In public discourses in the United States adoption is often suggested as a less objectionable, equal substitute for abortion, despite this pregnancy outcome occurring much less frequently than the outcomes of abortion and parenting. This qualitative study explores whether and how abortion patients weighed adoption as part of their pregnancy decisions and, for those who did, identifies factors that contributed to their ultimate decision against adoption.
We interviewed 29 abortion patients from six facilities in Michigan and New Mexico in 2015. We conducted a thematic analysis using both deductive and inductive approaches to describe participants’ perspectives, preferences, and experiences regarding the consideration of adoption for their pregnancy.
Participants’ reasons why adoption was not an appropriate option for their pregnancy were grounded in their ideas of the roles and responsibilities of parenting and fell into three themes. First, participants described continuing the pregnancy and giving birth as inseparable from the decision to parent. Second, choosing adoption would represent an irresponsible abnegation of parental duty. Third, adoption could put their child’s safety and well-being at risk.
Adoption was not an equally acceptable substitute for abortion among abortion patients. For them, adoption was a decision that represented taking on, and then abdicating, the role of parent. This made adoption a particularly unsuitable choice for their pregnancy.
Rhetoric suggesting that adoption is an equal alternative to abortion does not reflect the experiences, preferences, or values of how abortion patients assess what options are appropriate for their pregnancy.