$500 not to have an abortion?

A Texas State Senator has been ridiculed for his proposal to pay women $500 if they show up at an abortion clinic, elect not to have an abortion, and then give the baby up for adoption.

Honestly, though, is it really such a bad idea? What if he left out the part about visiting an abortion clinic? Does it make sense to subsidize women who were going to give up babies for adoption? I think maybe it does. There are large numbers of parents who want to adopt, and a shortage of mothers willing to put healthy babies up for adoption. There are laws restricting what prospective adoptive parents can pay the birth mother. Providing a subsidy to birth mothers (perhaps conditioned on testing negative for drugs and doing a full set of prenatal hospital visits) sounds like a pretty sensible thing to do.

The part about visiting the abortion clinic is just a waste of time. Any woman who knew she was going to give her child up for adoption would have an incentive to make an appearance at the abortion clinic just to qualify under this guy’s law. So why not just scrap that part of it and debate whether we should be subsidizing women who give their babies up for adoption.

I find it amusing that one of the criticisms of the proposed law is as follows:

Heather Paffe, political director of Planned Parenthood of Texas, said Patrick’s proposal “is very cynical and insulting to women and their families.”

“It’s insulting to think women would make that kind of decision so easily,” she said.

It sounds to me like the crux of Heather Paffe’s argument is that $500 just isn’t a high enough price!


If this incentive would give pause and change the mind of 5 percent of those woman, that's 3,000 lives. That's almost as many people as we've lost in Iraq," Patrick said.

Just think of it as an 18 year replacement plan.


I wonder about issues of race. What is the current state of supply and demand in the adoption market for say, black children? Continuing with the hypothetical: what would be the consequences of this policy if an already saturated supply grew unmet by growth in demand? I would forecast some relatively dubious outcomes for these children.

And I assume you meant "...testing negative for drugs..."

Apologies if this idea is overly un-pc.



What If the proportion of womans that consider this proposal is greater enough to generate a baby boom? Sorry Steven, but I strongly disagree with you.

Sergio Guerra,


Clearly $500 is not enough to significantly offset the cost of raising the child. However, if you increased that amount, it would turn into a type of upfront welfare, where there would be little incentive to protect against unwanted pregnancies. I think the better approach is to continue educating young adults about the costs and consequences of raising a child, rather than paying them off.


There are also large numbers of unadopted children - particularly overseas. By offering a $500 incentive to adopt from overseas, you can:

1. Sidestep the inevitable ethical questions in subsidizing pregnancies.
2. Avoid the prospect of "professional childbearers".
3. Rescue potentially thousands of children from what would otherwise be an extremely unfortunate childhood.


jaiwithani - You bring up good points, but Dan Patrick, who has stated his intentions to ban abortions in Texas if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, only intends the bill to prevent abortions by incentivizing women to go through with their pregnancies and putting their children up for adoption. I doubt he is interested in promoting the interests of parents who are seeking children for adoption, or of children seeking homes.


Curious whatever happened to Levitt's thesis that abortion led to lower crime rates? lolz.

Is the upside of having more people being able to adopt offset by the higher crime rates that will likely (according to the thesis) come with the proposal? Or were considerations of crime completely set aside.



bunnyblaster, the effect of abortion of crime is still valid. But, if you had read Freakonomics, you would know that abortion is an extremely ineffecient way to reduce crime, not to mention the moral and ethical implications (of which there are many).


As it read in google reader, mothers were to test *positive* for drugs to get the money. I was going to leave a comment asking if that was correct. But, now I don't need to leave a comment because it reads *negative* here.


We don't need more children! We just need to look after the ones we've got properly. If we reduced the prison population in the USA, they would then be contributing economically and would probably make up the welfare shortfall.

There's more than enough babies in this world. We just need a better distribution model.


Why do all the great ideas come from Texas?

$500 at the front end and a "Wayne" divorce at the back end. Life is good here.


In about 2000 I read about a study that a student did on access to abortion vs. single parent support. Her assignment was just to do a study- she didn't have a particular opinion, she just wanted something to gather data on, and present a thesis.

What she found was that states in which it is more difficult to get an abortion (fewer clinics, waiting periods, parental consent, etc) also had lower government support for single moms who wanted to have a baby (welfare, food stamps, etc).

I wish I could find the paper...


It's a ridiculous issue, because market solutions aren't appropriate for every social problem. Why not offer a $5000 incentive for a woman who puts a white baby up for adoption, while offering only $500 for a black baby--the logic being that white babies are more likely to be adopted, and thus will be a lower welfare drag in the future, and more likely to eventually become productive tax-paying citizens? Obviously a problematic solution. Even Posner has backed away from the whole "selling babies" notion.


I wonder if this policy would lead to more late term abortions. I bet that most women make adoption/abortion decisions in the first trimester of pregnancy. Maybe at that point it could seem worth it to get $500 and go through the next 6+ months of pregnancy rather than pay the money out of pocket for an abortion. But what if a few months in they get put on bed rest and can't work? Then they're not only going through the well known discomforts of pregnancy, but they're also losing wages, and maybe their jobs. Suddenly $500 doesn't seem like a lot, so maybe women would back out.

Also, some children are more "adoptable" than others. To use a relatively uncontrovertial example, people are a lot less likely to adopt children with serious birth defects or mental retardation. Would the state reimburse mothers of these children too? What if these birth defects were discovered after the agreement to take $500 had been reached? Could the state be accused of discrimination if it didn't reimburse those mothers?



Ostensibly Dan Patrick just wants fewer abortions. He doesn't care whether those additional babies put up for adoption are ultimately adopted. "Adoptability" is not an issue he addresses, and he may or may not have had the foresight to consider the implications of a flood of extra newborns being put up for adoption.

The bill does state: "The department shall process each application for funds under this chapter to determine whether the woman is eligible." From the text of the bill, it seems like "eligibility" simply means Texas residency and US citizenship, but it's not entirely clear. I suppose there's room for interpretation, i.e. the mother of a baby with birth defects is ineligible. However, as dumb and insensitive as I think Patrick is, I doubt he'd be so crass as to make the $500 contingent on how adoptable the baby is.


Some here are questioning this proposal from the standpoint of what would we do with all the babies that don't get adopted. That only makes sense if you start from the premise that there aren't enough parents who are willing to adopt these babies.

Is that a fact?

From what I have heard, and those of you out there who have adopted are in a better position to comment, the current situation is that there are more parents who want to adopt newborns than there are newborns being put up for adoption in this country. By far. For every race. Even for babies born with birth defects or infected with HIV. That is why there are many in the USA who adopt from overseas -- it's simply to hard to find a newborn to adopt here.

The issue of adoption for older children is entirely different, where there are many more children in foster care etc. than there are parents who wish to adopt them.


Duh, that is EXACTLY her argument. $500 wouldn't even cover the extra food a pregnant woman ends up eating, never mind prenatal care, never mind compensation for the physical suffering and health risks involved in childbirth. It is a staggeringly, insultingly, mindbogglingly lowball offer and indicates an incredibly low value being placed on women's health and women's time by the idiot who proposed it. NO ONE's decision is going to be influenced by this, except possibly in the exact opposite direction to that which was presumably desired (think payments for blood donations, and multiply the degree of inconvenience and the inability of the payment to compensate for said inconvenience by about ten thousand.)


My Question is who is going to RAISE these children?

The system?

What is the current supply and demand for adoptions?


Meomaxy, my experience as an adoptive parent is similar to your description. There is a long line of prospective adoptive parents. Many turn overseas to avoid red tape and delays (of which there seems to be much more domestically than internationally).

I don't think there would be a problem finding eager parents. The one-time payment is a simplistic response, but may raise some important points.

Nolan Matthias

If this guy thinks that a woman who is considering having an abortion will change his mind for $500, he's got another thing coming. That's like the government handing out $5 fines for spitting, who cares! Why are they even wasting their time trying o pass a bill that has no chance of being effective. If they want it to work they had better up the ante.

Nolan M