Consequences For Foster Care Should Roe Be Overturned

On May 2nd, Politico published a leaked first draft opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito, writing for a majority, in regards to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. This case concerns Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. In the draft, Justice Alito writes “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” which would overturn federal constitutional provisions regarding abortion rights. 

In the days since the leak, Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s suggestion of ADOPTION as a simple alternative to ABORTION:

Quote by Amy Coney Barrett stating, "“… both Roe and Casey emphasize the burdens of parenting, and insofar as you and many of your amici focus on the ways in which forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities, it’s also focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy. Why don’t the safe-haven laws take care of that problem?”

For those unfamiliar, safe-haven laws are statutes that allow a parent to anonymously leave their child at a police station, hospital, or fire station so that the child becomes a ward of the state and placed in the foster care system.

What Justice Barrett and many others may not realize is that our child protective services, as well as foster care and adoption agencies, are OVER-BURDENED as it is.

In 2019, it was estimated over 420,000 children were in foster care. For the same year, the CDC reported nearly 630,000 abortions were performed. 

Within a single year, the foster care system would have more than doubled in size if Justice Barrett’s suggestion was followed through. This places a heavy burden and unnecessary burden on an already fragile foster care system, forcing it to become a stop-gap for larger holes in our legislation and policies.

Our experience in abuse and negligence cases tells us that should Roe be overturned there will be:

  • More than doubling the population of the foster care system.
  • Increased home violence because parents in poverty have more stress upon them.
  • More negligence, and thus eventually more crime when you consider that 40% of the children who age out of foster care wind up dead, homeless, and or in prison within three years.

Foster care is not a dumping ground for an “unwanted” child; it is a system that is supposed to provide safe and stable homes to children who need it. Often, the courts try to provide guidelines for the family of origin to meet in order for the child to be returned to them in time. Justice Barrett’s comments suggest a lack of fully understanding the purpose and intentions of child welfare services.

Foster care has helped find homes for a number of youth, but it is far from a perfect system with many having found themselves hurt by it. Caseworkers are often overburdened, so to ask them to take on so much additional work is both irresponsible and negligent. We cannot ask them to become the answer to larger issues.

Across several polls, the leading reasons for why women choose abortion are:

  • Lacking financial ability to provide for a child.
  • A new child would interfere with education or career plans, or disrupt the ability to care for existing children.
  • Not wanting to be a single mother, or facing other relationship concerns.

If one wants to advocate for the life inside the womb, they must also advocate for the quality of one’s life outside of it. We must all advocate for policies and legislation that give all people what they need to be able to support their families–increased wages, affordable housing, access to healthcare, extended maternity leave and pay. And that’s just the start.

So, rather than asking if safe-haven laws can just pick up the slack, perhaps what should be asked is how we can make systems that are supportive for a quality livelihood for all women? 

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