In a footnote of a draft opinion on abortion access, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito quoted from a 2008 government report on the demand for adoption in the U.S., which used the phrase, “domestic supply of infants.” Posts on social media critical of the opinion have misleadingly suggested that Alito himself came up with the phrase.
A widely shared version of that claim says, “Justice Alito’s concern over the ‘domestic supply of infants’ proves it’s not about the morality of abortion. It’s about rich, barren white people having lots of fresh babies to choose from.”
But the phrase isn’t actually Alito’s. It appeared in a footnote to the opinion and was a direct quote from a 2008 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC report examined the prevalence and demand for adoption in the U.S. using data from a 2002 survey.
The portion quoted in the footnote to Alito’s opinion said (emphasis ours): “… nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent.”
In the CDC report, that sentence appeared in the conclusion. Earlier on, the report had explained that the adoption of infants by people unrelated to them serves two purposes — it provides the child with a home and provides the couple or individual with a child. The number of those adoptions — as opposed to adoptions within a family, for example, when a stepparent adopts a step-child — is a matter of supply and demand, the report said, explaining, it is “governed by the number of children available for adoption (supply) and the number of individuals and couples seeking children to adopt (demand).”
In the decades preceding the report, societal changes led to a decrease in the number of children available for adoption, it said. First, unmarried pregnant women of all ages increasingly chose to keep and raise their babies. Second, the teen birthrate began declining after 1970 and, “[s]ince teenage mothers historically were most likely to relinquish their infants for adoption, this has had a significant effect on the number of infants available for adoption,” the report said.
It did not mention the role abortion may have played in the number of babies offered for adoption, but it’s worth noting that Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The last change listed in the report was the passage of legislation that gave preference for adoption to relatives of the child.
Those who can afford it have the option to adopt internationally, the report said, “partially offsetting the decline in the number of infants relinquished at birth and available domestically to be adopted.” It cited figures that showed international adoptions doubled between 1990 and 2002.
In two paragraphs on pages 33 and 34 of the recent draft opinion for the Supreme Court, Alito presented arguments made by “[d]efenders of Roe and Casey” and “countervailing arguments” he attributed to “Americans who believe that abortion should be restricted.”
The sixth of seven antiabortion arguments asserted: “a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home.” The footnote supporting that argument cited the CDC report and provided the quote that included the phrase, “domestic supply of infants.”
Alito then writes: “Both sides make important policy arguments, but supporters of Roe and Casey must show that this Court has the authority to weigh those arguments and decide how abortion may be regulated in the States. They have failed to make that showing, and we thus return the power to weigh those arguments to the people and their elected representatives.”
So, it’s true that the phrase appeared in Alito’s draft opinion, but he didn’t write it himself. He was citing a 2008 report on the demand for adoption in the U.S.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Roe v. Wade. No. 70-18. U.S. Supreme Court. 22 Jan 1973.
Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Biden Hasn’t ‘Stopped Abortion,’ Contrary to Social Media Claim.” FactCheck.org. 6 May 2022.
Gerstein, Josh and Alexander Ward. “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows.” Politico. Updated 3 May 2022.
Jones, Jo. “Adoption experiences of women and men, and demand for children to adopt by women ages 18-44 in the United States; data from the National Survey of Family Growth.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aug 2008.