I’d read this story about Christopher Emanuel fighting for the right to parent his child who’d been placed for adoption by the baby’s mother. The twist to his story is that he’d actually won the right to parent his child, unlike so many other fathers who lost when adoption was on the table. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I think it’s wrong for willing fathers to be shut out. All things being equal, both the mother and the father should have the right to consent or contest the adoption of their child. Ethics matter, especially in adoption.
Today, I’m reading this article in Slate about the Christopher Emanuel case, and was nodding to myself while she was describing what happened to Mr. Emanuel. I stopped nodding when she made this statement:
“It’s not entirely unreasonable to give women this right, despite the awfulness of Emanuel’s dilemma. A major concern is that a man can impregnate a woman and then just disappear, making it impossible for the woman to give the baby up for adoption without the man’s say-so.”
I disagree for many reasons which I will try to explain below…
Being equal means just that, equal. It’s one thing to claim autonomy to make pregnancy decisions because it’s your body. But after the baby is born, she isn’t making decisions about her body, she’s making decisions about a child who has both a mother and father present. If someone wants to adopt their baby, then both parents need to be asked if they consent. No consent, no adoption.
That statement above painted a picture that tells me it’s okay to lie because: “a man can impregnate a woman and then just disappear, making it impossible for the woman to give the baby up for adoption without the man’s say-so” which tries to justify a women deliberately cutting the willing father out of his child’s life. You can’t have something both ways – either he “just disappeared” or he didn’t, rather he stood up and said I want to parent my child. There are no fuzzy lines here. That statement also indicates a certain societal acceptance that it’s okay if she lies about the relationship to make the father a non-father without his consent, because she chose adoption.
As to the last part of that statement “making it impossible for the woman to give the baby up for adoption without the man’s say-so.” A woman can choose adoption for her child if the father disappears and/or is unknown. Two different avenues are provided under law that make that statement factually incorrect:
One is called Safe Haven. This choice doesn’t allow her any say to choose the parents, be seen as that brave selfless mother who broke her heart giving her child a better life, or being able stay in her child’s life, or know the fate of the baby. It is a choice she can make under the law.
The other option is the regular adoption route. All 50 states have laws with clear processes to terminate the rights of an unknown father, or a known father who can’t be located, when the mother chooses adoption. The law spells out the process that state has determined as the correct route in minute detail. The problem, it might take a few months to advertise, a few more dollars, and apparently that’s not acceptable in this want it now (yesterday would be better) society. It seems to me that today’s society is comfortable with what is taking place to fathers, making them fight for months to contest the adoption of his child. Months where someone else is bonding with his baby, being the one’s to see all of his baby’s firsts, plus the father is spending thousands of dollars that should be being spent raising his child.
As to abusive partners that she speaks too later on, yes, I’m sure the abusive expectant father may try to give the mother monetary support as a way to stay in the picture. The expectant mother doesn’t have to accept the money, and yes, it might come down to the courts to determine the fitness of the father, and what rights he has preserved, but I don’t believe the law automatically grants him those rights unless he is either married to the mother, or has adjudicated paternity (feel free to correct me). None of that should sanction trying to cut a willing father out of his child’s life when there is no abuse, and the conception of their child happened during consensual sex.
That’s what happens when you make choices in life…
Final note to her last statement about defining what the definition of an involved father is – each state has already determined what is required to be considered an involved father in preserving his right to consent or contest an adoption, just look up the adoption laws for a particular state…
I welcome disagreements in the comments if I’m missing something here, it just didn’t sit right with me – so I’m talking about it…what say you?