Monday, September 28, 2009

Christian adoption mills

One of the technically more sophisticated PR stunts the anti-abortion movement has pulled off are the crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) which provide a home and care for expectant unmarried mothers. But it's more than just advertising, such centers do operate and flourish. I'd always wondered what the atmosphere was like in those homes, how professional and humanitarian, as opposed to narrowly secular, such institutions are.

Katheryn Joyce recently published a long article about the CPS, which she claims are a source of Shotgun Adoption The Nation 08/26/09. I had wondered how much of a role religious indoctrination played in the CPCs services, and to what extent young women and girls in those centers are taught to have shame for themselves and their babies. I hadn't realized that they frequently create a coercive atmosphere pushing the mothers to put up their children for adoption. Joyce writes, "Far more than other adoption agencies, conservative Christian agencies demonstrate a pattern and history of coercing women to relinquish their children."

In a manner that is more than a little twisted, Christian Right groups that operate the CPCs treat unplanned pregnancies for unmarried women in the old-fashioned, send-them-off-to-live-with-their-sister manner. But at the same time they rely on the CPCs to provide a steady supply of adoptable babies for their Christian clients. Joyce quotes a woman by the pseudonymous name Ann Gregory, who successfully went to court on behalf of her son, whose pregnant girl friend was in one of the CPCs, affiliated with a Midwestern megachurch. In the end, the couple got to keep the child after a six-week court battle. Gregory says of the CPC, "They say they want to help people in a crisis pregnancy, but really they want to help themselves to a baby."

Christian fundamentalists to a significant extent have built their own counterculture, which has some pretty ugly practices. Their interest in public policies supportive of their ideas of traditional pro-family values isn't totally abstract or moral. They have an infrastructure to protect from a government that might start intervening in some of those abusive practices that victimize people in indefensible ways. Joyce explains:

Most homes [CPCs] are religiously affiliated, and almost all promote adoption. Many, like Christian Homes and Family Services (CHFS), reserve their beds for women planning adoption. Others keep only a fraction for women choosing to parent. Most homes seamlessly blend their advertised crisis pregnancy counseling with domestic and international adoption services, and oppose unmarried parenthood as against "God's plan for the family."

Religious women may be particularly susceptible to CPC coercion, argues Mari Gallion, a 39-year-old Alaska mother who founded the support group after a CPC unsuccessfully pressured her to relinquish her child ten years ago. Gallion, who has worked with nearly 3,000 women with unplanned pregnancies, calls CPCs "adoption rings" with a multistep agenda: evangelizing; discovering and exploiting women's insecurities about age, finances or parenting; then hard-selling adoption, portraying parenting as a selfish, immature choice. "The women who are easier to coerce in these situations are those who subscribe to conservative Christian views," says Gallion. "They'll come in and be told that, You've done wrong, but God will forgive you if you do the right thing." [my emphasis]
There is more than one dark spot on the gruesome underbelly of the Christian Right.

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