Susan Dominus' column in Friday's New York Times raises some interesting questions about the relationship between abortion clinics and adoption agencies. Traditionally, abortion clinics offered little more than pamplets about adoption, but the staff had limited knowledge of how adoption has evolved in recent years. So for many the idea of open adoption, where the prospective mother had the option of seeing her child again after placement, was not seen as a real possibility.
In New York the group Adoption Access Network is trying to change that by bringing adoption workers into clinics to educate the staff.
Imagine this: a woman enters her local Planned Parenthood office and notices, in the bathroom, a poster that says: “Questions about adoption? We can answer those, too.”
Such posters, which should be up in the hallways of at least 15 abortion providers in New York within the month, are produced by the Adoption Access Network as part of a campaign to make adoption a subject that patients and social workers alike feel more comfortable broaching in abortion clinics. The thinking is that all the clinics’ clients, whether they seem uneasy about abortion or not, should have a clear understanding of how adoption works, rather than just be handed a list of references — a list that essentially says, adoption is fine, but it’s not our thing.
Such an approach, Dominus writes, could serve as a rare piece of common ground in the otherwise polarized debate about abortion. Is this an approach Catholics could endorse? I would hope so, but as the recent health care debate illustrated, there is far too much "worst case scenarioism" when it comes to the abortion debate. So it seems unlikely we'll see Catholic leaders mobilizing behind groups like Adoption Access Network, which is prochoice and no doubt doesn't subscribe to church teaching on same-sex adoptions. Yet what other groups are in the position to provide this kind of counseling to expectant mothers? Not Catholic agencies, which are increasingly getting out of the business of adoption, and (for good reason) would not be welcome at places like Planned Parenthood. Why shouldn't church leaders get behind these kinds of efforts?
Of course, individual Catholics can and will find ways to support the important work of these adoption education groups. Yet it's discouraging to think that these prolife initiatives are unlikely to be embraced by the church and the larger prolife movement. But maybe I'm being too pessimistic. Perhaps we are witnessing the birth of a third way on the thorny question of abortion. What think you? Is there room for optimism?