Adoptive Parents Aren't Necessarily Pro-Life

A Survey offers insight into thinking of those favoring abortion ‘rights’

If you think the vast majority of adoptive parents make any connection between adoption and abortion—even if out of enlightened self-interest—you may be wrong.

Following a late December survey conducted through the Internet and over the telephone, this reporter found that a group of 16 adoptive parents were split evenly between abortion rights and pro-life convictions. The survey, posted on two Internet list servers and a bulletin board devoted to adoption issues, also involved interviews with two members of an adoption class run by Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington. The archdiocese stipulates that parents adopting through Catholic Charities be involved in a Christian church, but does not require that they be Catholic.

Although this inquiry bears more resemblance to a focus group than a broad-based, scientifically conducted survey, it may indicate the difficulties that pro-life advocates have in effecting change in U.S. society.

“Many of the same people who demand the right to abortion up to the ninth month of pregnancy are the same women who show up at adoption agencies desperate to adopt a child,” said Maureen Hogan, director of the National Adoption Advocacy Network in Washington, D.C. She called this phenomenon the “nuttiest part of the whole dialogue,” between pro-lifers and pro-choice advocates.

But another adoption professional has found that pro-life adoptive parents are in the majority. “I would guess if there were a vote taken, over 75% would say that they are pro-life and not pro-choice,” said Bill Betzen, a 26-year veteran of Church-affiliated adoption agencies in Dallas. “It is important how you word the question,” added Betzen, who is now the Children's Services Director at Catholic Community Services in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

‘Many of the same people who demand the right to abortion up to the ninth month of pregnancy are the same women who show up at adoption agencies desperate to adopt a child.’

Respondents to the survey hail from 10 different states; 14 of the 16 who responded are women. The survey did not inquire about the religious affiliations or income levels of potential adoptive parents, although Americans with Internet access tend to have higher income levels than the national average.

“I am very happy that abortion was not common or legal back in the ‘50s when I was adopted,” wrote Lori Altnether, an adoptee and adoptive parent in Columbia, Illinois. “I would hope my birth mom would not have aborted me, but if it was legal, who knows?”

Altnether is involved in Right to Life and has pro-life bumper stickers.

At the Catholic Charities adoption class which this reporter has attended for the last few months, one might presume that the adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and adoption professionals involved in the process would be more pro-life than average Americans. Yet even an adult adoptee who spoke before the group declared her pro-abortion rights convictions, even though she admitted that she would have only a 50-50 chance of being born if conceived today in a crisis pregnancy.

Indeed, almost half of unplanned pregnancies result in abortion, while almost an equal number of women choose to carry the pregnancy through and keep the child. Only 3% of crisis pregnancies result in adoptions, according to the National Adoption Advocacy Network.

Carole Klement Huxel, an adoptive parent and adoption advocate in Manchester, N.H., likewise supports legal abortion; she herself had an abortion nearly 20 years ago. “There have been times where I strongly regretted that decision. There have also been times where I was deeply thankful I had made that decision,” she wrote.

Huxel wrote that if she had carried the pregnancy to term and raised the child, she would not have adopted three special needs children from the foster care system: “Had I not adopted them, it's highly likely that no one else would have adopted them, either.” The three children spent from two to six years in foster care.

Although two of the survey respondents conceded that they believe that life begins at conception, they espoused pro-abortion rights views. “I don't think it's my place to tell others what they should or should not do unless I am willing to adopt the child myself,” wrote Nancy Pasha, an adoptive mother in Alexandria, Virginia.

On the other hand, a member of this reporter's adoption class made a connection between abortion and her mother's decision to carry her pregnancy to term. “I thank God every day that she didn't abort me,” during her crisis pregnancy, said Clo Harvey of Largo, Maryland.

For her adoption home study, Harvey wrote a poem from an adopted baby's perspective, thanking his birthmother for giving him life and his adoptive parents for choosing to adopt him. The birth-mother “would have forever heard the cry of the baby,” if she'd had the abortion, Harvey said. When she recently received a call from a pregnant friend who had two small children and was considering abortion, she urged the woman to call Catholic Charities to discuss an adoption class, Harvey recalled.

A would-be adoptive mother from Austin, Texas, admitted to being “angry” that women choose to abort their children when there are thousands of couples who want to adopt. “When another life is involved, the time for choice is over,” said Kim Barber, who wrote that she believes that couples need to take responsibility before they have sexual intercourse.

Catholic teaching considers sterilization to be a grave sin because it severs the link between sexual intercourse and procreation. In some cases, Catholics who had sterilization operations when they were younger are later having those operations reversed. One More Soul, a Dayton, Ohio-based apostolate, operates a sterilization reversal hot line.

“It doesn't surprise me at all” that many adoptive parents would have pro-choice sentiments, said Edel Finnegan, the director of A Woman's Choice, a crisis pregnancy center in Falls Church, Virginia. “For many years, some adoptive parents probably abused their fertility,” through contraception primarily. “When some of them decide to have a child, they'll do anything to have a child. The converse is true; they believe that if you don't want the child, you can do anything possible to get rid of it.”

Steve Koob, One More Soul's director, is an adoptive and foster care father who also founded a crisis pregnancy center with his wife, Vivian. “I'm not surprised that adoptive parents are not necessarily pro-life or anti-abortion,” he told the Register. Koob described adoptive parents as tending to be “very liberal people and therefore in favor of abortion.”

Three survey respondents indicated that they have become more pro-life after beginning the adoption process.

“The best way of putting it is that my ‘senses’ have been heightened to the abused child. The idea of literally throwing a child away leaves me frightened for who ‘we’ have evolved into,” explained Jill Hopster, a prospective adoptive parent in Redmond, Washington.

There were 1.3 million abortions in 1997, according to the Alan Guttmacher Foundation.

By contrast, the number of adoptions has been flat at around “60,000 to 70,000 (each year) for the last 20-30 years,” Hogan said. She estimated that there are 1 million families who want to adopt but many cannot due to the complexity of the process and costs.

William Murray writes from Kensington, Maryland.