Promoting Adoption: A No-Lose Proposition

Nearly a million American couples are disappointed every year in their search for a child to adopt. Willing and able to provide loving homes, some of these couples have found themselves unable to have children of their own. Others wish to share their lives and homes with another child. Every one of them could nurture and give a good upbringing to any youngster fortunate enough to get them for parents.

Unfortunately, only 50,000 domestic adoptions of unrelated children occur each year in the United States, according to National Council for Adoption data. That means that only 5 percent of American couples willing and able to open their hearts and homes to a child who needs them are able to do so.

We are saddened by these figures, particularly when we reflect that, while good homes are going unfilled, only 4 percent of women with unplanned pregnancies in America choose adoption as an option.

No matter where you stand on abortion, you probably agree that adoption, in and of itself, is a good thing.

We are convinced that every American would like to see more children welcomed into good homes. We're certain that hundreds of thousands of empty homes could be filled with adopted children if birth-mothers were fully aware of their options.

That is why we have introduced the Adoption Promotion Awareness Act in the Senate. This legislation, expected to be voted on this year, will provide the means necessary to educate women regarding adoption, and in so doing, provide real alternatives to women with unplanned pregnancies.

Far too many women simply have not been made aware of the real character of the adoption process. The only facts they do know stem from exceptional cases and sensationalized media accounts of failed, complicated, or legally flawed adoptions. As a result, very few women facing decisions regarding unplanned pregnancy seriously consider placing their child up for adoption. A greater awareness of the laws, procedures, and options involved will lead mothers to choose adoption more often.

This is not mere speculation. It is supported by the facts. For example, Michigan's private adoption agencies report that 21 percent of birth mothers seen for services decide to release their children for adoption. Studies have shown that women are more likely to choose adoption when clear, positive information is provided concerning that option.

Each one of us, whether pro-life or pro-choice, should be working to reduce the number of abortions that occur each year. This legislation will achieve that goal by empowering expectant mothers through full information regarding all their options.

If we truly are committed to making every child a wanted child, it is our duty to see to it that pregnant women know that there are couples out there who would love to care for their children.

Our legislation provides for a board - with members appointed by the president, the Senate majority leader, and the Speaker of the House - to propose a detailed education program for the secretary of Health and Human Services to approve. The program would provide $25 million in grants to be used for adoption promotion and would require recipient organizations to contribute $25 million of in-kind donations. This $50 million would allow for a thorough, nationwide information campaign.

Grants would fund print, radio, television, and billboard public service announcements, and the development and distribution of brochures regarding adoption through federally funded women's health and family-planning clinics. Thus, women would have access to accurate and clear information on adoption at a crucial point in their pregnancies. The campaign would also help raise awareness about the importance of adoption.

Our program would be funded in the same way as the newly funded education campaign at the president's Office of National Drug Control Policy. This campaign will use about $175 million annually to purchase high-quality media exposure for powerful, hard-hitting antidrug advertising aimed at teens and parents. For every federal dollar spent on these advertisements, media companies will be asked to donate matching support, producing a $350 million drug-education program.

If we consider it worthwhile to get the message out to our kids that drugs will ruin their lives, surely we will find it worthwhile to inform women facing troubled pregnancies that, by choosing to put their children up for adoption, they can offer them a loving home and a fulfilling life.

* Spencer Abraham is a Republican senator from Michigan. Mary Landrieu is a Democratic senator from Louisiana.

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