Is it ethical to cover birth mother expenses? The short answer is no. But in adoption, there isn’t really ever a short answer.
An expectant woman is not a birth mother until she places her child. That being said, if you are paying birth mother expenses, you are really paying the expense of an expectant woman under the assumption that she will place her child with you after birth. That relationship, at the very least, is presumptuous and applies some pressure to the situation on both ends.
No woman should place her child for purely financial reasons. If she is in need of housing, there are government resources that will help her with that. The same goes for medical care and food. Her pregnancy counselor should be helping her to get that assistance before adoption is even on the table.
Now, on to the grey areas: Nothing in adoption is ever simple and the situation you are in will be unique to you.
Example 1: The expectant woman you are matched with lives in another state. She would like to travel to your state to deliver the baby. The adoptive family could and probably should cover the short-term costs associated with this plan. However, the agency’s pregnancy counselors involved should be handling the planning with the expectant woman and all money transaction should take place through a third party.
Example 2: The expectant woman has insurance and all government assistance has been exhausted. A medical test pertaining to the pregnancy is required and not covered. The adoptive family could choose to pay that expense.
Example 3: The expectant woman may need to be on bed rest for an extended period of time, causing her to miss work and rendering her unable to make ends meet while likely not qualifying for government assistance. The potential adoptive family could ethically help with expenses.
Example 4: Building the relationship: In a lot of cases, the expectant woman is in some type of financial hardship. Meeting at a restaurant or a pizza place to hang out pre-birth a few times is another time the adoptive family should pick up the bill. At the very least, this woman is facing the hardest decision of her life and a dinner out to relax is nice for her. It’s an opportunity to get to know her child’s future parents.
To wrap this up, potential adoptive parents can choose to pay some expenses related to the pregnancy, child birth, or to further the long-term relationship. A potential adoptive family should not pay for all of the living expenses of an expectant woman with the assumption that she will place her child with them.