This is Elizabeth Jurenovich, Abrazo’s founder, and I have a few thoughts to share about the Texas abortion bill and how this will (and will not) likely impact adoption in Texas.
If you know me, you probably aren’t surprised that I have something to say about this. I’m known for holding some mighty strong opinions, and I am rarely hesitant to share them. If you don’t know me, my perspectives are based on more than three decades of working in child welfare in Texas, and also on my own personal experience as a mother and as a preacher’s daughter. (Note: my opinions are my own and do not reflect my agency‘s official position, which is unapologetically committed to children and parents in open adoption arrangements.)
I absolutely believe in ethical adoptions and the power of such arrangements– when open– to provide adoptees, birthfamilies and adoptive parents with healthy alternatives to the tragic forces that render people unable to be parented by or to parent their own children. These are circumstances such as terminal illness, domestic violence, child abuse, long-term incarceration, sexual assault or incest, chronic poverty, recurrent addiction, consistent homelessness and severe mental illness.
Adoption must always be a last resort. It can bring about amazing transformations in the lives of children and all the parents that love them. That being said, though, adoption is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s not the right choice for everyone. It is a viable alternative to parenting, but not an alternative to being pregnant. As such, it cannot prevent conception nor halt unwanted gestation.
About Texas crisis pregnancies. (And the A-word.)
We don’t provide advocate for abortion here, because adoption is our thing. We’re not all going to agree on whether the Texas abortion bill is right or wrong. But surely we can agree that unwanted pregnancy is a crisis. And that the legally-recognized medical process of pregnancy termination is not something anyone “likes” nor seeks out for fun. In Texas, over half of all pregnancies every year are unplanned. This medical crisis plagues primarily two demographic groups: teens (although the teenage birth rate in Texas has fallen since 2014)– and curiously, a growing number of women ages 35-44.
The newest Texas abortion bill, Senate Bill 8, restricts any pregnant female in Texas from seeking or obtaining an abortion past six weeks of pregnancy. (Never mind that most females don’t even know they’re pregnant just two weeks after a missed period.) There are no exemptions in cases of rape or incest. The new bill is anticipated to eliminate 85% of most abortion procedures in Texas, and to force Texas females to travel out of state or turn to abortion pills received by mail, from sources that may not be reliable.
Most of the Texas females who undergo abortions each year are Hispanics and African-Americans, for reasons cited in this article: Differences in Abortion Rates by Race–Ethnicity. Clearly, the latest Texas abortion bill targets only females (not the males that impregnate them) and will mostly impact women of color. Consider that the Texas maternal death rate is already above the national average, and it’s easy to understand why so many of us Texas women feel this fight is personal. (Don’t even get me started on the Texas whistleblowing-snitch bounty program, please. My blood pressure is already elevated just thinking of all of this, thank you.)
Is a lack of abortion a plus for adoption?
The morning after the new Texas abortion bill took effect in Texas, I got a message from a well-meaning social worker friend, reading “new abortion law hopefully means more adoptions!” I sent back a benign response, but the more I thought about it throughout the day the more I wish I’d said this, instead:
Adoption may be dying on the vine in modern-day America, but further limiting disenfranchised women with too few resources already is not the answer. Hoping for abortion restrictions to successfully produce a new crop of available infants for financially-secure Americans to adopt is akin to inquiring about adopting displaced Afghan toddlers before the Taliban determines their parents’ fate. Abortion and adoption may be just two letters apart, but neither fits every situation. We don’t help mothers by hurting them, just as we can’t rescue babies by orphaning them.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that any time Texas lawmakers seek to promote traditional values, it doesn’t actually help adoption– curiously. The Legislature obliterated legal protections for unmarried fathers’ rights several years back, yet there was no discernable increase in placement numbers. Sales of “Choose Life” license plates poured millions into the coffers of the Texas Pregnancy Care Network but that didn’t radically enhance the popularity of adoption in Texas. Implementing Safe Haven laws permitting desperate Texans to dump newborns at hospitals and fire stations has resulted in shockingly small numbers of adoptive placements. Dismantling ICWA protections in voluntary adoptive placements did not produce any measurable increase in Indian baby adoptions here. And expanding abortion restrictions isn’t going to magically reverse anyone’s aversion to voluntary child forfeiture, either– however nicely we describe the process.
Out-of-state adoption agencies, attorneys and facilitators now eying our state as the latest bastion of adoptable babies due to the 2021 Texas abortion bill would be wise to remember the phrase “all hat, no cattle.” Just because we’re fixing to have more women forced to birth unexpected offspring does not mean they’ll flock to adoption just like the “girls in trouble” back in the Fifties. Those days are gone, y’all. (And yes– that’s a good thing.)
No perfect solutions– not then and not now.
I know a girl who became unexpectedly pregnant after college. She’d been raised in the church and had her parents known of her condition, they would surely have said “she knew better.” What she didn’t know, though, was that a prescription she was taking counteracted her birth control pills. She also didn’t know that the baby’s father was married to someone; he’d told her he was single. An attorney offered her money to make an adoption plan, but that wasn’t a choice she felt she could live with. When she and the baby’s father discussed the pregnancy, she told him she was willing to marry him and raise the baby together, or terminate the pregnancy. He told her he was willing to pay child support so she could raise the baby alone, or terminate the pregnancy. In the end, they chose the only option they could agree on.
There weren’t any “perfect” solutions to that problem, not then and not now. As so many birthmothers say of their adoption decisions, she didn’t regret the decision that she made, but she regretted that she’d had to make it. I could have told her that adoption would be a loving alternative for her child. I could’ve assured her adoption would offer a different outcome. But I couldn’t have guaranteed her it would be a better one for both her and her baby, because that’s a subjective judgement and it’s a moot point, now.
The mothers who come to Abrazo to make adoption plans are rarely early enough in pregnancy to still contemplate abortion options. They come to us seeking adoption information, but it isn’t our job to “talk them into it.” Rather, our job is to support them, and provide the options and information they need to make their own best choices by the time the baby is here. Similarly, I believe Texas needs to devote its considerable resources and laws to protecting women and sparing children from lives of poverty, abuse and neglect– not persecuting the pregnant and overburdening an already-broken child welfare system, while letting males who cause crisis pregnancies skip out with no consequences whatsoever.
So no, I’m not celebrating the passage of Texas Senate Bill 8. I’m too worried about all the women and children who will ultimately pay the price for such misogynistic legislation.
Tame the Wild West sooner than later.
Texas has unwittingly made itself a battleground. It’s now become the focus of much of the nation’s rage, with good reason. Meanwhile, Texas clinics are cancelling appointments, while abortion rights’ groups have begun national fundraising campaigns to help Texas mothers in need of abortion travel out of state. Pregnancy care centers anticipate big jumps in demands for their services. Adoption consultants are already stepping up their adoption ads here, despite Texas laws prohibiting adoption advertising by anyone other than a licensed agency. Politicians are jumping on one bandwagon or the other, in hopes of buoying upcoming election campaigns.
And yet, the already-born (and unaborted) children of Texas and their already-struggling parents are seemingly forgotten by those in power. If things are ever going to get better here, there are far greater issues that need to be addressed, and bigger problems to be solved. Adoption deserves to be recognized as a potentially-positive option, yes, but it has to be done the right way and for the right reasons, not just because mothers are being legislatively backed into a corner.
The Texas abortion bill is drawing attention nationwide, but if we’re really going to be pro-life (and not just pro-birth), then all Texans need to prove that we’re truly pro-people– starting right here and now.