Al-Jazeera had an interesting piece on adoption law in Utah, which is at least arguably unfair to fathers:

“You can lie. You can misrepresent. You can deceive, and that’s not a basis to overturn an otherwise-illegal adoption,” Hutchins said. “So a birth mother can lie to a birth father and say, ‘I’m not placing the child for adoption,’ or tell the birth father the baby died.”

A fraud immunity statute in Utah adoption legislation means that even if it is proven someone lied during an adoption, it cannot be overturned.

Hutchens believed Utah agencies tout pro-adoption policies to encourage single mothers-to-be to give birth and put their child up for adoption in the state, even offering to cover a variety of travel, accommodation and medical expenses. He also had a hunch that some agencies were helping expectant mothers hide the adoptions from the biological fathers. So Hutchins launched an undercover investigation into the practices of prominent adoption agencies in Salt Lake City. Women posed as expectant mothers and called agency representatives to inquire about adoption. They secretly taped the audio conversations.

Hutchens argues the recordings reveal agency representatives coaching women on strategies to exploit the law and put a child up for adoption, without getting the father’s consent.

There has been a substantial push to change the laws in Utah, which has apparently become a national destination for mothers who want to put their child up without the father’s consent.

On the one hand, I am extremely supportive of adoption as an alternative to abortion. Giving women more leeway rather than less, if it prevents the latter in favor of the former, has something to say for it. (This is also one of the reason I am not in favor of mandatory open adoption laws.)

In the alternative to women sneaking off to Utah, I would support women being able to sign off all parental rights and responsibilities to the father. It would be a right that men don’t have, but that’s a double standard I can live with. She carried the child to term, and did her part.

I wouldn’t exactly expect this to solve the issue, of course. I suspect a number of the women that do this sort of thing do it for some of the reasons given in the article: they want the child to have two parents. I also suspect that there may be a difference in mentality. A woman who gives her child up to some other couple is doing something selfless, while one who just signs it over to the father is being a deadbeat mom. That isn’t a fair characterization, but I’d imagine it’s how some women would feel.

To add to this, I also really don’t like the idea of reversing adoptions even when a father has been cheated. It can take the law a long time to work things through, which in this sort of case is unfortunate.

I had conflicted feelings about the merits of the Baby Veronica case, but one of the things that jumped out at me was how years after Veronica was born, they were still tearing through this with the child bouncing around from one home to the other pending the different results.

Not ideal, obviously.

This all creating a very strong message for men who don’t want to have children then lose them: don’t father a child to a woman you’re not married to. This is good advice regardless of adoption law, but unmarried fathers have far less in the way of rights than do married ones. Of course, that’s both victim-blamey and a truth that’s true even apart from this.

None of this excuses women who sneak off to Utah, or adoption agencies who encourage women to lie. Utah can and should change its laws to prevent such flagrant abuse. But to some extent, this is going to remain a biproduct of modern sexual mores, for better and worse.

Category: Newsroom

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2 Responses to Utah vs. Unwed Dads

  1. Φ says:

    The question is: what effect will making adoption in Utah less unilateral have on abortion?

    Of course, there is no substitute for data. Is it really true that Utah has become an adoption Mecca (hey!) because the laws there make it easy to exclude fathers from the equation? But let’s engage in a thought experiment.

    Carrying a baby to term and then surrendering it for adoption is, in 2014, a pretty significant moral commitment. How many of fhese young women actually say, yes, I’m willing to do that, but if I have to get the father to sign off, then I’ll just get an abortion instead? My intution is that this is not a very large number.

    Likewise, in 2014, how many men would voluntarily assume the financial burden of paternity when adoption is on the table but marriage is not? I cerrtainly wouldn’t, so intuitively, the number of men who would object to adopting out their illegitimate issue also strikes me as small.

    My intuition could be worng, of course, and among the many injusitices that female supremacy inflicts on men, Utah’s adoption law doesn’t peg my outrage meter. But I don’t see changing the law as making that much difference in decisions to put a child up for adoption.

  2. trumwill says:

    Of course, there is no substitute for data. Is it really true that Utah has become an adoption Mecca (hey!) because the laws there make it easy to exclude fathers from the equation?

    In terms of drawing women who want to put their children up for adoption? I think so. At least, there are multiple accounts of it. Some women hear about it, I’d guess. But even if they don’t, but it’s otherwise recommended to them by adoption agencies and/or would-be adoptive parents once the situation is described to them and they do a little research. One of the cases actually has a woman treking out there from Pennsylvania.

    In terms of convincing women who already live there to put their children up for adoption? I’m less certain of that, but I suspect that the answer there is non-zero. It’s not so much a question of “getting the father to sign off” as it is knowing that the father won’t. So the choices are either (a) have the baby and be stuck with it, or (b) terminate the pregnancy. I know from experience that not all women who choose the adoption route are pro-life. I know at least one person that has had an abortion and put a child up for adoption (with partner’s consent).

    I have no clue how often that occurs, though.

    The second case is demonstrably non-zero, though. These lawsuits are by men who wanted to take on the responsibility and were denied the opportunity to do so. I can definitely imagine that situation for myself. I’d rather marry the mother of my child, of course (or should that be “I’d rather have a child by a woman I would like to marry”?), but absent that, I’m not sure if I would want to put the child up for adoption or raise it by myself. That would probably depend at least somewhat on life circumstances. 2001 me would likely have chosen adoption, 2005 or 2009 me (if no Clancy) would likely have chosen to keep it.

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