For many women, the choice to have an abortion is because they do not want to be pregnant, or give birth, or relinquish a child. In an Australian study, “We Women Decide”, women who had relinquished a baby for adoption spoke of their pain and ongoing emotional difficulty because of the decision. In contrast, most women do not regret their abortions.
Because adoption is such a difficult route to take, only a tiny percentage of pregnant women choose adoption (about 2% in North America). Most women today choose abortion or single parenthood, and it is simply not realistic to expect this to change. It would be wrong to force women to give birth and relinquish their baby for adoption, and it is not women’s purpose to produce babies for infertile couples. Further, the “market” for newborns, especially healthy and white newborns, turns babies into commodities and perpetuates inequality and poverty for older children that no-one wants.
Every child should be a wanted child. In the U.S., over 400,000 children are in the foster care system because they were in abusive or neglectful situations. While more than half of these children will return to their parents, the remainder will stay in the system. Each year, more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care system without being adopted. There are currently 10,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted. So while the anti-choice movement claims that the answer is adoption, not abortion, the reality is that children are often abused, abandoned, and neglected because no one will take care of them. During the “social experiment” of banned abortion in Romania from 1966 to 1989, tens of thousands of unwanted children were abandoned in orphanages where they were badly neglected, and many ended up living on the street. The country still hasn’t recovered from this disaster that traumatized an entire generation.
There is a large amount of scientific research about unwanted children showing that their prospects in life are less than for wanted children. For example, researcher Henry P. David has done very important work on this topic:
David HP. et al. “Born unwanted. Developmental effects of denied abortion“, Springer, 1988
David, H. P., Dytrych, Z., & Matejcek, Z. “Born unwanted: Observations from the Prague Study“. American Psychologist, 58: 224-229, 2003
More recently, the Turnaway study in the U.S. noted that many women denied abortions were concerned about the well-being of their existing children. Consistent with those concerns, the study found lower scores on child development for the children of women denied abortions compared to children whose mothers received an abortion. (The study focused on the effects of unwanted childbearing on women, not on the unwanted children.)
South Australia Health, Myths and Facts About Abortion
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, Why Few Women Choose Adoption (2017)
PBS fact sheet on adoption: “Off and Running”
LA Times, Cory L. Richards, The Adoption vs. Abortion Myth
Adopt U.S. Kids – Meet the Children
National Public Radio, For Romania’s Orphans, Adoption Is Still A Rarity (2012)
Children of the Decree, documentary film on Romain’s orphans (2005)