Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gays Gain The Right To Adopt But What About The Birth Mothers?

We live in a patently unequal society and though many people find themselves on the receiving end of discrimination, they seem to have no issue oppressing another group in the false belief that this equates to real social power.  Sometimes in an effort to redress wrongs, we end up further marginalizing another group.  New York State recently changed the law to allow unmarried couples and gay men to adopt children.

"Governor David Paterson signed a law making the change on Sunday. The law also puts "married couple" in the adoption statute, in place of what used to read "husband and wife." Bill sponsors say that is meant to ensure children get insurance and other benefits from both adults, as well as lifelong support even if couples split up."  (source)
How could I possibly have a problem with this?  There are so many children in the system waiting to be adopted and this means the potential for them to have loving families.  It is also a great step forward for gay rights, because they have traditionally been constructed as destroying the innocence of children or having an agenda of creating more LGBT people, as if homosexuality is something you can teach someone.

I wholeheartedly agree that no adult who is capable of providing a loving safe home for a child should be prevented from adopting, but I cannot help but notice how in this fight for rights, few are talking about the birth mothers that are coerced into giving up their babies.  What about the fact that we provide little to no support systems for single mothers? It stands to reason that the system would not be nearly as burdened, if we invested in women.   How many times do we need to hear from women whose arms ache to hold their babies, about the pain that adoption has brought them to understand that the key to the reduction of the number kids in the system is support for their mothers?

Even as I read about the granting of the right to adopt, I could not help but think that these new laws are being created in a society which has yet to acknowledge that many of these children are wanted children. Class plays a large role in who we allow to parent today and a woman is deemed incompetent or unable to provide if her cupboards are empty or she cannot afford to pay her light bill.  This does not mean that she does not love her baby, but that the system is designed for her to fail.  And so when we celebrate the accrual of new rights to marginalized bodies, we should always consider if this new right costs another group something.

No one is asking what new programs are being developed to help single mothers raise their children. What about the eradication of child poverty or even subsidized daycare to make it easier for poor parents who work odd shifts to have adequate care for their children?  Even education subsidy to allow poor women to have access to better paying jobs, would go a long way to helping teen mothers keep their children. We create barriers for success and then decide that these children are unwanted and unloved.  This does not simply come down to who can and cannot adopt.  The unspoken element in this conversation will always be who can and cannot parent based in class.