With the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision triggering abortion bans and restrictions all over the country, many have questioned if it would overload the American adoption system. Instead, it appears that many mothers will choose to raise the children they didn’t intend to have as opposed to give them up.
“What we’re going to see I think is many more people parenting children that they did not intend to have,” said Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist and researcher on the university’s study, to the Washington Post.
On any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States according to Adoption Network, a private adoption service. Out of those children, only about a quarter are eligible for adoption. In 2014, 50,644 foster kids were adopted, which is about half of the approximately 107,000 eligible children. This number of children adopted out of foster care has stayed roughly consistent, as of 2019.
Social media posts have made rounds online, claiming enormous numbers of children waiting to be adopted. These statistics are arguably misleading, and don’t show the full story. It is important to note that the majority of children in foster care aren’t actually awaiting adoption, but family reunification.
“proLifer”: women should just give their babies up for adoption instead of abortion. Someone will adopt them.
The foster care system: pic.twitter.com/MEhDx8BlTr
— Chicano Marine ????? (@kingsrush) July 16, 2022
As children in foster care get older, the demand to adopt them unfortunately decreases. However, the waitlist to adopt kids is still miles long. According to the American Adoptions agency, it is estimated that there are about 2 million couples currently waiting to adopt in the United States, which means there are as many as 36 hopeful families for every one child who is placed for adoption.
In the Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, conservative Justice Samuel Alito assured pregnant women who are considering adoption that they have “little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home.” In a related footnote, he cited a 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that compared the relatively small “domestic supply of infants” with the nearly one million Americans waiting to adopt.
More recent data backs up Alito’s claim that less abortions will not have a drastic impact on the adoption system. A 2016 analysis as part of the Turnaway Study, a University of California San Francisco project to find the effects of unwanted pregnancy on women’s lives, found that the vast majority of women who are denied abortions opt to keep the baby.
Out of the 171 study participants who were denied later-term abortions, just 14 percent reported plans to place the baby for adoption or seriously considered it. Only nine percent actually went on to give their babies up. This statistic is consistent with the amount of women who gave their babies up for adoption before the original 1973 Roe decision, which was also only nine percent.
Turnaway participants gave several reasons for deciding to parent, including feeling guilty if they chose adoption “either because they believed adoption was an abjuration of responsibility, or because they believed it meant they’d have no ongoing knowledge of their child,” the report summarized.
Sisson estimates that the overturn of Roe v. Wade will make an additional 10,000 infants available to adopt annually. That number represents nine percent of the estimated number of women who will be denied abortion who would place their babies for adoption. This increase is minuscule compared to the massive amount of prospective parents on adoption waiting lists.
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