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Equal Rights for Fathers?
Fathers have begun resisting the tactics of private adoption agencies, which broker incentives to women for giving up their children at birth. The rights of birth mothers, wealthy potential adoptive parents, natural fathers, and the profits of the adoption industry are at odds. As members of a democracy, as human beings, it is time for us to understand what is at stake in these on-going heart wrenching dramas.
If—as a society, as a country—we believe in equal rights and equal laws for men and women, and if we believe in the legal right for a woman to relinquish her rights to her unborn or newly born child to the potential adoptive parents of her choosing; to have those potential adoptive parents present at the birth of her child; and to allow those potential adoptive parents to leave the hospital with that child without any notification to the putative father, nor any need for him to legally provide his consent nor to formally and voluntarily give up his rights to the child, then we must, under the idea of equal laws for men and women, also believe that a putative father has the right to relinquish his rights to his unborn or newly born child to the potential adoptive parents of his choosing; to have those potential adoptive parents present at the birth of his child; and to allow those potential adoptive parents to leave the hospital with that child without any notification to the mother, nor any need for her to legally provide her consent, nor to formally and voluntarily give up her rights to the child. Think about it. Fair is fair. Equality under the law is what we believe in, is it not?
Logistically it would be easier for a woman, who has an inkling that a man might have this in mind, to avoid the outcome than it is for a man to avoid having his fatherhood thwarted under current law. As we know, the unborn child is carried in the mother’s womb and if she suspected the man’s intentions, she could remove herself from his influence secretly and use an assumed name. Now, however, when a woman (and the private adoption industry) is perpetrating a similar and often successful scenario against a man, he is most often a helpless victim with little recourse under the law.
If a man were to perpetrate this sort of scenario against a woman, he would need a vast network of collaborators and supporting laws. However, if we should decide to give men equal opportunity, here in our country, to be able to perpetrate the same legal scenario against mothers that women, and the private adoption industry, now have the ability to perpetrate against men, I believe that the very lucrative private adoption industry would rise to the occasion and build the network of infrastructure, laws, and support systems to allow this to happen. In fact, it is the private adoption industry that finances the support systems and lobbies for the laws that now allow this scenario to be perpetrated against men.
I am not actually suggesting that we put this ugly shoe on both feet. I am not suggesting that we give men the same rights to arrange for the termination of the mother’s parental rights as women (and the adoption industry) now have to arrange for termination of the father’s rights. I am not suggesting that at all. What I am suggesting is that we change our thinking about the very powerful, lucrative adoption industry and the laws that have been passed to protect the incomes created by trafficking in children.
These laws have been passed at the expense of the rights of men, of putative fathers, of natural fathers who long for their children. I believe that men and women should have equal rights under the law. They should have equal rights to parent their children and equal rights to voluntarily terminate their parental rights. But I do not believe that men or women should have the right to arrange for the termination of the other parent’s rights; at least not without a fair hearing into that person’s fitness to parent or to have visitation, whether that visitation is deemed to best be supervised or unsupervised. I believe that all natural parents have a natural right to parent their natural children, to the extent that they are able and prepared to do so. And I believe we, as human beings, should do everything we can to support these rights. Because the alternative delegates children to the category of products that can be bought and sold; this, figuratively, is exactly what fuels the economy of the private adoption industry.
Just say no to unequal laws. Just say no to child trafficking.
No adoption should ever be considered until both parents have been identified and have had adequate time and support to consider for themselves whether they wish to seek custody or visitation or to voluntarily give up their rights to the child. Before any child is ever adopted by strangers, every effort should be made to find a suitable adoptive parent from within the child’s family, community, culture, or tribe, or the child’s or his or her parent’s religious group, as is already provided for—and largely ignored—by many state laws.
Let’s put our heads together and do what we can to make father’s rights equal to mother’s rights under the law.
Retired Family Specialist & ECE Program Administrator
Photo courtesy of photographer Tracy Dunaway--Father & Son, Kenneth & Robert Wulff.