Adoption Study: Some Notes on Differences (Part 2)

Who knew that earlier in the week when I put up a post on a really interesting adoption study by the Evan B. Donaldson Institute and called it “Part 1” it would take so long to get around to Part 2?    What can I say—many other stories intervened.   But while I have a moment I’m going to try to get that Part 2 done.   It would help at this point if you (and I) went back to read Part 1 and maybe even the post before that.

So my project here is to talk about the differences between adoption and use of third-party gametes.  (If you go back you’ll see there’s a post about samenesses, too.)    Part 1 considered differences from the point of view of the child–adopted or donor-conceived.   Here I want to consider the point of view of the birth parents or the gamete providers.   (I should note that there are other ways I could identify the people whose viewpoint I want to consider here.   I could call them “genetic parents,”  for example.  Maybe this choice is important.  I’m not sure and I want to move along, so I will note that it is a choice and keep going.)

It seems to me that the process by one decides to provide gametes for ART is quite different from the process by which one decides to give a child up for adoption.   I know from this blog that some people think about giving up gametes as the equivalent of giving up a child.   If you are one of those people (and if you know you are one of those people) then maybe you do think about this as a time you might give up a child.   But at least you consider this at a time (preconception) that no child exists.  Thus, you can decide not to create a child and thus, not to allow someone else to raise that child.

If you are a person that does not think of giving up gametes as the equivalent of giving up a child, then that changes how you approach the decision, but the core point above is still true.  You make the decision at a time when you can freely decide not to give up your gametes.

I realize that people might be quite tempted by and/or need the money that is offered for gametes.  But the payment is hardly immediate.  Thus, if you have an immediate need to pay the rent, say, selling your gametes isn’t going to help  you.   Actually the money (which it is legitimate to pay to gamete providers in the US) is another difference.   At least if the law is followed, people aren’t paid to offer a child for adoption.

By contrast, consider the position of a woman who is pregnant and is considering giving up the baby for adoption.   Unless the pregnancy terminates, she will be giving birth.   The timeframe is pretty well set.  And there is a child, on the way, created with her gametes.   She can choose to raise the child or not, but (assuming she doesn’t elect abortion) she cannot choose to have the child not exist.

What this reflects is that the woman contemplating giving her child up for adoption didn’t mean to be involved in the process of procreation.   She didn’t intend to get pregnant.   She didn’t intend for any child with her gametes to exist at all.   (I think it safe to say that adoption is rarely if ever the end result of a planned pregnancy.)    By contrast the woman who provides gametes is choosing to be part of a process of procreation with the understanding that she will not be raising the resulting child.

So the egg provider chooses to assist in procreation knowing she won’t raise the child while the birth mother doesn’t choose to procreate but must choose between raising a child or giving the child up.   I think for many people these decisions will seem fundamentally different.

I don’t want this to get too cluttered with other observations just at the moment, so I will stop here for now.   Suffice it to say, I think the experience of being an egg provider can be quite different from the experience of giving a child up for adoption.

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5 responses to “Adoption Study: Some Notes on Differences (Part 2)

  1. Julie I do agree that the process/feelings most likely are very different. One is a choice to do it for a set price and the other is a conscious choice when there aren’t any real options if you either don’t wish to parent or don’t have the financial resources to parent (sad).

    The egg “donor” makes an intentional decision – goes through a period of putting drugs into her body (that there is not any long-term studies to assess all the risks) and an invasive retrieval process. I disagree with you that the money does not play a role due to immediate need. The target audience is college students that acrue huge sums of debt in addition I would argue that some probably do pay expenses during the timeframe leading up to the removal. Whether or not it is immediate or just student loans the stress of the debt can have an impact on the choice decision.

    As to the adoption scenario you described it well – it would be the very rare one who purposely chose to get pregnant to place and the time constraint is real and cannot be extended. Right now with the expenses being paid out anywhere from $5,000 – to $12,000 (?) or more, I think they are pretty darn close to the line in the sand if not well over it. And of course there will be those who get away with other stuff as well. So far down the slippery slope that it destroys my soul.

    • I’m sure you’re right that the money is important. It must be the case that as you offer more money you get more donors and what’s happening there is that you are inducing more people to enter the market. What I meant to say (but said inartfully) was somehow it doesn’t seem to me like it is the same sort of pressure as that created by a pregnancy drawing near to term. You may have other ways (distasteful or illegal, perhaps) to get money quickly that you can compare to selling gametes. But when you’re about to give birth, there’s a pretty limited menu of options. This matters to me somehow, but perhaps I didn’t properly state (or figure out?) the reasons why it matters.

      In general (and this is wandering from my point, I guess) the role of money in adoption can be problematic. It’s clear (to me, anyway) that a lawyer who does all the paperwork for adoption can get paid for her/his time. Similarly, there are others in the process–say the person who does the homestudy–who get paid. It also makes sense to me that a person who plans to give a child up for adoption might be able to get money for the expenses of the pregnancy. But there’s your slippery slope, right? How much for which expenses? I started with the professionals getting paid because I do think once you make this into a commercial transaction in part (if commercial is the right word) then I think it can be harder to limit the role of money.

      • “It also makes sense to me that a person who plans to give a child up for adoption might be able to get money for the expenses of the pregnancy.”
        I disagree entirely. that is treating the pregnancy too much as a hired labor to the adoptive parents; the essence of baby selling.

  2. The decisions are different but the result is the same to the extent that both women have offspring that other people are raising for them.

    The results are different because some women are obligated to be named as the mother’s of their offspring while other’s are not and that is not fair to them or their offspring. The offspring of the gamete donor have no right to the due process of a court approved adoption before being raised by unrelated people. Is that fair to them? They also have genetically inaccurate birth records, useless for them in terms of a valid family medical history and useless for the CDC and useless for scientists trying to lower infant mortality and birth defects using birth statistics by getting a better understanding of genetic disorders.

    • What you say in your first sentence (that the decisions are different but the result the same) is really (I think) an illustration of my point that there are samenesses here as well as differences. (Samenesses were the first post–now a while back.) Ultimately, if you’re trying to make rules governing these practices (gamete donation and adoption) you have to look at all the sameness and all the difference and then decide which are most important.

      So you could (and I would guess that you personally do) say that while the differences are possibly interesting, more importance is the sameness–someone else ends up raising a child that you are genetically related to. Or you could (as I do) say that the differences are important enough so that the sameness of genetics doesn’t require same treatment.

      To be trivial (for purposes of illustrations only) you could sort procedures by day of the week–those that happen on Monday vs. those happening on Tuesday, etc. But we all would agree (I think) that this sameness is essentially irrelevant and so there’s no obligation to treat all procedures completed on Tuesdays in a particular way because they were completed on Tuesday.

      I do not mean to disparage the weight some people place on genetics. But it’s clear that not everyone places the same weight on it and it’s also necessary to look at the other side of the scale. Some people (me included) will conclude that the differences are big enough to warrant different treatment for the procedures. This doesn’t yet tell us in what way different–just that (from my point of view) there’s no obligation to treat the to procedures the same way.

      To put this in the terms of your second paragraph–I think the differences discussed here (and in part 1 and there will be a part 3 as well) are enough to justify having a different process for adoptoin and for egg/sperm donation. Indeed, I’d say that treating egg providers in the same way we treat women placing their children for adoption does a disservice to both groups of people.

      In the same way, treating donor conceived children the same as adopted children isn’t fair to either group. Part 1 explored the differences from that point of view and, in my opinion, these differences are meaningful enough so that I think they require different treatment even though there are also some commonalities.

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