Crisis Pregnancy Centers Regularly Engage in Coercive Adoption Practices

Almost two years ago, I wrote about a distressing and eye-opening book called The Girls Who Went Away, which is about the women who surrendered their children for adoption under coercion in the years before legal abortion and when single or unwed parenting was ostracized. Most of the women who surrendered their children were threatened, taunted, scolded and otherwise coerced by Catholic or otherwise Christian-affiliated adoption agencies and maternity homes. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking read, and an important one on the subject of reproductive justice that I couldn’t more highly recommend.

Now there’s a terrifying and depressing article in the Nation about how the period of coercive adoptions is not one merely relegated to our history. It’s happening today, and it’s happening via the ever-infamous, deceptive and also Christian-affiliated crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). If you thought that pretending they were abortion clinics and then admonishing women to not kill their babies was bad — and how could you not? — you ain’t seen nothing yet:

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), the nonprofit pregnancy-testing facilities set up by antiabortion groups to dissuade women from having abortions, have become fixtures of the antiabortion landscape, buttressed by an estimated $60 million in federal abstinence and marriage-promotion funds. The National Abortion Federation estimates that as many as 4,000 CPCs operate in the United States, often using deceptive tactics like posing as abortion providers and showing women graphic antiabortion films. While there is growing awareness of how CPCs hinder abortion access, the centers have a broader agenda that is less well known: they seek not only to induce women to “choose life” but to choose adoption, either by offering adoption services themselves, as in Bethany’s case, or by referring women to Christian adoption agencies. Far more than other adoption agencies, conservative Christian agencies demonstrate a pattern and history of coercing women to relinquish their children.

Bethany guided Jordan through the Medicaid application process and in April moved her in with home-schooling parents outside Myrtle Beach. There, according to Jordan, the family referred to her as one of the agency’s “birth mothers”–a term adoption agencies use for relinquishing mothers that many adoption reform advocates reject–although she hadn’t yet agreed to adoption. “I felt like a walking uterus for the agency,” says Jordan.

Jordan was isolated in the shepherding family’s house; her only social contact was with the agency, which called her a “saint” for continuing her pregnancy but asked her to consider “what’s best for the baby.” “They come on really prolife: look at the baby, look at its heartbeat, don’t kill it. Then, once you say you won’t kill it, they ask, What can you give it? You have nothing to offer, but here’s a family that goes on a cruise every year.”

There is not much more to say other than go read the rest. Go read Jordan’s story, the story of other women like her, and the ways in which our government is supporting this absolute horror. And then share it with others. I did merely want to specifically highlight one more point:

Even as women have gained better reproductive healthcare access, adoption laws have become less favorable for birth mothers, advancing the time after birth when a mother can relinquish–in some states now within twenty-four hours–and cutting the period to revoke consent drastically or completely. Adoption organizations have published comparative lists of state laws, almost as a catalog for prospective adopters seeking states that restrict birth parent rights.

It’s desperately important to remember that when our government officials, including those who call themselves “pro-choice,” talk openly about “promoting” adoption, this, inadvertently or not, is precisely what they are supporting. “Promoting” one pregnancy option, any option, above another is not allowing women to make an objective decision based on unbiased facts and personal beliefs and circumstances. And I fervently believe that supporting adoption, the women who make the choice to put their children up for adoption, the families that adopt children, and the children who have been adopted, is a vastly different thing from promoting adoption to pregnant women as a more beneficial choice than abortion or parenting. The former is pro-choice and compassionate. The latter is anything but, and ought to be considered the nightmare that it is.

0 thoughts on “Crisis Pregnancy Centers Regularly Engage in Coercive Adoption Practices

  1. Pizza Diavola

    This is why I particularly detest the protester who stands outside the local clinic and shouts, “Adoption is a better option!” Better for whom? Not the pregnant woman, that’s for sure.

  2. evil fizz

    Did you read the post at Shakesville a while back by the woman who’d gone through an abortion and an adoption? After reading her post, I felt ill about people who think that adoption is this magical answer to an unwanted pregnancy (or even those who blithely suggest it). This article just reinforces that for me.

    Part of this article made me want to cry, particularly the part where the woman who’s given her baby up for adoption is calling the center desperate for help and advice in dealing with her grief, her milk coming in, etc., and they blow her off.

    I just had a baby and all of this feels really personal to me now. I can’t fathom the cruelty and self-righteousness required to treat someone who’s just given birth like that.

  3. factcheckme

    coerced childbirth is nothing less than female genital mutilation. where ritual FGM prevents intercourse from occuring at all (like the pro-life movement would, if they could–abstinance is what they themselves claim is their number one priority) its a way to punish already-sexually loose women, and to teach them a lesson by cutting them from stem to stern. i have always thought of it that way, and i always will. the parallels are striking. ugh.

    1. Cara Post author

      Well just remember that not all of the cases are coerced childbirth. Many of the women had already made the decision to give birth and were seeking out assistance, as promised by CPCs in much of their advertising, with paying for the expenses that come along with raising a child. So that frequently makes it coerced surrender of a wanted (if unplanned) child, in addition to sometimes being coerced childbirth and then coerced surrender of the child. The article gets into some of the reasons why CPCs would be interested in coercing women who were planning on giving birth to go forward with adoption, and I think does so rather well.

  4. factcheckme

    but i frankly question whether and how often women associated with these CPCs are exercising “meaningful” choice to give birth, when these CPCs have as one of their goals to delay, delay, delay the making of the decision at all, thereby making the decision for her. or at least forcing the result. they claim to offer “free pregnany tests” for example but in reality you schedule an appointment for 2 weeks, and they give you an EPT you couldve bought yourself 2 weeks ago. and they schedule multiple “counseling sessions” with unlicensed volunteers meant to dissuade, and delay.

    if we could be 100% sure that the decision to give birth was ever without coersion (there are many coercive pro-life forces out there, and not just CPCs), i guess i would feel better about assuming agency and talking about it from that perspective. i just never assume it. maybe its just me though. you are correct that it would be more on-topic to discuss it with the assumption of agency.

  5. Mirah Riben

    I am pleased to see this issue raised on a feminist venue.

    Feminists and progressive are all over femicide, violence against women, genital mutilation – yet they see all such exploitation of women are blmed on patriarchy.

    It is a great deal more difficult for enlightened women to begin to explore women’s inhumanity to women. The fact is that adoption today is a supply and business multi-billion dollar business that begins with the demand…not for the children in orphanages or foster care, but for younger, healthier babies that are often kidnapped and stolen and trafficked for intercountry adoption.

    You can read more about intercountry child trafficking in an article by E.J. Graff entitled “The Lie We Love” at

    I urge to support three women victims of such kidnappings at: and to get more involved in this serious issue affecting women worldwide.

    Also please see video at:

    Atwood’s fictional “Handmaid’s Tale” is very much a reality as impoverished worldwide are exploited as surrogates or for the adoption of their children.

    We must each chose to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.

    Mirah Riben, author, The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

  6. factcheckme

    “…yet they see all such exploitation of women are blmed on patriarchy.It is a great deal more difficult for enlightened women to begin to explore women’s inhumanity to women.”

    its still an evil of patriarchy, and a manifestation of misogyny, wherever women are victimized, no matter if its women perpetrating it, or men. because we all live our lives against a backdrop of patriarchy and misogyny, not matriarchy and misandry. lets not pretend otherwise.

  7. Pingback: Interesting posts, weekend of 8/30 « Feminists with Female Sexual Dysfunction

  8. Bonnie

    Not all CPCs are evil. The one in my hometown is very up-front about their pro-life agenda, which is simply: There counsel many options, including abortion, but stress that there is help for the woman if she would like to keep/raise her child (some women don’t have any idea what is available). This organization provides job training as well as parenting classes (often whether or not you choose abortion or to carry to term). They commit to supporting the mother for the first two years of the child’s life by providing formula, diapers, baby food, clothing, as well as furniture, etc. They require the mothers to attend parenting classes held by licensed counselors and social workers (these are life skills classes without religious content), and actively help with finding childcare solutions. Yes, they do also include adoption as a choice. I am not strongly pro-choice or pro-life, but to generalize all CPCs as evil adoption coercers is a problem. The example in my hometown actually let me see these pro-lifers as compassionate women who address the issues involved with their stance against abortion. I am against forcing anyone to watch those horrific abortion videos (yuck), and agree you should run from anyplace that requires it. This pro-life CPC does not offer abortions, but will help to make the appointment if that is the choice. And they offer after-procedure counseling for any who desire it, that is both compassionate and understanding. I believe abortion is an important alternative, but is only one alternative, and truly compassionate care includes all options. “Help centers” from both sides should strive to offer comprehensive alternatives.

  9. Jenna

    My parents opted my older sister out of health class in high school. Our church stepped in to fill the “void” by offering abstinence-only shaming “education.” My sister became pregnant after a non-consentual encounter on prom night. The only option available to her was to continue the pregnancy. My parents, to “teach her a lesson on responsibility,” told her that she had to get a job instead of continuing her education. She went to the CPC our church ran for help. They would only “help” her if she agreed to volunteer with them to “earn points” to use toward purchasing furniture, diapers, and formula. Early in the pregnancy, they had her filing in a back room. When she was farther along, they put her out front and would routinely parade her in front of other women who were thinking about abortion. The CPC also ran a second hand store. The things they couldn’t sell were “earned” by the “volunteers.” My sister “earned” a broken crib (she had to buy a new mattress herself), a shopping sack of clothes too dingy or stained to sell, some coupons for diapers, and a can of formula my niece ended up not being able to eat due to a rare stomach condition.

    Because my sister was unmarried, they tried to pressure her into an adoption. They told her repeatedly that she had nothing to offer as a parent, she was too young, too poor, and not a good enough Christian (because good x-tian girls don’t get raped or pregnant). They even went so far as to call our father to the center to tell my sister she wasn’t ready (which backfired because my dad showed rare support for my sister).

    When my niece was born, all contact from the CPC ceased. They never helped my sister with actual financial support and, ironically, the Planned Parenthood helped her through the paperwork for WIC and other programs and helped her with birth control after the birth.

    I have never supported CPC’s after seeing my sister exploited by one.

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  11. Ian

    Now, I am a man with an adopted sister. I have also worked for the aclu trying to shut many of these places down.
    These “centers” often pose illegally as emergency medical treatment facilities, and then engage in some of the most psychologically damaging coercion and harmful, degrading emotional manipulation seen today. They often outright lie to their “patients” and intentionally spread misinformation to further their political agenda at the expense of the physical and emotional welfare of women in difficult circumstances.
    According to the 2006 Waxman Report, 87 percent of crisis pregnancy centers “provided pregnant women with misleading and inaccurate information about the medical risks of abortion while receiving federal funding.”
    In Montgomery, Maryland, a CPC was actually outsourced by the school district to teach sex ed in public high schools. The students were offered free pregnancy tests at the center. Each woman who came in for a test got the full-court anti-abortion press: a showcase of cute little plastic fetuses, a walk through a treasure chest of baby clothes, a video on the ravages of abortion, and even a dubious “sonogram”.
    According to an investigation conducted by the los Angeles Times, at least eight states — including Florida, Missouri, Maryland, and Pennsylvania — use public funds to subsidize crisis pregnancy centers, Christian “homes for unwed mothers” and other programs explicitly designed to steer women away from abortion while flooding them with right wing propaganda and religious doctrine.
    As a condition of the federal grants, counselors are often barred from referring women to any facility that provide abortions for medical care, including hospitals. In many cases, they may not discuss contraception either. All told, these states will spend at least $13 million this year, much of it from welfare or family-planning budgets, to dissuade women from abortion.
    As a result of these factors, not only is the safety and emotional wellbeing of these women put into great risk, but the atmosphere of the entire American adoption infrastructure has been damaged to an extent not yet known, which may have dire consequences on many children waiting to be adopted.
    And that is the great hypocrisy.

  12. Lauren

    Aloha! I am the project coordinator of CPC Watch, the watchdog group mentioned in the Nation article linked here. I’m so glad to see the practices of CPCs being exposed. Please visit our website if you’d like to help us in our mission to expose CPCs and offer women comprehensive reproductive health resources:

    Also, I want to direct one comment at Jenna, if she checks back: would you mind sharing your story about your sister at the CPC with us for our Women’s Stories page? We could use an alias or first initial to help you remain completely anonymous, but your sister’s story is a powerful, yet unfortunately not uncommon, account of what CPCs are all about.

    Thanks again for posting this!


  13. karak

    My school health teacher brought this man into our class to lecture us on how he wanted to adopt, and he’d be a better parents than us teenagers because he had a lot of money and was married. The child would never be left with a provider, only a parent, etc, etc.

    I raised my hand and told him that as the child of a teenage mother, I had a happy childhood and my family would pull together to support me no matter how old I was or what my partner status was.

    And this dick gave me a nasty look and said, “Well, that’s YOUR family.”

    YES, IT IS. YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT ME. And I would fucking appreciate it if you wouldn’t stand up there like a smug fuck and tell me my mother didn’t love me enough or raise me right, or my life isn’t happy. FUCK YOU, MAN.


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