Changes in reproductive technology change the number of reproductions, that’s obvious enough. And so it is with this report about how the existence of IVF is reducing the number of adoptions. People who are now able – as their earlier counterparts were not (we can’t, for obvious reasons, call them their forbears) – to have children are less desirous of filling that hole in their lives by taking in other peoples’ children. This isn’t a great surprise to anyone who thinks about this for more than a moment.
But if we’re going to look at changes in reproductive technology changing the number of children who might need adoption we’ve got to look at all such changes, no? Contraception and abortion only having become commonplace in the last 50 years and what has happened to the number of children requiring adoption over that time period?
IVF has become so successful that the rate of adoptions has suffered, according to a top child advocate.
Nearly three in 10 women aged under 35 who undergo fertility treatment are successful – almost three times as many as when the process was developed in 1978.
Anthony Douglas, the chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), told The Daily Telegraph: “IVF used to be around 7% successful and now it’s around 30%.
“So as a choice, adoption is competing with lots of other ways of having children.”
The number of children in care has increased in England – the figure stood at 72,670 as of March 31 2017 – but the number of adoptions has fallen in recent years to 4,350 in 2017, down from 5,360 in 2015.
The demand for adoption has fallen – ceteris paribus – as a result of the increasing effectiveness of IVF. This wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who had read beyond page 3 of the standard Econ 101 book. Substitutes are indeed substitutes and demand for them decreases when the primary desire is more easily sated.
But, again for those who got beyond Page 3, changes in supply also matter. This is an interesting historical number:
1968 saw the peak number of adoptions in England and Wales – over 24,800.
That Abortion Act was when? Reliable non-barrier contraception became generally available when? Well, yes, quite. We’ve had a large change in that supply of children desiring to be adopted too, haven’t we? We’ve changed both supply and demand with our changes in technology – as usually happens of course.