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Why Adoption is Not the Solution to Abortion

I am adopted, and I am pro-choice. I believe in a person’s right to bodily autonomy and that all pregnant people have the right to choose whether or not they want to remain pregnant. I have encountered numerous people who seem baffled by my stance. I have been mocked, screamed at, and told I’m an idiot who is advocating for my own “self-murder.” It is exhausting and infuriating to me and many adoptees to be used as a political prop of the anti-choice movement. If people actually centered our voices, they would realize many adoptees, like myself, are pro-choice and strongly disagree with their anti-abortion stance. So please hear me when I say this: adoption and abortion are not interchangeable. Adoption is not the solution to abortion. 

I grew up in a small, liberal town, and in my junior year, we had a mock debate on abortion. I am a transracial and transnational adoptee and happened to be picked as one of the pro-choice debaters. Nearing the middle of the debate, a very frustrated anti-choice debater broke protocol and looked at me directly and said, “how can you be pro-choice as an adoptee? Would you rather have been aborted? You’re basically saying you wanted your mom to kill you.” I was stunned, and the teacher had to scrap the rest of the debate. Fast forward to the oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health in March, hearing Justice Barrett’s comments on safe-haven laws and adoption made it clear that yet again, people were advocating for adoption to be a “simple solution” for the “abortion issue” (Supreme Court). The leaked Roe v. Wade draft where Justice Alito references research on the “domestic supply of infants” becoming “virtually nonexistent” illustrates why we must push back against this “solution” (Politico). 


• Donate to your local abortion fund or volunteer as a clinic escort for your local health center.

• Share resources widely about how people can get an abortion.

• Support foster-youth-led organizations, Foster Youth Action, and donate to organizations like Youth Emerging Stronger.

Beyond the fact that abortion is health care and that bodily autonomy is a human right, using adoption as an alternative to abortion lacks compassion. It ignores the trauma the birthing person will endure or the long-term trauma the child will experience in foster care or if they are adopted immediately. 

Carrying a forced pregnancy to term is already traumatic. There are potentially severe mental and physical health risks that pregnant people face, especially for those who are without health insurance or other resources. Also, forced pregnancy can be deadly. In the U.S. the maternal mortality rate has risen 37% since 2018, with the highest rates for Hispanic and Black women. Restricting or eliminating abortion access will significantly harm low-income people, specifically communities of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and residents of rural areas (US News, AJMC). After forcing someone to endure all of this trauma, certain current Supreme Court Justices imply that if you do not want to choose forced parenting, you can “simply” give up your child for adoption. 

The reality is far from simple. Justice Barrett mentioned safe haven laws in the oral arguments. These laws intend to protect the birth parents and allow them to relinquish their babies to designated locations while being shielded from repercussions. In return, the babies are supposed to be protected and provided with medical care until a permanent home is found (Child Welfare). While they may protect the birth parents, safe haven laws do not protect the babies sent to foster care or put up for adoption.

More than 420,000 children are in foster care in the U.S, one-third of which are BIPOC children. The U.S. child welfare system is incredibly broken and causes significant additional trauma to the child, including family separation, abuse, and lack of stability, resources, protection, and safety (Children’s Rights). Even if the baby is immediately placed for adoption — this doesn’t guarantee a “better life” contrary to the popular adoption myths. As I’ve shared before, adoption is an act of trauma and displacement. You also aren’t guaranteed to be placed in a safe home. Adopted offspring are nearly four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted offspring (Huffpost). In addition, almost 70% of adoptive parents are white (Adoption), so for BIPOC children adopted into these white families, they risk the added trauma of struggling with their racial identity and often lack racial mirrors. Beyond the trauma adopted children face, the adoption industry is incredibly problematic and inherently racist. In the U.S., for example, it costs less to adopt BIPOC children than white children (Economist). 

Ultimately it should always be the birthing person’s right to choose whether or not they want to carry that pregnancy. But using adoptees as political props without their consent and offering adoption as a “solution” is offensive and traumatic. 

In South Korea, abortion was illegal in most circumstances from 1953 through 2020 (Human Rights Pulse), so my birth mother was not given her fundamental right to choose. My answer to that high school debater and to today’s politicians and anti-abortion advocates is simple: I believe that every person should have the right to choose, including my birth mother 36 years ago.

It’s also important to remember that overturning Roe v. Wade is about more than restricting and removing access to abortions. If overturned, we are denying people one of their fundamental rights. Access to abortion is health care. Overturning Roe is also about controlling and policing people’s bodies, decision-making processes, and privacy. It’s about racial justice and equality. We know these restrictions will disproportionately impact the most marginalized. Restricting or losing abortion access will have deadly outcomes today and for generations to come. 

In fighting for reproductive freedom as an adoptee, I believe, in a way, I am honoring my birth mother and so many other birthing people who lacked the right to choose. For me, it will forever be: keep your bans off our bodies.

• Adoption is not the solution to abortion.

• Forced birth will have traumatic and deadly consequences for those who lose access to abortion.

• Foster care and adoption are not “simple” solutions for forced pregnancies and cause additional trauma for those children. 

2400 1600 Alex Free

Alex Free

Alex Free (she/they) is an activist, advocate, and writer. They are a mental health & social justice warrior whose work focuses on supporting fellow trauma survivors as well as writing on topics spanning intersectionality, disrupting rape culture, mental health, and dismantling white supremacy. They can be found on Instagram @iamalexfree.

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