Sneaking Off To Utah
Al-Jazeera had an interesting piece on adoption law in Utah, which is at least arguably unfair to fathers:
“You can lie. You can misrepresent. You can deceive, and that’s not a basis to overturn an otherwise-illegal adoption,” Hutchins said. “So a birth mother can lie to a birth father and say, ‘I’m not placing the child for adoption,’ or tell the birth father the baby died.”
A fraud immunity statute in Utah adoption legislation means that even if it is proven someone lied during an adoption, it cannot be overturned.
Hutchens believed Utah agencies tout pro-adoption policies to encourage single mothers-to-be to give birth and put their child up for adoption in the state, even offering to cover a variety of travel, accommodation and medical expenses. He also had a hunch that some agencies were helping expectant mothers hide the adoptions from the biological fathers. So Hutchins launched an undercover investigation into the practices of prominent adoption agencies in Salt Lake City. Women posed as expectant mothers and called agency representatives to inquire about adoption. They secretly taped the audio conversations.
Hutchens argues the recordings reveal agency representatives coaching women on strategies to exploit the law and put a child up for adoption, without getting the father’s consent.
There has been a substantial push to change the laws in Utah, which has apparently become a national destination for mothers who want to put their child up without the father’s consent.
On the one hand, I am extremely supportive of adoption as an alternative to abortion. Giving women more leeway rather than less, if it prevents the latter in favor of the former, has something to say for it. (This is also one of the reason I am not in favor of mandatory open adoption laws.)
In the alternative to women sneaking off to Utah, I would support women being able to sign off all parental rights and responsibilities to the father. It would be a right that men don’t have, but that’s a double standard I can live with. She carried the child to term, and did her part.
I wouldn’t exactly expect this to solve the issue, of course. I suspect a number of the women that do this sort of thing do it for some of the reasons given in the article: they want the child to have two parents. I also suspect that there may be a difference in mentality. A woman who gives her child up to some other couple is doing something selfless, while one who just signs it over to the father is being a deadbeat mom. That isn’t a fair characterization, but I’d imagine it’s how some women would feel.
To add to this, I also really don’t like the idea of reversing adoptions even when a father has been cheated. It can take the law a long time to work things through, which in this sort of case is unfortunate.
I had conflicted feelings about the merits of the Baby Veronica case, but one of the things that jumped out at me was how years after Veronica was born, they were still tearing through this with the child bouncing around from one home to the other pending the different results.
Not ideal, obviously.
This all creating a very strong message for men who don’t want to have children then lose them: don’t father a child to a woman you’re not married to. This is good advice regardless of adoption law, but unmarried fathers have far less in the way of rights than do married ones.
That is at once true, and also in victim-blame territory.
None of this excuses women who sneak off to Utah, or adoption agencies who encourage women to lie. Utah can and should change its laws to prevent such flagrant abuse. But to some extent, this is going to remain a biproduct of modern sexual mores, for better and worse.