First of two parts
The Oscar-winning movie “Juno” is the story of a wisecracking teen who becomes pregnant and chooses adoption for her baby.
In real life, though, there are very few such teens, wisecracking or not.
The latest federal data show about 6,800 babies a year are relinquished at birth for adoption, a minuscule number out of nearly 3 million unwed pregnancies. Moreover, only white women place their babies for adoption. Since 1989, the number of black babies relinquished at birth has been statistically zero.
“We hoped we would see a ‘Juno’ effect, but it hasn’t happened,” said Teresa McDonough, who directs the adoption program at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.
Why is “Juno”-style adoption — an unwed mother places her newborn with a unrelated couple — so rare?
Legal abortion is part of the answer. Some 50 million pregnancies have been erased since the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
A new attitude about single motherhood is a factor too — what was once “no way” is now “OK.”
Adoption, meanwhile, has become unthinkable.
Infant adoption is a “barbaric” practice, said one of many anti-adoption Web sites. “With abortion, grief has closure. With adoption, the grief intensifies over time,” is a common warning.
Even young women who choose adoption, like Julia Thornton and Jessica O’Connor-Petts, find themselves explaining their decisions to friends or family.
“Some of my friends worried about how difficult it would be for me” to place my child for adoption, Ms. O’Connor-Petts said.
“There’s a stigma attached to adoption,” Ms. Thornton said.