Can adoption provide an area of “common ground” for pro-life and pro-choice supporters? Associate Director of Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture (CEC) Elizabeth Kirk addressed this question during the CEC’s fourth semi-annual Bread of Life dinner. 

The parent of three adopted children with her husband Bill Kirk, Mrs. Kirk explained several issues she believes prevent adoption from being promoted in the United States.

Barriers she pointed to included the availability of abortion, a “general cultural attitude against adoption,” the push for single parenthood in today’s society, the media’s negative portrayal of adoption, and activity from pro-choice and pro-life communities.

Mrs. Kirk cited that a million abortions take place in the United States each year. Only two percent of women considering abortion decide to put their child up for adoption. Although two million couples are looking to adopt each year in the US, Mrs. Kirk stated that only 6,800 infant adoptions occur.

According to Mrs. Kirk, a “general cultural attitude against adoption” is present in our current culture.  As she explained, two factors have contributed to this societal stance; namely, the availability of abortion and the growing number of single-parents.

Mrs. Kirk pointed to the ultimate question a single pregnant woman must ask herself—is she prepared to be a parent? Adoption, Mrs. Kirk urged, is a form of parenting in itself. If a woman’s circumstances do not encourage or support her pregnancy, Mrs. Kirk explained, abortion often seems like the only “real choice.” To answer this dilemma, said Mrs. Kirk, “Women need to be encouraged to see that adoption is a loving choice for their children.”

 Mrs. Kirk outlined other challenges women face if they choose adoption. Many women believe that by giving up the child, they are abandoning the child. Mrs. Kirk reiterated that choosing adoption is parenting, not abandoning, the child. Mrs. Kirk also suggested that women fear adoption as a decision that will result in the government seizing the child and putting him or her into foster care. Many women shy away from the thought of giving up their newborn after experiencing nine long months of pregnancy and difficult labor.

Mrs. Kirk explained that a social stigma accompanies the decision to offer up a child for adoption.  The role of the pro-life community, Mrs. Kirk argued, is to educate the general public on the option of adoption. When women feel they must choose between parenting or aborting their child, they need to be aware of the resources available to them should they decide to parent by giving the baby up for adoption.

This education could be as simple as explaining the adoptive process. Many women, Mrs. Kirk explained, do not realize that the biological mother has great control over the adoption process. In private adoptions, the mother can interview couples in order to ensure her child’s future well-being. Mrs. Kirk concluded her talk by invoking the words of Pope John Paul II on adoption:

“To adopt a child is a great work of love. When it is done, much is given, but much is also received. It is a true exchange of gifts.”

Bread of Life dinners bring together students of varying viewpoints on beginning of life issues. The dinners are especially designed for students who are unfamiliar with the Church’s teaching on these issues but wish to learn more.

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