Adoption: Giving It All Away?


Kathryn Joyce got it right in “Shotgun Adoption” [Sept. 14]. I am a partial victim of the crisis pregnancy centers. As a young unwed mother with no outside support, I turned to New Hope here in Seattle. They counseled me with one option: an open adoption so my son would have a life I couldn’t provide. But the “open adoption/access to my son/co-parenting” was essentially a closed adoption. What I found out later was I had no legal rights to my son.

My life has been full, varied, abundant and challenging, but this by far has been the hardest aspect to reconcile. I am grateful for the work of many brave people who speak the truth of the deep loss, guilt and shame that we birth mothers involved with adoption experience.


Falls Church, Va.

We at Origins-USA thank you for the thorough and insightful “Shotgun Adoption.” It goes a long way toward educating the public on what’s really going on in many adoption businesses. Antiabortion Christian groups, however, are not the only organizations that use trickery to induce vulnerable young women to surrender their babies. I gave up my son in 1990 to a nonreligious nonprofit that similarly used “counseling” to pressure mothers into adoption. I was strongly dissuaded from any attempt to keep my baby and constantly told to think of adoption surrender as my only option. Origins-USA (, a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation led by mothers who have lost children to adoption, advocates for the natural right of mothers to nurture their children and for keeping families together.


Redmond, Wash.

Kathryn Joyce gave a good description of unwanted pregnancy in the “Baby Scoop Era” (1945-73). I am a birth mother; my son was born in 1969. It has affected me, and others around me, my whole life. Thank you for putting into print what the public never hears about adoption.



As the Pennsylvania chair of the Republican Majority for Choice, I have heard countless tales of crisis pregnancy centers and the tactics they use to shame and manipulate women. Women in these situations should be supported no matter the choice they make, and extremists manipulating their vulnerability for profit is disgusting. These organizations and the horror stories they produce may scare women into not considering adoption. It is clear that legislation should be enacted nationally, protecting women from organizations that not only deceive but rob them of their rights as women and mothers.


Gainesville, Fla.

It was so sad to hear that there are women being coerced to choose adoption for their children when they prefer to parent. As an adoptive parent and member of an adoptive parent support group, I know that none of us would ever want to have any part in a situation like that. We desire to be parents, but not at the cost of a woman being coerced.


Newark, Dela.

Thank you so much for your outstanding article on crisis pregnancy centers. It makes me furious to read about these charlatans who trade in human beings. I am 64; my birth mother is 81, and we both are still suffering the traumatic consequences of adoption.

Single women who want to carry their pregnancy to term need to understand that a reputable group will tell them about the government programs that are in place to assist them if they choose to raise their child themselves. They also need to know that they will never forget the child they relinquish and that the pain of relinquishing will be with them for their lifetime. The children they surrender will feel abandoned and that they don’t really fit in, even if they are never told about their adoption.


Bristol, Ga.

I am five months pregnant and a prolife advocate who until recently was considering adoption. (My boyfriend of five years did a 180 when he found out I was pregnant.) I did not go to a crisis pregnancy center but looked at a few adoption information and agency websites and spoke with my pastor, who is an adoption facilitator. One thing I noticed in all these sources was an overwhelming attempt to convince me that adoption was best for the baby and was the most unselfish and loving thing to do. My pastor even told me that raising the baby as a single mother was an “extreme situation.” No one encouraged me to raise my child myself, although that was my stated preference.

I kept doing research. I was offended at the notion that a stranger could be a better parent to my son than I. I wanted to find out what happens to the children. I found that the US Census estimates that adoptees make up 2-3 percent of the population. The Center for Adoptive Families reports that 20 percent of adolescents in treatment for substance abuse are adoptees!

Then I began to discover the debilitating effects that relinquishment has on the mothers. They suffer deep psychological problems from a trauma very few can understand. Every one of them felt that they had lost something important and hoped to have a future relationship with their child if they didn’t already have one.

The more research I did, the more I realized that I had the most important personal experience on which to draw: I was adopted at the age of 10. There’s no guarantee that as much as an adoptive parent wants a child, he or she will be as loving, accepting and understanding as I could be to my son. I’m 26, have a degree and am fully capable of finding adequate employment. If adoption is almost guaranteed to bring us both long-term suffering with no guarantee of a truly better life for my son, I’ll take my chances with the single-parent statistics.



As a member of an adoptive family, the daughter of an adoption counselor and a prochoice feminist, I read Kathryn Joyce’s article with great interest, and with some expertise. The stories Joyce shares are devastating to read. Unfortunately, she never contrasts this abuse with accounts of ethical adoption counseling or the bigger picture of open adoption. It includes, for instance, counselors who have dedicated their careers to advancing every woman’s right to self-determination in the wake of an unplanned pregnancy; birth parents who remain involved in the lives of their relinquished children; adoptive families who have no contact with their child’s birth parents; birth mothers and adoptive parents who view each other as soul mates; women who have decided to relinquish and then changed their minds in the delivery room. It also includes women forced to parent by birth fathers who have no desire or ability to raise a child but refuse to terminate their rights.

Every relinquishing mother has a unique experience, but there are some fundamental truths about open adoption. One such truth is that good adoption counselors–sincerely committed to birth mothers’ choice, agency, emotional well-being and legal rights–are our strongest allies in the fight against predatory organizations. Another is that these ethical and knowledgeable counselors are widely available; no woman need ever seek “services” like those described by Joyce.


Endangered Poets Society


I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading James Longenbach’s review of Wallace Stevens’s poems [“A Music of Austerity,” Sept. 14]. His points are close to the bone and persuasive. My teachers in the early 1960s, Ted Roethke and Nelson Bentley, called Stevens the father of us all. And as Longenbach points out, Stevens’s poems have entered the language of modern American poetry. I will be sure to order a copy of Longenbach’s The Iron Key next year. As everybody on the poetry scene knows, such poets as Stevens and Roethke are becoming an endangered species. So we should support the ones Keats and Yeats would welcome at the bar.


North of Eden

Bradenton, Fla.

I loved Joanna Scott’s “In the Theater of Isak Dinesen” [Aug. 31/Sept. 7]. I wrote my MA thesis on Out of Africa in the late 1960s. I thought then, as I do now, that it was a beautifully crafted work, which, as Scott points out, deliberately avoids realism to create an artificial, paradigmatic world. Africa is Eden before the Fall, remembered by Dinesen after she has been driven out of that innocent world. The book holds up well, but as Scott says, it is underappreciated by a literary establishment skewed in favor of middle-class realism.

Those who like Dinesen might enjoy The Angelic Avengers, a Gothic fantasy written under the pen name Pierre Andrezel, which she wrote during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. It had to be smuggled out of the country to America, where it was published. She said that she didn’t know the fate of the book until long after the fact. The story relates the adventures of two innocent girls after they fall into the hands of a wicked uncle. It is a kind of allegory of the relationship of Denmark and Germany.


Numbers Don’t Lie

San Diego

David Cay Johnston’s “By the Numbers” [Aug. 3/10] shows that Democratic administrations have outperformed Republican ones in private-sector job creation over the past sixty-eight years. He shows that Democrats created 64 percent of the total new jobs versus 36 percent for Republicans. However, this additive analysis understates the difference. The multiplicative method works from percentage increases in the job totals and multiplies these increases over time rather than adding them.

Using this approach we find that Democrats increased jobs by 179 percent in thirty-two years while the Republicans added only 55 percent in thirty-six years–an advantage of more than three to one in the Democrats’ favor. On an annualized basis the Democrats achieved 3.25 percent per annum versus the Republicans’ 1.22 percent.

The importance of this latter analysis is made clear by comparing FDR/Truman to Clinton. The raw numbers show Clinton with almost 5.5 million more jobs created in four fewer years, but Clinton’s annualized percentage increase is 2.68 percent as against the 3.98 percent for FDR/Truman.