVE. And of course it’s all about the “real” mommies and daddies that change the diapers, not those ones we like to forget exist, let alone those little adorable miracle bundles of joy!!!!!


  2. Marley, you’ve always brought your strong Feminist roots to your adoption work. Part of the strength of your activism and blogging has always been your pre-existing grounding in the broader body politic and advocating womyn’s autonomy.

    Damn right Adoption is a Feminist issue.

    Sadly it’s all too often been approached, even by liberal feminists themselves from more of a consumerist or social climbing class aspiration stance (which language such as “choice” fed straight into) rather than undergoing a more womyn-centric (and womyn as a class themselves based) critique.

    Where we stand today has laid bare many of the failures in that pre-existing approach.

    As always, thanks for the mention and the link. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I approach all of my adoption related work from a Radical Feminist (or “to the root”) approach, firmly grounded in my many years working around issues of womyn’s free agency and reproductive autonomy.

    So naturally, I agree with you in that adoption is not a matter of reproductive autonomy, nor does it lie within the realm of reproduction related decisions.

    Adoption is sequentially a secondary decision (sometimes not made by womyn themselves, but rather by the State) relating to where the now born child (complete with human, identity, and civil rights all their own) will ultimately be raised.

    Thank you for once again, bringing attention to those working to place adoption firmly into the framing of its rightful Feminist context, (and taking Bastardly issue with some of the blind spots writers often stumble into when attempting to do so.)

  3. I have written NOW with this slant for years. Adoption is one of the most anti-woman issues there is. Our sisters, who should be protecting our right to be able to rear our own children, instead are among the market-place consumers who predate on the poor, single mother with an unexpected pregnancy. Bravo to Dawn for taking on the NCA. I will continue to bug NOW who has said that coercion of mothers is “not a women’s issue.”

  4. 1. Pitch to Bitch (hey! that sounds like a song!) in two ways: For their magazine go to their site and look for upcoming topics and then pitch ’em something that’s on-topic.
    2. Write to the blog person (I’ll send you her email) and say, “Hey, can I guest blog?” She’ll say, “We can’t pay you” and if you’re me you’ll say, “I don’t care!”

    2. You’re right about adoption not really being a reproductive rights issue and I winced when I typed that but I want women to realize that if they care about abortion, they need to care about adoption because too many feminists aren’t thinking about adoption.

  5. Lindsay–I think the issue comes down to control/punishment of female sexuality. Mothers of bastards are sluts who had illicit sex; and the pristine DI/high tech single mother didn’t. One sought only a lustful moment of pleasure and the baybee is the punishment; the other are high-minded moralists with the baybee as a reward, ie. they kept their pants on.

    Of course, they never say that.

    The whole baby market thing is so complex. You’ve got organizations like NCFA adopting (sorry!) the faux feminist language of “choice” to push babies into the market, lately under IAATP And you’ve got organizations like NOW (as an example)who fail to see adoption in general practice as exploitive of women, since it’s all about “choice.” Some BS sisterhood program that allows women to give other women children. The whole response, which I noted in my Open Letter, is that adoption enabled us to clean up your life says it all.

    I’ve run into high tech feminist mothers who see absolutely nothing wrong with anonymity not only because they believe a kid doesn’t need a dad, but as long as they have non-ID about the donor, what’s the big deal? One of the creepiest stories I’ve ever heard came from a feminist law professor who bragged that nearly all of her little girl’s friends were products of anonymous donors. ewwww!!!!!!!!! There is just something really perverse about that.

    Of course, my answer is to stop breeding Stop pediacentric culture, which includes everything from the church to policy to advertising. And advertising play really big into this. You’re not complete without a sprog or two. Bleech! Get a life.

  6. Thanks BLC. I’ve always seen adoption as a feminist issue and tied to all sorts of other “issues”: gender, race, economics, policy, globalism, queers, religion, neo-colonialism/imperialism, theraputracy to name the big ones. I mean, look at how the State Department attempted to pressure Romania during NATO negotiations to re-open. When I first heard that, I thought this is nuts. Now, it SOP.

    I had something “very profound” to add here, and it went out of my mind due to someone screaming at his PlayStation and breaking my train of thought. If it comes back, I’ll post it later. Time to put on my earphones.

  7. The self-proclaimed leaders of the feminist movement are often adoptive mothers themselves. They need adoption to continue so they can build their family (the family they postponed during their childbearing years while they were going to law school and generally eschewing all forms of traditional womanhood).

    Linday’s comment is spot on – young single woman gets knocked up the old fashioned way and she’s society’s worst nightmare. Older single woman with the financial resourses to adopt or get knocked up by a turkey baster – she’s the ultimate superwoman, empowered to design her own family – go superwoman!

  8. Good for ou, Robin! From my own experience, the rank-and-file get it. But as usual, it’s the hierarchy who either have benefited from coercive adoption practices or don’t get it. I’ve been told that years ago NOW passed a resolution at one of their conferences in sujpport of records access, but I’ve never found it. Many resolutions are passed each year, but that doesn’t mean they go anywhere.

  9. Thanks, Dawn. I got your email, too. I’d love to write something for Bitch, and I don’t care if I don’t get paid!

    I see where you came from on the repro right quote. I simplyh dont’ understand why they don’t get exploitation issues surround adoption. Well, I do. For them it’ tied to abortion, even if it’s isn’t.Both are about female autonomy. They need hit over the head with a brick a few times. And it’s very disheartenng to see, for instance, California NOW support “safe haven” laws because as a “solution” to domestic violence or a way to “save” Roe. Ugh! But nobody ever said mainstream feminists have much political acumen outside of their midde class cage.

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