September 8, 2009 — Although there is growing awareness of the deceptive tactics antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers use to restrict abortion access, CPCs also have a lesser-known "broader agenda, ... not only to induce women to 'choose life' but to choose adoption," The Nation reports. According to The Nation, CPCs often pressure women with unintended pregnancies "to give the child to a family with better resources," a strategy that has become part of the broader Christian evangelical cause in recent years. Critics of CPCs' adoption practices claim it is "an industry that coercively separates willing biological parents from their offspring, artificially producing 'orphans' for Christian parents to adopt, rather than helping birth parents care for wanted children."
The Nation examined how CPCs convince women with unintended pregnancies to relinquish their infants for adoption by isolating them from friends and family and matching the "birth mothers" with adoptive parents who pay between $14,500 and $25,500 for an adoption. The article also draws parallels between CPCs' adoption practices and maternity homes for single, pregnant women during the so-called "Baby Scoop Era" of 1945 to 1973. During this period, at least 1.5 million unmarried women in the U.S. relinquished their children for adoption under "frequently brutal" coercion, The Nation reports. The Baby Scoop Era ended with the legalization of abortion in 1973, which also led to a drop in adoption rates -- from 19.2% of white, unmarried pregnant women in 1972 to 1.7% in 1995.
However, The Nation reports that the "rise of the religious right and the founding of CPCs" coincided with a decline in adoption rate. Many CPCs offer vulnerable women scholarships, financial assistance and housing in exchange for agreeing to adoption. Ann Fessler, author of "The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade," said, "Part of the big picture for a young woman who's pregnant is that there are people holding our their hand, but the price of admission is giving up your child." She added, "If you decide to keep your child, it's as if you're lost in the system, whereas people fight over you if you're ready to surrender. There's an organization motivated by a cause and profit."
The Nation article profiles a South Carolina woman with an unintended pregnancy who sought out a CPC for support after deciding against abortion. The CPC, run by Bethany Christian Services, moved the woman into a "shepherding family" home, isolating her from family and friends, and required her to attend counseling sessions designed to convince her to choose adoption. After the birth, her CPC counselor told her that open adoptions were illegal in the state and that if she did not sign the relinquishment papers, she would end up homeless and lose the infant anyway. Later, when the woman tried to contact Bethany's post-adoption counselor, she reportedly was told, "You're the one who spread your legs and got pregnant out of wedlock. You have no right to grieve for this baby" (Joyce, The Nation, 8/26).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership