Abortion & Adoption

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?

Tim Reidy


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Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 9 months ago
Church leaders SHOULD get behind these efforts, Tim.
Teaching and modeling the sacredness of life will go a lot further to advance the pro-life agenda (and decrease the rates of abortion) than focusing on the letter of the law.
My husband and I adopted our son through Catholic Charities.  At that time (1984) they were the only group offering this service, other than private or foreign adoption agencies.  I understand that they closed their unwed mothers home soon after this, as "private" adoption became more popular.  If an unwed mother wanted to give her child up for adoption, a private arrangement would be preferrable and more profitable.  Our fee through Catholic Charities, which was a sliding fee and we paid the highest price, was $1500.  I understand that private adoptions would cost at least $10,000 and up for the adoptive parents.
We never knew the birth parents of our son, and our son has never expressed any desire to re-establish contact.  I often wonder how it would have worked if it had been more "open".  Perhaps if women finding themselves pregnant could better know that there are loving people who would cherish their child as their own, they would be more apt to choose life. 
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 9 months ago
"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."

Tim, please note that the Church will always embrace pro-life initiatives. And the readers here know this.

The Church does endorse adoption over abortion, that is certainly not an issue, so that should answer your question as whether Catholics can endorse adoption over abortion.

What you cannot do - - - as you have tried to do - - - is seriously consider that there is any chance the Church or Catholics will support any organization that is pro-abortion (or "prochoice", as you have called them, but really choice to what?).

I sure hope that the Church will prove your pessismism to be well warranted. I am certain it will.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 9 months ago
I think that the question that Tim is raising, is will the Catholic Church endorse the work of Adoption Access Network, which identifies itself as pro-choice and works through Planned Parenthood?
I have my doubts.
Jim McCrea
8 years 9 months ago
Why is it good for Catholic agencies to get out of the adoption business?  So they don't have to (gassppppp) deal with same-sex couples?
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 9 months ago
Tim, some further refining may be in order.

For example, when you are talking about "endorsing" the work of "an agency that does not preach against the practice of abortion, but offers a fuller understanding of adoption that can lead to fewer terminated pregnancies," that is way too broad.

Certainly the Church, Catholics, and the prolife community, can endorse those specific activities of any agency that save lives without having to do evil in return. Adoption as an alternative to abortion fits that bill. That is why the Church is in the business of adoption.

But that does not translate into a full endorsement for the agency. A full endorsement should only be merited from an integral perspective of the agency as a whole, and for that reason no agency that identifies itself as pro-abortion, or prochoice to have an abortion (if you prefer), is going to garner a full endorsement.

But all of this is Catholic teaching 101. The same approach is applied to all sinners. A person deeply mired in sin can still do worthy acts of charity that should be endorsed, but that does not mean we just ignore the sins. It means we condemn the sins, but not the sinner; we applaud the pro-adoption activities and we admonish the pro-abortion worldview.

In addition to the above, we really have to consider the inherently contradictory nature of a single organization that identifies itself as pro-abortion (or prochoice to have an abortion) and at the same time professes to valuing adoption over abortion. In other words, there is a flawed moral reasoning there. That is, an adoption is always better than an abortion because of the right to life of a fetus. Therefore, such an agency should be pro-life and not pro-abortion. Explaining that should be the real work of Catholics.
we vnornm
8 years 9 months ago
I see no conflict between anyone in the Church working with the Adoption Access Network.
They will help save lives and bring greater awareness to everyone about the benefits of adoption in our culture.
I can't predict the future, but I sure can hope and pray for the success of this and similar ventures. amdg bill
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 9 months ago
"That is, an adoption is always better than an abortion because of the right to life of a fetus. Therefore, such an agency should be pro-life and not pro-abortion. Explaining that should be the real work of Catholics."
Of course, Pete.  The agency should be officially pro-life, but if it were, it wouldn't get in the front door.  And if it can't get in the front door, there's no way it can offer the adoption alternative to the women who are pregnant.
I think that the real work for Catholics should be to take care of the mother and the child.  WHen that is modeled and seen in the larger culture, there will be little explaining to do.
Peter Lakeonovich
8 years 9 months ago
So does that mean the agency is really pro-life and only publicly pro-abortion?

Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 9 months ago

"So does that mean the agency is really pro-life and only publicly pro-abortion?"
Is there a problem with that if it saves lives? 
The agency provides adoptive alternatives to pregnant women.  This action speaks for itself.

8 years 9 months ago
Please, this is like offering a vegetarian tasting table in the corner of a butchers shop!
Tim, instead of thinking about how to make the for-profit abortion providers more palatable for liberal Catholics, why not address the evil of the butchers shop itself???
Here is a good place to start: the billions in public funding that goes to "Planned parenthood" that is unaccounted for!
8 years 9 months ago
These groups are about as good as it can possibly get for the horrors that occur in the federally funded Planned Parenthood abortion centers.
That said, why focus on this tiny bit of news that allows pro-abortion groups to try to clear image with the public when the major trend in polling is public OPPOSITION to abortion?
What you omit, Tim, is as important as what you focus on.  The tide is turning politically and socially on the evil that is abortion - and this fact should be highlighted rather than focusing on deals with the Devil.
Like I said before, why not point out the outrageous nature of public funding for Planned Parenthood - to the tune of 2 BILLION in the last 6 years.
Of course, as PP is a major contributor to the left, this would put the Democrats in a bad light, but perhaps it is time for liberal Catholics to make a stand...
Danielle Roberts
8 years 9 months ago
Two key phrases in your writing really struck me, one in the original posting and one in a clarification response you posted.  The first is “third way” and the second is “think creatively about how to create a culture of life on the ground.”  In so many ways, the Church’s historical and consistent teachings on life and dignity have fallen prey to the partisan political context in which we are situated.  Arguably, this is somewhat unavoidable.  Our challenge as Catholics, though, is to pursue a “third way” in all of this and not pit one species of pro-life against another as the political arena does.  A truly pro-life culture, it seems to me, would have laws against abortions but would also make the idea of abortion almost “unthinkable,” which I don’t think is necessarily done by law.  It’s good that there are Catholics focused on both sides of what it means to be pro-life, and we need to start helping each other out instead of competing against one another and making real progress even more difficult. 
To me, it sounds like any group, whether officially “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” that is promoting adoption on the ground is certainly “think[ing] creatively about how to create a culture of life on the ground.”  They have found a third way, a way INTO the culture of death (literally, into the building) to bring it to new life.  Jesus is the ultimate model of finding the “third way,” and it’s time for Catholics to follow suit.  We might not appreciate—heck, we might even HATE—that Adoption Access Network officially considers itself a pro-choice organization.  However, if its members are in a building, increasing the awareness of desperate mothers about a “third way” for them amid in the face of the choices to have an abortion or keep the baby, then they are doing more than many of us.  If their posters and discussions reach even one or two women a week, many lives will be saved. 
Regarding the specifics of whether or not the Church can officially work with such an organization, I don’t know the rules of the game, so to speak, but I can note my opinion—that the Church would not be wise to try to get anything accomplished working ONLY with organizations and people who agree on every single issue.  I can understand if this is a hope for people, but it is certainly not efficient, if even possible at all.  That being said, the Adoption Access Network seems like a good place to start in working creatively with the modern world. After all, Vatican II made it very clear that we are the Church IN the Modern World.  We can and should always challenge society to become more of a culture of life, but we still must work with it in that process.    


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