"Birthmothers" Open Adoption Stories
   "Adoption practice works on the premise that, in order to save the child,
   one must first destroy its mother." - Dian Wellfare, founder of Origins Inc.

Domestic Infant Adoption Facts  
"Why BIRTHMOTHER Means BREEDER" by Diane Turski
 * Home
* * Disembabyment: How Our Babies Were Taken

Open Adoption = Open LIES!
|| The Industry || Damage to Mothers || Damage to Babies || Why Records Closed || FAQ

 * Voices From Exile
 * Speaking Out!
 * Young and Pregnant?
Keep Your Baby!
 * Living With Loss: Resources
 * Recommended Books
 * Webrings
 * Guestbook

dear birthmother letters


Married vs. "unmarried" - Pregnancy, Birth and Falling in Love with Your Baby


Dr. Christine Bachrach's Study:
How Pro-Adoption Organizations Twist the Facts

by Bernadette Wright, Ph.D.


To convince mothers to abandon their babies, adoption agencies and anti-abortion organizations often ignore the trauma experienced by mothers who lose their children and purport that they will be better off. Several pro-adoption organizations have relied on a 1986 study by Dr. Christine Bachrach of the National Center for Health Statistics* to support this claim. This article compares what pro-adoption organizations said about the Bachrach study with what the study actually says.

What They Said

Life Issues Institute, an anti-abortion organization that favors adoption, in an article repeated on CrisisPregnancy.com, said:

"...Let's recall a fine study out of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics by Dr. Christine Bachrach. The area that she reported on is how does the b****mother fare--the generous woman who placed her baby in the arms of adoptive parents--as compared to a single mother who keeps her baby?

"Well, Dr. Bachrach has good news for us. From her report, which is well documented, it is clear that the women who choose adoption do much better than those unmarried women who keep their babies. Let's look. Only 18% of women who choose adoption later live below the poverty line. In comparison, 40% of women who kept their babies live in poverty.

"Another way of looking at this is to ask how many were receiving some kind of public assistance. Here the difference is even greater. For those who opted for adoption, only 21% were on public assistance compared to 51% of those who kept their babies.

"How about Aid for Dependent Children (AFDC) - that's the big government program? What are the numbers here? They're almost startling! Of the single b**** mothers who were parenting their children, 36% were receiving AFDC compared to only 7% of the women who had placed their babies.

"Enough of finances. Let's look at some other parameters. Another measure of future stability and security is education. Who finished high school? 77% of those who placed their babies finished, while only 60% of the b**** mothers who kept their babies finished high school.

"What about the stability that marriage brings later - or certainly should? Does placing a child in an adoptive home help or hinder the b**** mother's chance for a later marriage? It helps, quite a bit. Of those who kept their children, only 50% married later. Of those who placed their children, 70% married later....

"Her data showed that both groups--those who chose adoption and those who did not--had an identical fertility rate of 59% later. "

The NAIC said:

"A 1982 study found that unmarried b****mothers who made adoption plans were more likely to continue their education, were more likely to marry subsequently, and were less likely to receive public assistance than b****mothers who chose to parent their child born out-of-wedlock. (Bachrach). (emphasis added)"

Why They Are Wrong

These interpretations of the Bachrach study are wrong for several reasons. First, in comparing unmarried mothers who kept the child of their first pregnancy with mothers who lost their first child, Bachrach reported both adjusted and unadjusted percentages (see table below). Both Life Issues Institute and NAIC used Bachrach's "unadjusted percentages" from the study, to exaggerate the differences in outcomes between mothers who surrendered their first child and unmarried mothers who kept the child of their first pregnancy. A more valid measure of the consequences of adoption is the "adjusted percentages." To understand the effects of adoption, it is important to control for factors other than adoption that may explain the differences between mothers who surrendered and those who kept their babies. The adjusted percentages in the study control for the effects of (1) time since pregnancy ended, (2) age at pregnancy, (3) father's education, (4) whether living with both parents at age 14, and (5) race.

Characteristic at Time of Interview Baby Kept by
Unmarried Mother
Unadjusted Percentage
Below poverty 40% 18%
Receiving any public assistance 51% 21%
Receiving AFDC 36% 7%
Completed high school 60% 77%
Ever married 51% 73%
Had another baby 59% 59%
Adjusted Percentage
Below poverty 35% 23%
Receiving any public assistance 45% 26%
Receiving AFDC 33% 10%
Completed high school 61% 80%
Ever married 54% 56%
Had another baby 61% 51%


The adjusted percentages suggest much smaller differences between mothers who surrendered and those who kept their children than Life Institute or NAIC would have us believe. For example, both organizations claimed that mothers who surrendered were more likely to get married. However, as Bachrach pointed out, no significant difference was found when the study adjusted for other factors that may have affected likelihood of getting married:

"Although the percentage who ever married and the percentage who had a subsequent birth differ considerably among the four pregnancy outcomes** before adjustment, after adjustment the differences are smaller and nonsignificant. The adjusted percentage ever married was virtually identical for all three groups who had not married by the time the pregnancy ended." (emphasis added)

Second, Life Institute noted that unmarried mothers who kept their children were more likely than mothers who lost their children to adoption to be receiving AFDC and said the differences were "startling." However, there is nothing "startling" about it. Using adjusted percentages, only 51 percent of mothers who surrendered had another baby. Because one must have a dependent child in order to qualify for AFDC, about half (49 percent) of the mothers who surrendered would not have been able to receive AFDC no matter how dire their financial condition. Thus, the lower rate of AFDC assistance among mothers who surrendered, half of whom never parented a child, should not be interpreted as evidence that they were better off financially. Also, it is important to be aware that the percentages "receiving any public assistance" include mothers receiving AFDC.

Third, Life Institute concluded that Bachrach's study was "good news" for people who spend their time attempting to separate mothers and their babies. Yet Bachrach's study in no way provides evidence that adoption causes any benefits for the mother. It is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. As Bachrach said, just because women who surrender their children were less likely to be in poverty and more likely to complete high school does not mean that surrending the child caused these differences. It is possible that both the decision to surrender and the later financial well-being of the mother were a result of other, unmeasured factors. To say that Bachrach's study provides evidence that adoption is somehow good for the mother is to draw conclusions that have no basis in the available evidence, conclusions that Bachrach herself cautioned the reader not to make:

" The associations between socioeconomic factors, such as a low percentage in poverty, and being either an adopted child or a mother who made an adoption plan require careful interpretation. Although there are ample grounds for expecting that adoption reduces the chances of poverty for the unmarried pregnant woman and her child, this study also suggests that socioeconomic factors, as reflected in race and father's education, may play an important role in the adoption decision. This could create an association between adoption and socioeconomic status even if there were no direct causal link. For example, to the extent that a woman's decision whether to place her child for adoption depends on her prospects for educational or occupational achievement (with which childrearing could conflict), her later economic status may reflect a continuation of the same economic conditions that influenced her decision rather than the effect of the decision per se." (emphasis added)

Fourth, even if mothers who surrendered were found to have higher incomes or more education because they surrendered, this would not mean that they "do much better" overall. Having more money or more education does not make up for the trauma and lifetime of emotional pain that losing one's child brings. It should be noted that the study was done in 1982, before any real awareness of negative consequences to mothers had made its way into the public consciousness. People didn't even consider the possibility.

In conclusion, this is a good example of how anti-abortion groups and adoption agencies will twist the facts and lie to get mothers to surrender their babies.

*Bachrach, Christine A. "Adoption Plans, Adopted Children, and Adoptive Mothers." Journal of Marriage and the Family, 48 (May 1986): 234-253.

**The study also included outcomes for mothers who were married and kept their babies and women who lost their pregnancy due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion.

© Bernadette Wright 2003.


(birth-) Mothers Exploited By Adoption
Site Copyright © 2003 First Mothers Action 
Legal Disclaimer