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Buying & Selling Babies?
March 13, 2002 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Buying & Selling Babies? "The practice, which is widespread among private adoption facilitators, of charging prospective parents different fees depending on the race or ethnicity of the child they adopt is one that Hutcherson is fighting to change from his Redmond, Wash., church. The Antioch Bible Church has established its own adoption agency, and is lobbying state legislators to change Washington's laws. He said that besides putting a price on children, the practice discriminates against white babies and people who seek to adopt them — an issue he said has been overlooked because white people, particularly those who can afford the high adoption fees charged, are not used to considering themselves victims of discrimination."
posted by owillis (14 comments total)

 
I heard this guy on the local radio station here. He was quite convincing. The high fees, in general, are troublesome.
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 6:26 AM on March 13, 2002


"When it comes to adoption, America needs an enema and I'm hoping God made me the chocolate laxative," Hutcherson said.

Well put.
posted by lawtalkinguy at 6:36 AM on March 13, 2002


I can't wait to hear what some libertarians think about this. Personal freedom vs. Free-markets. It's the Clash of the Ideals.

I'm not trying to troll here...I really am interested in what people think about this. It seems to me, that in order to form a judgement for or against the current system, one would have to judge one ideal to be more important that the other.
posted by thewittyname at 7:07 AM on March 13, 2002


As my family adopted my brother (from Korea), I would have to say that the cost is only part of the problem.

Adoption law is so screwed up in this country that it is insanely difficult to adopt an American child, regardless of race, in this country. Perhaps white american babies cost more because most prospective adoptive parents are white americans, and want white children? That wasn't an issue for my family, but it probably is for many.

The reason adoption law is so screwed up is due to the law's ridiculous attachment to the biological parents 'rights.' A crack-head mother has way too many second chances with her children, so adoptive parents (and foster home parents seeking to adopt) have a horrible time trying to adopt American children. Horror stories abound, especially about foster parents taking care of a child for 3 years, about to adopt, and then some distant biological relative (with no ethical claim on the child except bloodline) swoops in and just takes the child.

This is probably the one area where I think it is utterly innappropriate to use a free market. That's why most adoption agencies are non-profit organizations. Of course, if our country can accept selling fetal baby parts, I dont see how morally selling an entire child is any worse.

And thewittyname, I don't really see how this is a clash of ideals, could you explain how exactly personal freedom and free markets collide on this issue?
posted by insomnyuk at 7:43 AM on March 13, 2002


an aquaintence of mine worked for years for an international adoption agency and i even travelled with her once to paraguay when i was in college -- it was very unsettling to see the lengths american parents would go to in search of a white child. *the* reason paraguay was a hot-bed of adoption was that the blood in paraguay is about as european as you're likely to find in a poor south american country. when women started taking downpayments on their unborn kids paraguay outlawed international adoption. the whole business though is shady, and i think it does all have to do with race.
posted by subpixel at 8:06 AM on March 13, 2002


Well...upholding a free market on this issue would perpetuate the monetary valuation placed on these children. Such is supply and demand. The pastor makes this point well in the article, when he talks about how he breeds and sells dogs and racehorses but that he could never breed and sell children for money.

The valuing of human life in monetary terms for the purpose of determining ownership (or legal guardianship), to me, devalues the personal freedom of the child. I can't imagine any adult consenting to undergo such a process, and I don't think that it is too much of a stretch to imagine that most children, once they are able to comprehind what is happeneing, would either. But the law allows it.

As humans, we have certain rights, and I think it is almost universally agreed upon that the buying and selling of humans violates a fundamental human right to personal freedom. This belief is enshrined in some of the most legal documents of the times, such as the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It's shameful that we allow this valuation and purchase of people just because they are young. This is not to say that adoption should be free to everyone, and that the process itself should be without cost. Just don't allow the market to decide the premium on human beings.
posted by thewittyname at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2002


thewitty, it is very, very arguable that this is "buying and selling" humans. Certainly in the United States, the children (once adoption is complete) have full and equal rights -- indeed, are considered members of the family for all legal purposes, including medical decisions and inheritance. They are not second-class human beings, which the articles you cited were intended to prevent.

When you look at the money as compensation for a pregnancy, the payments (at least for white babies) are in line for those paid to surrogate mothers to carry test-tube babies to term, for example. That kind of compensation nobody would argue with, but the same compensation for a woman who, oops, already conceived is suddenly 21st century slavery? That seems an incredible leap to make.

As for the race differentials, it's hard to imagine what this pastor thinks he is really going to change. Some babies will be more desirable than others. It would not be a crime for parents to seek a child who resembled themselves. And surely there will always also be a contingent of the market made up of Angelina and Billy Bobs, who adopt a child of a different race apparently out of some combination of desperation and liberal guilt.
posted by dhartung at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2002


I'm an adoptive parent. We had the best possible situation - the mother knew of us through a close mutual friend and actually selected us to be the parents. So there was no "finders fee" or whatever they call it.

However, adoption is a legal process. And for that you need lawyers, and even in our "perfect" situation it was expensive, around $30k altogether. Besides basic legal fees, there are a lot of motions to be filed (two different states in our case). Living and travel expenses. Medical and hospital costs. Counseling for the birth mother before and after.

While I don't think private adoption is ever going to be free, it is disgusting to think that these fees would vary solely based on the ethnicity of the child.

I know parents that adopted through the foster care system. This is much less expensive, the state pays for a high percentage of costs, and even provides insurance and other benefits.

insomnyuk, I agree there's too much legal weight put on the biological connections. Termination of parental rights is a large part of the expense and causes most of the delays and unsuccesful adoptions.
posted by groundhog at 10:08 AM on March 13, 2002


insomnyuk - Is there any evidence (outside Sen. Bob Smith, prolife.org, etc.) that people are selling fetal body parts? That bill really looks like an obvious strawman that was set up to placate pro-life voters. Do you think they actually transplant fetal brains?

Smith:"We must expose these dirty little secrets of the abortion industry to protect babies and their mothers from being exploited by money-hungry body part harvesters.”
posted by swell at 10:47 AM on March 13, 2002


it is very, very arguable that this is "buying and selling" humans

I don't think it is arguable in a strict sense (although you raise some very good points dhartung.) People pay money for a child. Money changes hands, and then the child does. This is a commercial transaction, buying and selling at its most basic.

I suppose the sticking point here, and this is where your good comments come into play, is how ethical this exchange of money is. Since I think that adoption is, in the end, a good thing, and since reality demands that something as complex as adoption requires immense cost (as groundhog points out) some money changing hands cannot be regarded as wrong.

However, adoption comes dangerously close to commodifying human infants, even in its most benign form. It is not a stretch for me to think of the adoption industry and nothing more than a marketplace for children, with these private adoption agencies as the "invisible hands." The ethical problems arise, as well as the abrogation of personal freedom and dignity, when value is placed directly on the infant, and that value is allowed to fluctuate due to supply and demand. Profiting off of this kind of behavior is even worse.

Paying for the facilitation of an adoption, by hiring lawyers to do the paperwork and doctors to do medical checks, etc, is not wrong because the money is not being used to value the child itself. The same with paying for professional counseling for the mother, or for any other care she needs because again, the money is not being used to value the child directly.
posted by thewittyname at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2002


Paying for the facilitation of an adoption, by hiring lawyers to do the paperwork and doctors to do medical checks, etc, is not wrong because the money is not being used to value the child itself.

I completely agree, and perhaps due to the complexity of the law and the difficulty in adopting white children, this is why costs for adopting them are higher.

insomnyuk - Is there any evidence (outside Sen. Bob Smith, prolife.org, etc.) that people are selling fetal body parts? That bill really looks like an obvious strawman that was set up to placate pro-life voters. Do you think they actually transplant fetal brains?

Transplant fetal brains? Que? That's not what anyone said. Fetal body part disposal is a big problem for abortion clinics, and some have resorted to using brokers to sell the waste, and these parts, while sometimes used in tissue transplants, are often used for research experiments.

What proof do I have? Well, only that of pro-life groups that have investigated the issue, most news outlets haven't touched anything this controversial. 20/20 did a show on it, and Congress investigated it (that's where the Bob Smith quote comes from), but nothing has happened. This discussion is probably better left for another thread.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:11 AM on March 13, 2002


People pay money for a child. Money changes hands, and then the child does. This is a commercial transaction, buying and selling at its most basic.

In our case, we were advised not to do anything that might be construed as a "payment" to the birth mother. She was not in the best financial situation, and we would have loved to give her some money or anything she needed as a gift - what a gift she gave us! - but we had limit it to a small token present.

There is a lot of room for abuse in the adoption process, and I've heard a lot of horror stories, but I believe that these are a very small minority.
posted by groundhog at 11:13 AM on March 13, 2002


Although I share the concerns expressed above about commodification and racial equality, it seems to me that there is one extremely important benefit of these costs that nobody has mentioned so far: the higher cost of adopting white babies means that more black babies will be adopted then would otherwise be the case. Thus, fewer black kids will wind up growing up in foster care or wherever else they put kids that don't get adopted. So, it's really a means/ends question.

Also, while i really don't know much about adoption, i get the impression at least that it controlled largely by gov't and non-profit agencies. It seems that this would at least blunt the worst tendencies of the market to commodify everything.

insomnyuk: I suspect that the legal process is difficult for the parents because the system is set up to facilitate the best interests of the kid, not the adoptive or natural parents. it seems that this is how it should be. I highly doubt that the system is set up to protect "crack-head mothers" as you so elegantly put it.

Finally, federal circuit judge and free-market guru Richard Posner has advocated the legalization of baby selling, claiming that it would better protect the interests of the child. I don't agree much with Posner, but he's always interesting to read.
posted by boltman at 12:39 PM on March 13, 2002


dhartung wrote: And surely there will always also be a contingent of the market made up of Angelina and Billy Bobs, who adopt a child of a different race apparently out of some combination of desperation and liberal guilt.

Whoa. That sounds overly pejorative. Perhaps such parents feel that it's the morally right thing to do to help parent children who have a lesser chance of finding a good home?

Doesn't sound so objectionable to me. Geez.
posted by beth at 9:48 PM on March 13, 2002


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