Category Archives: adoption

Japanese Abortion

As I explained in the previous post, I had the opportunity to interview employees of Bare Hope adoption agency here in Japan, and they shared with me a great deal of information regarding Japanese adoption and its closely related issue, Japanese abortion. My previous post was on adoption, and this post will focus on abortion. Again, if there are any flaws or misinformation in my post, the fault is mine.

In Japan, abortion has been legal since 1949, earlier than any other industrialized country. Because of this, Japan was once a site of medical tourism specifically in the area of abortion. The birth control pill was only finally legalized in Japan in 1999 (partly due to pressure from abortion doctors not to legalize it and thereby potentially reduce their incomes), but most Japanese prefer to use condoms due to the side effects and cost of the pill. In recent years, Japan has conducted about 300,000 abortions per year; however, in the most recent year for which I could find data, 2012, there were approximately 200,000 reported abortions. It is legally permitted up to the 24th week of pregnancy*.

The interviewees explained to me that in reality, there are a great many abortions not reported for various reasons. The primary reason they discussed was abortions conducted after the legal limit. Because it is not only illegal to perform an abortion after 24 weeks, but also to purchase an abortion after 24 weeks, all involved (the doctor performing it, the hospital hosting it, and the couple seeking it) are legally at risk. Therefore, should something go wrong, the woman wouldn’t dream of suing the doctor or hospital, even in cases of ridiculously blatant malpractice, because she would have to confess to committing a crime in order to do so. In other words, unethical physicians whose entire income is from abortions may frequently conduct illegal abortions because it translates to money with extremely little risk of reprisal because neither the hospital nor the woman and her family would report him for seriously damaging or even almost or actually killing her.

There’s also a significant economic impact. Prior to entering nursing school, I was required to watch an older (I think 1990s) PBS documentary on medical systems around the world. Though it attempted to portray the various systems with equal weight and without bias, it was very obviously, even from the beginning before any information had been shared, biased in favor of socialized medicine. Interestingly, it discussed Japan in a positive light, even though Japan’s system isn’t technically socialized medicine. In Japan, the government sets price controls on medical services rendered so that people can better afford their care; insurance companies also exist in Japan and, thanks to price controls, their premiums tend to be lower than those in America, to the truth of which I can now personally attest. However, these government price controls are so strict that a great many doctors go out of business because they simply cannot afford to work with such little pay, especially when they have business overhead and student loans to pay for. The end result is not enough doctors in Japan to care for the population (though, to be fair, the population is shrinking and growing older, so these physician-to-patient dynamics may change for better or for worse).

Where this relates to abortion is in the cost of maternity care. The Bare Hope interviewees told me that abortion costs much more than live birth**, so most hospitals cannot afford their overhead without abortion. In other words, they will very definitely go out of business if they do not perform abortions. Furthermore, illegal abortions cost significantly more than legal abortions—again, with no risk of getting sued by the family should something go wrong or should the doctor and/or hospital engage in ethically questionable financial practices such as hidden fees—and so the ultimate effect of illegal abortions is to result in obscene financial gains for the doctor and hospital and potentially a great number of women harmed and even killed or nearly killed with no legal recourse for the woman or her family.

In the U.S., the majority of abortions occurring after 24 weeks gestation are for convenience, according to the late Dr. George Tiller’s own figures, with less than 10% due to disabilities or medical conditions incompatible with life. I’ve read that those Japanese babies illegally aborted after 24 weeks are primarily disabled and majority capable of surviving outside the womb, but it’s impossible to know for certain since reporting of illegal abortions is obviously nil. The #1 reason for legal abortion is that the parents are not married. Many of the parents seeking an abortion for disability—specifically, Down Syndrome—come first to Bare Hope saying that they will give birth and place the baby for adoption rather than aborting if the adoption agency can ensure the child will be adopted. Obviously, Bare Hope can’t make such a promise, and so many babies who would otherwise be born alive and potentially placed with a loving family are instead aborted. For this reason (and for other reasons discussed in the last post), Bare Hope is seeking a partnership with a U.S. adoption agency that specializes in placing Down Syndrome babies. If you have any information on this, please let me or Bare Hope know!



*At this stage, the child has a beating heart, brain waves, fingerprints, all vital organs in place, and a personality, and is capable of feeling pain. There is at least a 50% chance of surviving outside the womb if born at this stage. Abortion at this stage is more dangerous to the mother than live birth.

**I honestly don’t know how much of that is due to price controls and how much is due to the 5-day postpartum stay in Japan as compared to the typical 24-hour stay for vaginal births in the U.S.


Japanese Adoption

I had the opportunity to ask numerous questions of employees at a Japanese adoption agency, Bare Hope. They talked a lot about both adoption and its closely related issue, abortion. Here are some of the facts of adoption in Japan; I will present Japanese abortion in the next post. If there are mistakes or misinformation in either post, the fault is mine.

The Hague Convention (1993) set certain standards for international adoptions. However, although about 90 countries signed on to the Hague Convention (including the U.S.), many have not (including Japan). It’s not illegal for parents from a Hague country to adopt from a non-Hague country. However, according to another interviewee who recently adopted from Japan, U.S. law specifically prohibits it. In other words, it is allegedly no longer possible for a U.S. resident to adopt from Japan. However, when I attempted to verify this online, I found this page on the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website regarding the process for adopting from a non-Hague country; nowhere does it say it is prohibited.

Japanese law used to require adoptive parents to live in Japan for a certain length of time before adopting, but no longer does. In other words, should a couple who are U.S. residents wish to adopt a Japanese child, they could technically begin the adoption process immediately without first moving to Japan. However, it still takes about 2 years to get a visa approval. In other words, a U.S. citizen may travel to Japan, adopt a child in Japan, and apply for the child to get U.S. citizenship, but it will generally take 2 years for the citizenship to be approved, during which time you have to stay in Japan. So while technically you don’t have to wait to adopt, you do have to wait to bring your adopted child home. Nevertheless, Japanese law requires Japanese adoption agencies to give preference to Japanese potential parents (resident or non-resident, but preferably resident) for adoptions.

Japan has various means of caring for orphans. Of the two primary means, one is baby- or child-institution and the other is foster care. Japanese law requires children in foster care to be adopted within 6 months in order to encourage workers to ensure these children get adopted. Unfortunately, the law says nothing about institutions. Similarly to how it works in the U.S. with foster caseworkers*, Japanese institutions get paid according to the number of children they care for and are not given any incentive whatsoever to get the kids adopted. Naturally, they usually make the truly economical choice: not to place their children for adoption. For example, last year, out of thousands of children in dozens of baby- and child-institutions in Tokyo, only two were adopted. Once a child enters an institution, it’s virtually impossible to get them out. Organizations like Bare Hope are trying very hard to get the law changed in this area. Bare Hope also tries to get to potential adoptive parents before the state does, because the state will convince the family that the best place for the baby or child is in a baby- or child-institution–where, of course, the child stays until majority age because adoption out of institutions is so rare–whereas Bare Hope and other adoption agencies will try to get the child adopted as quickly as possible.

The exception to most of the rules on Japanese adoption is Down Syndrome. Bare Hope employees told me that people will much more readily adopt a child with severe physical health issues than a baby with Down Syndrome**, so the country will basically approve the adoption of a Down Syndrome baby to non-Japanese foreign residents as soon as you can put the paperwork in front of them to sign. The employees I spoke with asked whether I knew of any U.S. adoption agencies that specialize in Down Syndrome adoptions and I promised I’d ask. So far, I’ve gotten only one response (the same which incorrectly stated that it’s impossible due to an alleged U.S. ban on non-Hague adoptions), so I’m still looking for Down Syndrome adoption agencies. If you have any information, please oblige.



*Note that I’m not talking about foster parents, who generally have absolutely no control over whether a child in their care is adopted. When the foster parents are the potential adoptive parents, they may have some tiny amount of influence, but that’s it. Most of the influence is held by caseworkers, which is why organizations like Fatherheart (Texas) will occasionally hire a lawyer to act on behalf of the child and take the case to court to approve an adoption without requiring the caseworker to actually do any work on the adoption process. Note also that I’m not saying all caseworkers are evil. Far from it. They fill a very important and desperately needed role. But when there is no incentive to work harder than you are currently working, few people will. As a result, in spite of huge waiting lists and so many people desperate to adopt, kids in foster care most often are not adopted, except by their foster parents.

**This is because Down Syndrome can be so unpredictable. If you adopt a child with a genetic disorder, the doctors can tell you exactly what sort of complications to expect, what the child’s life expectancy is, etc. However, with Down Syndrome, the child may be anywhere from so functional you almost can’t tell they have Down Syndrome to so severely handicapped that the farthest they ever progress is to the intelligence-equivalent of a 4-year-old. Furthermore, many Down Syndrome children have health issues as well and their life expectancy varies considerably depending on their health issues. Many adoptive parents will opt for the child whose future they can somewhat anticipate over the child whose future is so uncertain. Unfortunately, this means it’s virtually impossible to get Down Syndrome babies or children adopted, especially in Japan. The interviewee told me several very sad stories of parents calling in a panic saying, “Our baby was just born today and he has Down Syndrome. We already told our family he died. Can you get him adopted today?”

Adoption is Next to Godliness, Part 3 (Conclusion)

I spent the last two posts talking about adoption because buyers “adopt” the Schaabling Shire Shoppe Amigurumi Pets. I briefly discussed the six instances of adoption in the Bible (Moses, the unnamed woman, Esther, Jesus, Timothy, and Christians). In two (Moses and the unnamed woman), the birthmother instigated the adoption because she had to in order to save the child’s life. In one (Esther), the child was adopted by a close relative because her parents had died. In all five stories except that of Esther, the mother ultimately raised the child with the assistance of the adoptive parent(s). Furthermore, in the book of Isaiah, when God talks about being a Father to the Israelites, He compares himself to a birthmother who forgets her child (Isa. 49:15). All of this gives the impression that no good woman would place her child with an adoptive family if she could help it.

On the other hand, the word God uses to describe His adoption of Christians is huiothesia, which means taking a stranger into your home, calling him/her your child, and imparting to him/her all the rights and responsibilities a child. Granted, the Christian makes the choice to enter into an adoptive relationship with God, but the fact remains that God likens His adoption of Christians to calling an unrelated person your child and giving that adopted child all of a biological child’s rights and responsibilities. Obviously, then, adopting a child is godly.

But what of placing your own child with an adoptive family? Like abortion, this particular topic is not directly addressed by the Bible, and so we must dig deeper into the basic Biblical precepts.

Love. God teaches us that love is the penultimate (Rom. 13:8-10, 1 or. 13:1-3); that we must love so completely that we will give completely of ourselves (John 15:13, Eph. 5:25, Rom. 5:8, John 3:16); and that true love involves action, not just emotion (1John 3:18).

Selflessness. God clearly teaches that we should put others ahead of ourselves (Php. 2:3-4; Gal. 5:14; 1Thess. 5:15; Prov. 17:13).

Love is Selflessness—or, as the Bible puts it (1Cor. 13:5), love “seeketh not her own” (KJV), “is not self-seeking” (NIV), “does not insist on its own way” (RSV).

There are myriad ill effects of single-parenting on children. For example:

“children who grow up with a single parent [either because of divorce or] because they were born out of wedlock are more likely than children living with continuously married parents to experience a variety of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral problems. Specifically, compared with children who grow up in stable, two-parent families, children born outside marriage reach adulthood with less education, earn less income, have lower occupational status, are more likely to be idle (that is, not employed and not in school), are more likely to have a nonmarital birth (among daughters), have more troubled marriages, experience higher rates of divorce, and report more symptoms of depression.”

Thus, not only is it the ultimate emotional sacrifice for a birthmother to place her child with an adoptive family, it is also, in many cases, the most selfless and loving thing she can do. After this research in Scripture and science, I stand by my firm belief that the birthmother’s sacrifice of placing her child with loving, adoptive parents is the larger, more selfless—and perhaps even more loving—sacrifice than the sacrifice of adoptive parents.


Jaa, matane!

P.S. Please do not misunderstand me. This is not meant to diminish the incredible work of adoptive parents!

Adoption is Next to Godliness, Part 2

Last week, I published part 1 of a piece on adoption since the Schaabling Shire Shoppe Amigurumi Pets come with adoption cards and it seemed fitting. I discussed the first two of six Biblical adoption stories, Moses and an unnamed woman. In both situations, the mother offered to place her child with an adoptive mother in order to save his life.

Among three of the other four examples of adoption in Scripture: Esther was genuinely orphaned (i.e., both of her parents died) and adopted by a close family member; Jesus remained with His mother Mary but was adopted by her husband Joseph; and Timothy was raised by his mother and grandmother and adopted by the Apostle Paul as an adult. In other words, the only one not raised by his/her mother—Esther—was adopted only because her mother had died.

Finally, the Apostle Paul tells us that God adopts us. This probably comes as no surprise since most people like to say that we’re all children of God. In fact, this is often used as an argument against Christians. However, what does the Bible say about God’s adoption of us?

“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:12-17)

Both Galatians 4:1-7 and Ephesians 1:3-6 also refer to God adopting us as His sons through Christ, using the same Greek word. The Greek word originally used in these passages is huiothesia, which appears only five times in Scripture—all five written by Paul—but which, as determined from other extra-Biblical ancient manuscripts, we know to mean “the accepting of a stranger and establishing him as one’s own son and imposing on him all the rights and obligations of sonship.” (1)

So in other words, when we choose to follow God through Christ, God adopts us through the Holy Spirit. However, this is a choice on the part of the adoptive child, not just on the part of the parent. This is dissimilar to traditional adoption today, in which, generally speaking, the birthmother or the government places the child in a foster or an adoptive home.

Conclusion next week!


Jaa, matane!

Adoption is Next to Godliness, Part 1

At a loss for what to write next, I asked my mom, who suggested writing on the topic of adoption, since buyers “adopt” the Schaabling Shire Shoppe Amigurumi Pets when they purchase them. In fact, the Pet comes with a miniature Adoption Booklet, as discussed in a previous blog post. It just so happens that adoption is something I feel strongly about, so I decided that was a good idea! However, I began to do some research and just became confused. Allow me to explain, illustrating with six Biblical tales of adoption (Moses, an unnamed woman, Esther, Jesus, Timothy, and Christians).

I’ve always understood adoption to be the ultimate, selfless sacrifice on the part of the birth mother. The adoptive parents certainly make some sacrifices as well; however, I believed then, and still believe now, that it is a much larger, much more selfless sacrifice on the part of the birth mother. In researching adoption, I found this quote:

“Adoption, unfortunately, is seen as the most ‘evil’ of the three options, (abortion, motherhood, adoption)… A woman desperately wants a sense of resolution to her crisis, and in her mind, adoption leaves the situation the most unresolved… This study suggests that in pitting adoption against abortion, adoption will be the hands-down loser.”

This makes sense to me. How many times have we—especially those of us volunteering in pregnancy centers—heard a young woman say she would rather have an abortion than “give up my baby”? This seems so counterintuitive. For example, Moses was adopted by the Egyptian princess only because his birthmother was faced with the threat of his death (Ex. 1:16, 22) and giving him to the Egyptian princess saved his life. Similarly, when two women came to King Solomon with a disagreement over to which woman the living child belonged as opposed to the dead child, and Solomon ordered the child cut in two and one half given to each woman, the natural mother cried out in protest, offering the child to the other woman in order to save his life (I Kings 3:16-28).

So in two of the six Biblical tales of adoption, the birthmother gave her child to an adoptive family only to save his life. Isaiah tells how Israel claimed God had forsaken her, saying, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? [….]” (Isa. 49:15a) It seems impossible, given the previous examples of adoption. However, as God responds, “Yea, they [the mothers] may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Certain birthmothers forget” or “give up” their children, but God acts as “A Father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5) and adopts the forgotten and forsaken (Ps. 27:10).

To be continued…


Jaa, matane!