The Brilliant, Doomed Down Syndrome Adoption Registry

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Just what the abortion doctor ordered.

We’re finally edging toward the middle on abortion—an agreement that most people, pro- or anti-, want to see unwanted pregnancies decreased and abortions lessened. Weird political bedmates Sens. Ted Kennedy and Sam Brownback (yes, the creepy one) have co-sponsored a bill to create a national registry of those willing to adopt children identified as having severe genetics defects like Down syndrome.

Brilliant. Doomed, but brilliant.

Whenever I hear of zealots terrorizing women at abortion clinics, as they cynically implore these besieged women to let their children be adopted, my lip curls. I was equally offended watching women on TV, (and it was always women), vent their rage on Susan Smith for the murder of her children. Of course Smith shouldn’t have killed her kids (duh), but I was so enraged by the spectacle of a nation claiming they’d have loved and raised them for her instead that I checked: Unsurprisingly, there’s been no spike in adoptions, not even in Smith’s home town. Nor has the general stigma against adoption abated, though many Planned Parenthood Clinics are newly under siege. Hell, this ‘Christian’ nation doesn’t care enough to educate, feed, and offer medical care to our existing children, and we’re supposed to be believe people are ‘pro life’?

My prediction: This national registry will flop. Protesting outside of clinics is quite different from agreeing to raise a fundamentally disabled child, as birth parents are oh-so-blithely instructed to do on pain of hellfire.

This personal anger I feel towards our society’s low regard for children, women, and families goes back to my own childhood. Raised as a fire and brimstone Southern Baptist, I lived daily with the requirement to go out of one’s way to do God’s work: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and suffer the children. I bought all that, at least until I was old enough to realize that the clutch of buildings in our neighborhood, set way back from the street and surrounded by high walls, was an orphanage. I was flabbergasted to learn that there were children in the world without homes and families. So, logically, I asked the minister after church one Sunday why every family in the congregation didn’t adopt one of those kids so they wouldn’t be alone in the world. Nothing but embarrassed silence. That was the beginning of my disillusionment with public displays of one’s own morality and fitness to judge others. Fighting to have children born, without fighting to ensure that each has a decent start in life, is immoral. People may be pro-birth, but I’m still waiting to be shown that they’re actually pro-life.

But, go ahead: Make a liar out of me. I’ll admit I was wrong if anti-abortion crusaders gin up their ferocious lobby to get this bill passed and then fill up those registry slots in a hurry. I’ve always believed the anti-abortion crusade was more about controlling women and parading one’s own sense of self-righteousness than about ‘protecting’ women or ‘innocent life’. Now, we’ll see.

Nonetheless, kudos to Kennedy and (can’t believe I’m typing this) Brownback, for showing true leadership on this thorniest of issues.

This, my friends, is progress.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend