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A Commentary on “Adoption is Not the Answer to Abortion” by Rachel Garlinghouse

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Pamela Fox responds to an adoptive mother's article on the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court. Read Garlinghouse's full thoughts here.



Reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision on June 24th to deny American women the right to control their own bodies/lives, I was relieved to see this piece by an adoptive mother who debates the shibboleth popularized by Justice Amy Coney Barrett that “adoption is the answer to abortion.” Rachel Garlinghouse, an adoptive White mother of Black children, dethrones this view by examining the complexities and expenses of adoption; the trauma that all adopted children experience–in one way or another– due to their initial ‘abandonment’ by their birth parent(s); and the truth behind right-wing politicians and voters who cravenly exploit adoption for their own aggrandizement.

Garlinghouse exposes a common scenario that most adoptive parents–especially those who participated in a transracial and/or transnational adoption–have experienced time and again, especially when their child was quite young:

Just as we are deemed our children’s saviors, our children are looked at as charity cases or accessories. They’ve often been called a “gift” — one we received. Strangers have approached us with their sticky-sweet smiles and affirmations: ‘God bless you for taking in these kids.’

The reality is that we adopted our children out of our purely selfish desire to build a family. Having biological children wasn’t an option for us due to my health — but adoption was. The longer we were parents by adoption, the more we realized how complex, bittersweet, and traumatic adoption is.

My 13 month old Chinese daughter was frequently deemed “lucky” by various spectators as my husband and I took her to the park, the grocery store, the pediatrician. We were deemed ‘heroes.’ Initially, we would rush to exclaim, “No, we are the lucky ones!” And we were. But we could see how this rescue narrative, over time, would internalize her need to be eternally grateful to her American family. We wanted her to feel safe, but also to be a typical child with occasional foul moods. For many young adoptees, that can be a challenge, as they often believe that one bad temper tantrum could send them back to another orphanage. The loss of their birth parents stays with them, no matter how little they knew them. And as they age, they begin to understand that they will never be fully accepted in either White U.S. spaces or in their international birth countries.

Garlinghouse goes on to note,

If adoption is the answer to abortion — why are there so many children in the system? There are enough pro-lifers that if this is the argument they stand on, then why aren’t all children available for adoption already adopted?

This is the cruel, cynical underside of the ostensible ‘pro-life’ movement: they vote for politicians that refuse to pass legislation that could provide growing children with sufficient food, stable housing, secure schools… but tout their devotion to ‘saving’ babies–who can resist?-- in order to raise money for their re-election campaigns. As Garlinghouse writes, To boast about adoption — with no commitment to systemically bettering the lives of all women and children — isn’t pro-life at all.


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