This blog is part of the Family Equality Council’s Blog Adoption event, honoring National Adoption Month.
Domestic and international sources of law recognize the right to family, including the right to rear children. Similarly, the reproductive justice (RJ) framework stands for the idea that all individuals have the right to have children, not to have children, and to parent the children they have in a healthy and safe environment. However, proposed and current laws and policies assault access to contraception, abortion, sterilization, public benefits, and pregnancy-related healthcare services, all of which may be necessary for individuals and couples seeking to make the choices that are best for them and their families. LGBT individuals and couples who need these services face barriers to accessing them, and they also must confront laws that deny them the right to create the families that many of them desire.
Modern reproductive technologies, including in-vitro fertilization (IVF), as well as more long-standing practices, such as surrogacy, are available to LGBT individuals and couples who wish to start families. However, these options are out of reach for many, particularly given that same-sex couples, especially lesbian couples, are more likely to be poor than their heterosexual counterparts. IVF in the U.S. averages around $10,000 per treatment—an expense that is out of reach for many LGBT would-be parents. And surrogacy typically bears a price tag of $30,000 or more, as well as social controversy and legal difficulty (and, of course, potential legal costs) associated with enforcing surrogacy contracts in most states. Even the states that are relatively surrogacy contract-friendly often do not have laws that are LGBT-friendly, meaning that both intended parents are not automatically legal parents.
While adoption presents its own share of challenges—it, too, can be costly and it is not necessarily equally available to non-citizens—it also gives LGBT couples the chance to give forever homes to some of the hundreds of thousands of children in the child welfare system. But here, again, LGBT couples may face hurdles in bringing children into their families. Same-sex couples are banned from jointly adopting children in five states and the lack of treatment of this issue in the laws of another 28 states creates uncertainty for willing parents. Furthermore, the lack of relationship recognition for same-sex couples in many states may give them lower priority for adoption, giving preference to married couples and even disqualifying non-married cohabiting couples.
The child welfare system is far from perfect. Children of color are overrepresented in foster care: approximately one-fifth of children in foster care are Latino. Some undocumented parents lose their children due to the dysfunction of our system of immigration detention and removal. Poverty has an impact: it “…is the single best predictor of [the] allegations of abuse and neglect” that often land children in the child welfare system. Foster children are left without loving forever homes just because the willing parents are of the same sex.
The reproductive justice label often calls to mind images of women, particularly heterosexual women. However, one of the movement’s main tenets is that everyone should be able to make the choice to have—or not have—children and give meaningful effect to that choice, whether that means being able to access abortion services or adoption services. The right to family belongs to everyone, and the laws and policies in place do not allow LGBT couples the ability to realize it. Increasing the availability of same-sex adoption will help many childless LGBT wishful parents who want to have children, the estimated 2 million children being raised in LGBT families who want to have siblings (and, of course, their parents!), and the almost half-million children in foster care who want to have forever homes.
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health recognizes that LGBTQ liberation, health, and access to resources are important issues in the struggle for reproductive justice for all.