In its court brief supporting abortion and Roe v. Wade, the National Women’s Law Center repeatedly cited the burden that motherhood puts in the way of equality and well-being. “Women with children,” the brief said, “face a ‘motherhood penalty’ of lower earnings.” Students raising children are more likely to drop out of college, too.
Other pro-Roe briefs also pointed to the difficulties of parenthood, especially for poor and single mothers.
These are serious problems, but do they really make the case the petitioners were trying to make — that abortion is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution? The court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey thought so, resting its ruling partly on these grounds. “Because motherhood has a dramatic impact on a woman's educational prospects, employment opportunities, and self-determination,” wrote Justice Harry Blackmun, “restrictive abortion laws deprive her of basic control over her life.”
The obvious counterargument here is that even in a state that outlaws abortion, nobody is forced to raise his or her biological children. Adoption, although it is a path riddled with emotional and psychological pitfalls, is always an option. Despite all its difficulties and flaws, the American adoption system is better today for birth mothers than it was in 1973, when Roe created the right to an abortion.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett brought up adoption in the oral arguments on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization last year, showing the holes in this specific argument in defense of abortion. The pro-abortion response to Barrett included this argument: “Pregnant people … may know, too, that their child may not find a home quickly. … And the question of whether and when a child is adopted at all is influenced by systemic racism.”
To that sort of claim, Justice Samuel Alito in his draft opinion pointed out that “a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home.” In other words, the difficulties and fears about putting up a child for adoption are smaller today than when Roe was decided.
In his footnote to justify this claim, Alito cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is commonly cited as an authority on this data. The footnote included a quotation from the CDC that uses economist-speak to explain why no mother should fear that her child will go unadopted: “Nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent.”
You can predict what ensued. Abortion defenders have gone nuts about the CDC wording Alito quoted.
BREAKING: In a brief re abortion, Supreme court Justices Amy Coney Barrett/Alito's Draft, said US needs a “domestic supply of infants” to meet needs of parents seeking to adopt — that those who would otherwise abort must be made to carry to term — giving children up for adoption.— Dr. Jack Brown (@DrGJackBrown) May 7, 2022
This is the literally the premise of The Handmaid’s Tale. I honestly didn’t think that the Right would use it as an instruction manual, but here we are, folks.— MΞGAN KΞLLΞY HALL (@MeganKelleyHall) May 7, 2022
Joy Reid at MSNBC put it this way: “Alito's reason for overturning Roe: decline in 'domestic supply of infants' for adoption.”
One liberal politics site wrote that “Justice Amy Coney Barrett Wants To Overturn Roe To Create A ‘Domestic Supply Of Infants’ For Adoption.”
This misleading reductive form of argument is very popular on the pro-choice side today. It goes like this:
Step 1: Make an invalid defense of Roe.
Step 2: Wait for a conservative to point out that this is not a valid defense of Roe.
Step 3: Claim that the conservative’s counterargument is his or her entire justification for opposing Roe.
They did this to Ross Douthat last week. One abortion defender asserted that some dudes benefit from abortion — we’ve long known about how pro-choice guys like consequence-free sex. Douthat replied that this assertion hardly seems generalizable.
Worth noting that in the 50 yrs since Roe, men have become less likely to find a spouse, less likely father kids or live with the kids they father, and less likely to participate in the workforce.https://t.co/OnMzkW80Hh— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) May 6, 2022
You can guess how the abortion fanatics responded on Twitter.
What he's really saying here is that women's oppression is necessary for men to thrive pic.twitter.com/Cs5ocoGKD2— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) May 6, 2022
It’s a variation on what I call “error trolling.” You could also call it “fallacy trolling” — make an invalid argument irrelevant to your larger claim so as to bait someone into critiquing it, then mock the critic for wading into the irrelevant turf. It’s a juvenile tactic, but expect to see a lot more of it as Roe is debated.