Sunday, November 23, 2008

Response to Heidi Saxton

Response To Heidi Saxton's Adoption Story

I appreciate Heidi Saxton’s interest in learning, hearing and hopefully understanding varying positions regarding adoption, despite having been barraged with responses to what felt to many of us as having been clumped under a negative “anti-adoption” umbrella. I am very encouraged to read her words: “It can be tempting to generalize about the motivations and agendas of others, and dismiss their beliefs out of hand – especially when their ideas about adoption conflict with your own.”

And so, believing in her sincerity in that statement, the dialogue continues with my response to her second article, which was far too lengthy to post as a comment, so here goes…

Saxton begins: “The fact that I am not myself adopted or a birthmother, to some people, means that I have no right to suggest that adoption is in many cases a better option for birthmothers than attempting to raise a child without the resources to do it properly.”

It is not because of who Heidi Saxton is, though it may in part be because of her life experience and her expressing herself through a filter of her interpretation Catholic doctrine, a view of adoption not accepted by all Catholics.

Whatever the root, it is the statement itself that is troubling to me: “without the resources.” Saxton begins with this and again, near the end of a lengthy article which then becomes a book review, she concludes:
“The unmarried couple who takes responsibility for their actions and puts the needs of their child first — whether that means marrying so they can raise the child together, making an adoption plan, or making sure one parent (usually the mother) has the long-term resources she needs to parent — should be supported in their efforts to plan for her child’s future. Inexperienced and overwhelmed birth parents may need help to gather the information they need to make informed decisions.”

“Making sure one parent (usually the mother) has the long-term resources she needs to parent.” In fact, Saxton mentions knowing of single mothers who are doing just fine, because they have ample resources and support. This raises the following questions:

- If someone lacks the resources, does that make them unfit to parent?
- Is it the sole responsibility of “the unmarried couple” to ensure the necessary resources?
- What is the moral choice of each of us as individuals and as a society as large to those who lack resources to raise their own families?
- Should babies be removed from those who lack the resources and given to others who have more?
- Why not “fix” the lack of resources issue and help the budding family remain intact?
- If a marriage – which Saxton considers sacrosanct – is floundering, do we suggest divorce, or provide resources for the couple such as counseling?

No one could disagree with Saxton’s belief that: “all things being equal — a child thrives best when he can remain with a biological parent.” Do we not as loving “Christians” or just good moral human beings and as a society have an obligation to make all things as equal as possible? Like providing day care even for those not able to afford nannies or private nursery school?

If Saxton is saying that after providing all support, options and resources a mother is still unable or unwilling to safely care for her child, then alternative care is needed…then we are on the same page. However, what she says is: “When a parent is unable or unwilling to provide this kind of environment, as a society we must tend to the needs of the children. For some, this means supporting birth parents that need assistance; for others, this means opening our homes to children whose parents cannot or will not provide the kind of environment these children need.”

So, indeed, it is a CHOICE whether to offer support to a struggling mother or not. WWJD?? Save the baby and flush the mother or try to save both? Quite the conundrum!

Is Marriage a Vital “Resource”?

In a comment to her former article on CE, I called Saxton biased. It was edited out, with a scolding note from the editor of the site. I did not, however, use the word biased to imply prejudice necessarily. I used it to mean “a particular tendency or inclination”, a leaning or mind-set. Clearly Saxton believes that it is the legal status of marriage – not just a man and a woman and certainly two people of the same gender – that is necessary to raise a child. This represents, IMO, a clear bias for marriage and against unmarried couples.

Saxton’s belief system assumes that raising a child is, and always has been, the realm of the legally married man and a woman; a “principle” she states “upon which every civilization has been built since the beginning of time.” Saxton is apparently unaware of matriarchal societies, or Israel’s kibbutzim and other societies in which the entire community takes responsibility for all of its children.

No one among us would argue that it is not extremely difficult for one person all alone, without any support from community or family to care for a child and no one should ever have to do so in such isolation and desperate conditions, despite the pro-adoptionists and baby brokers who paint that very grim picture to expectant mothers compared to a rosy, “perfect” – or at least “better” - alternative all wrapped in a white picket fence with a dog in the yard.

But, if we place all our eggs in the marriage basket as the be-all and end-all criterion for raising a child, what do we say about the 50% divorce rate? With that 50/50 chance of any marriage lasting throughout a child’s youth, not to mention parents who die, does it really matter that much if the child is born into wedded bliss which terminates, or if a marriage occurs a bit later on and is an influencing and positive force in the child’s life, providing necessary stability? Or, if the necessary resources are provided by sources other than a legal spouse? Interestingly, one of Saxton’s sisters lost a child even after being married. For her, as for many women, marriage is not such a protection after all, is it? Reuben Pannor, as well as Adam Pertman and other adoption experts have addressed the fact that married women also lose children to adoption and as the economy worsens we will see a growth in this population surrendering. I suggest Saxton check out:

It gets very hairy for Saxton when she attempts to “explain” parenthetically: “In the case of single adoptive parents, the child enjoys the loving attentions of someone who has chosen to parent, though it is always in the child’s best interest to have a loving mother and father.” Does this mean to imply that a single mother who births a child cannot also provide “loving attention”??? Isn’t what really meant is that it is ok if you can provide enough material “advantages” alone?

Having laid out the groundwork about needing “resources” – Saxton then turns her argument from the practical dollar-and-cents issues of raising children to the legal and moral issues. There three possibilities: One is that Saxton is concerned about single mothers being a drain on tax payers; two, is that she is concerned about the “sin” of unmarried sex, or; she truly believes that children need both a mother and a father and that this is not possible without legal marriage.


“[W]omen are often unfairly judged regardless of the choices they make regarding an unplanned pregnancy. Women who choose to put a baby up for adoption have their maternal instincts questioned and women who carry an unplanned pregnancy to full term when unmarried or financially insecure are often labeled irresponsible. In our culture…women are too often and too readily judged. Our efforts should not be to judge women. Rather, our goal should be to support women.”

Is Saxton unfairly being judged? She seems to think so. Is she unfairly judging others with anti-adoption labels and such? I call it as I see it and feel and Saxton’s firm belief in marriage feels judgmental to me. I appreciate that she makes “no apologies for speaking from a faith-based perspective” and begins her arguments with: “Christians who believe that…” In so doing, however, one then must accept that their opinions are based on a narrow belief system and are thus going to be viewed as being judgmental by those of us outside that belief system.

Perhaps because Saxton is writing for a Catholic blog, there is an assumption that the audience all start from that same position. Perhaps then, the blog should require a registration that questions one belief system, but it does not. It is an open forum on the Internet discussing a topic – adoption – that crosses and surpasses all religious belief and dogma. It is being read and commented to by those with a variety of moral beliefs. And, in fact – as Saxton recognizes – even within and among Christians there are differences and she thus does not speak for or represent the beliefs of all Christians – just herself.

Saxton mentions that one of the reasons her parents chose another couple over her to raise heir grandchild was because she was a catholic as “opposed to” a Christian (apparently her parents had some biases). Yet, despite knowing that dome people feel this way, Saxton professes to speak, not just for Catholics, but to be able to present
a “Christian” perspective”?

Jesus himself made a big point of honoring prostitutes. Why do you suppose that is so? And when he used the term “widow” it referred – at the time – to any woman raising a child without a husband. Christians, like mothers who have lost children to adoption, are not entirely homogeneous in their beliefs.

Mistakes? Puzzles?

Saxton is puzzled why it is “that when birth mothers acknowledge that it was a mistake to get pregnant, and go on to choose adoption, they are often commended as ‘courageous’ (and rightfully so). … However, anyone else who says that it is a ‘mistake’ (or ‘wrong’) for unmarried women to get pregnant, or that adoption is a better option for those who are unable to parent, is branded ‘judgmental’ and ‘naïve’.”

I suggest Saxton remember her own words: “one size does not fit all.” SOME mothers may feel their pregnancy was a “mistake.” Many believe the only “mistake” and regret lies not with being human and being sexual, but with not being able to fight harder to keep their family together despite the pressured placed upon them to do the “courageous” and “right” thing and thus lose their child forever.

When you come to understand that women lose children to adoption for a variety of reasons and come from all walks of life and all different life circumstances prior to that one occurrence, you understand that not all deal with the loss in the same way, because they do not share one set of beliefs, thoughts, values, strengths, weaknesses, or emotional reactions to their loss. One person often changes their coping mechanisms around the traumatic loss over their lifetime.

Many are in denial. Some are stuck forever in justifying that what they did was right and go one to adopt others’ children or in some way live to prove the righteousness of their ‘decision.” Others are vehemently anti-adoption and live their life focused on ending the unnecessary, unwarranted separations of mothers and their babies. And, likely, the vast majority sway back and forth in their emotions and beliefs, or are somewhat neutral most, or all, of the time.


If Saxton is saying that after providing all support, options and resources a mother is still unable or unwilling to safely care for her child, then alternative care is needed…then we are on the same page.

Why did Saxton, who states that reunification with one’s family is good, feel the need to pray for and label as “callous” someone believing it a lovely thing to have both mothers at one’s wedding?

“All of us — from birth to natural death — can only do our best to live according to the light we’ve been given.” Amen. And as Saxton also said: “a child thrives best when he can remain with a biological parent.”


Jack said...


Thank you for your well thought out and cogent response to Ms. Saxton's articles.

As you suggested, I did offer to write a rebuttal to her first article but received a message that she was going to "make revisions" in a second article and that my name would be passed on to her as a resource. To date, I have not been contacted by Ms. Saxton.

I do not profess to be an expert on adoption and certainly have no experience being pregnant, giving birth, or having to make the decision whether to abort the fetus or deliver the child much less whether I can parent the child or should relinquish it to adoption. Yet as an adoptee, the father of three adopted sons, and one who has had his consciousness raised by many women who were coerced into relinquishing their child to adoption, I find it disquieting that Ms.Saxton has chosen not to contact me.

This brings me to the matter of her religious bias. As Ms. Sexton obviously accepts the Catholic Church's Magisterial teaching regarding human sexuality, the sanctity of marriage, and that the Catholic Church's position is therefore the only valid one regarding the ethics and morality of the above, I could understand her reluctance to contact me if I was not a Catholic. However, in the CV I provided it clearly states that I am a Catholic priest and in addition have been raised to the dignity of Monsignor.

However, I also included that I am a life member of Bastard Nation and believe that predicated on Matthew 25:31-46, known in Catholic theology as the summation of Jesus' ethical and moral teaching, that it is the God given right of every human being to know their family of origin and heritage.

Perhaps from these two statements Ms. Saxton believes that I reject Catholic teaching on human sexuality and the sanctity of marriage; moreover, that I reject the Catholic Church's premise that raising children in a family defined as a man and woman joined together in marriage is not only the best way to raise a children but is the only way ordained by Natural Law.

If Ms Sexton holds this belief she is correct. However, not to contact me because my beliefs are not sanctioned by the Church and therefore by definition are oppositional to it, is bias predicated solely on her religious beliefs. If this is the case, than Ms. Saxton and what she writes have no credibility outside of the context of Roman Catholicism and Roman Catholic media.

Thus the problem with Ms. Saxton's articles is not that she writes from the perspective of Catholic theology and dogma; more importantly, only the "orthodox" version of theology and dogma taught by the Magesterium, but that she does not admit to doing so and consequently takes the bully pulpit that her Catholic biases are not simply normative but are the only authentic conclusions to be drawn from consideration of the topic.

It is this very bias on the part of Catholics who accept the teaching of the Magesterium as absolute in matters of human sexuality as well as the Catholic Church's belief that it has the right to use the public square and political process to make its Magisterial teaching on human sexuality the law of the land, that demands America rebuild the wall of separation between church and state the Founding Fathers felt so strongly about they enshrined it in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

AdoptAuthor said...


Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you post the majority of it on the CE site as a comment. let all CE readers know these facts and how you are not being allowed equal time to express a different position, despite your impeccable credentials in this area and for the venue.

CE readers are being fed very slanted and opinionated "information" presented as fact. It is an injustice and an insult to their intelligence not to be given all sides of a multi-faceted issue such as this.

The saddest part of all, that iI didn't address is that all of these pro-life Christians are being fooled by the NCFA and ultimately baby brokers to help increase the supply and keep them in business. keep the babies coming - keep the dollars flowing. The NCFA spreads lies and many good intentioned people believe it unquestioningly.

You are aware, I am sure that the NCFA is in bed with the religious rght. if not, please read:

Third Mom said...

Mirah, great post. You are kinder to Ms. Saxton than I could have been, I found her post on Catholic Exchange to be incredibly frustrating. There was one paragraph in particular tha contained about half a dozen debunked stereotypes - one single paragraph! Yet she apparently is perceived across the internet as both an expert on adoption and the pro-life movement. I posted a comment and blogged my thoughts today.

Thanks also for the heads up about John Sweeley and Tom Brosnan. I've long thought I'm the only Catholic who thinks as I do, and the possibility that two Catholics might be openly sharing a similar opinion makes me positively giddy with joy. Plus, who is Jack? He would be a third!!

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