Preying on the Desperate: The Religious Right's Adoption Racket
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Jo Anne Swanson, a court-appointed adoption intermediary, has studied a number of cases in which women have been lured out of their home states to give birth and surrender their children under Utah's lax laws--which require only two witnesses for relinquishments that have occurred in hotel rooms or parks--to avoid interstate child-placement regulations. Some women who changed their minds had agencies refuse them airfare home. And one Utah couple, Steve and Carolyn Mintz, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the director of their adoption agency flew into a rage at a mother in labor who'd backed out of their adoption, and the mother and her infant ended up in a Salt Lake City homeless shelter. Many complaints have been lodged by birth fathers who sought to parent their children but were disenfranchised by Utah's complicated system of registering paternity.
Utah isn't alone in attacking birth fathers' rights. From 2000 to 2001, a Midwestern grandmother named Ann Gregory (a pseudonym) fought doggedly for her son, a military enlistee, to retain parental rights over his and his girlfriend's child. When the girlfriend became pregnant, her conservative evangelical parents brought her to a local CPC affiliated with their megachurch. The CPC was located in the same office as an adoption agency: its "sister organization" of eighteen years. The CPC called Gregory's son, who was splitting his time between home and boot camp, pressuring him to "be supportive" of his girlfriend by signing adoption papers. The agency also called Gregory and her ex-husband, quoting Scripture "about how we're all adopted children of Jesus Christ."
What followed, Gregory says, was "six weeks of pure hell," as she felt her son and his girlfriend were "brainwashed" into adoption. She researched coercive adoption and retained a lawyer for her son. When the mother delivered, the attorney had Gregory notify a hospital social worker that parental rights were being contested, so the baby wouldn't be relinquished. Two days later, as the adoption agency was en route to take custody, Gregory filed an emergency restraining order. The matter had to be settled in court, where Gregory's son refused to consent to adoption. The legal bill for two weeks came to $9,000.
Both parents went to college, and though they are no longer together, Gregory praises their cooperation in jointly raising their son, now 8. But she is shaken by what it took to prevail. "You've got to get on it before the child is born, and you'd better have $10,000 sitting around. I can't even imagine how they treat those in a worse position than us. They say they want to help people in a crisis pregnancy, but really they want to help themselves to a baby."
"A lot of those moms from the '50s and '60s were really damaged by losing their child through the maternity homes," says Gregory. "People say those kinds of things don't happen anymore. But they do. It's just not a maternity home on every corner; it's a CPC."