For a political party that's long toted an "Adoption, Not Abortion" mantra, a couple of changes in the GOP's newly released tax reform plan may actually discourage families from adopting.
Under the current law, families who adopt qualify for a one-time adoption tax credit of up to $13,570 per eligible child, which can be applied over the course of five years. These credits are available to families pursuing private, domestic adoptions, international adoptions, and adoptions through foster care—all of which can be pretty costly. (Private adoptions range from $5,000 to $40,000, while intercountry adoptions generally start around $15,000.)
Republicans, however, want to eliminate that tax credit altogether. "If passed," writes John Kelly in an explainer for The Chronicle of Social Change, "it will be harder and more expensive for American families to adopt. For the children in the United States waiting to be adopted and brought into a loving home – the current proposal as it stands will make that much tougher to do."
According to the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group, 73,951 families have taken advantage of the tax credit. Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, told the Washington Post he expects that there will be fewer adoptions if families can't access this tax benefit.
Shilpa Phadke is the senior director of the Women's Initiative at the Center for American Progress. She tells Broadly that the tax cut legislation is "really a ticking time bomb for the middle class and families that are struggling" and that passing this bill as is would make it harder for families to consider adoption.
"When we talk about the party that's pro-life," she says, "it seems to be incredibly hypocritical to be … repealing something like the adoption tax credit. What is this going to mean for families on the ground? I think it's a punch to middle-class families. At the end of the day, it's going to be more expensive to adopt kids."
"To suggest that women should carry those babies to term and then give them up for adoption, as if there's no impact or costs for women—it really gets in the way of choices that a woman should be able to make freely between her and her doctor."
What makes the proposed adoption tax credit cut even more frustrating for women's rights advocates is the fact that political and religious conservatives have repeatedly suggested women who wish to terminate instead turn to adoption as a means of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. This, coupled with repeated attacks on reproductive rights—just earlier this week, House Republicans held a hearing on a bill that would ban abortion at six weeks—leaves many advocates to wonder what options are available for women who get pregnant and don't want to be a mother.
Lawmakers "get in the way of women's bodily autonomy at every chance they get," Phadke says. "To suggest that women should carry those babies to term and then give them up for adoption, as if there's no impact or costs for women—it really gets in the way of choices that a woman should be able to make freely between her and her doctor."
"If Congress really wanted to help families," Phadke continues, "they would reject these policies and support more investment in families and education and not cut some basic living standards, like health care and food and housing. That doesn't seem pro-family to me."
On a related note, Phadke points out, the GOP tax plan does include language about "unborn" children. The provision clarifies that a "child in utero" may be "treated as a designated beneficiary or an individual under section 529 plans," which are tax-savings plans designed for saving up for college. "It's insane that [this language] found its way into the tax bill," she says. "The question I would have for the Trump administration and for the anti-women members in Congress is, does that mean families can claim those unborn children as dependents and reduce their tax burden? I think the answer is no, but I'd be curious."