Babies as another commodity

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Are babies becoming just another commodity?  Laurie Penny argues yes.  Contradictorily we spend most of our lives trying not to have babies – just about the only medication we regularly take to change a healthy condition – and apparently the latter part of our fertile lives trying desperately to have one, at almost any cost in some cases.  And some are exploiting this situation.

Penny reports that:

In rural Nepal, where the going rate for a healthy orphan is US$6000 ($7449), about 600 children are missing... Between 2001 and 2007, hundreds of Nepali children with living parents were falsely listed as orphans and adopted by high-paying Western couples a world away... Nepal is not the only country where international conventions on the rights of children have been breached as unscrupulous middlemen trade toddlers like livestock to desperate Western couples.

Countries such as Ethiopia and Romania have been forced to either stop or highly regulate adoption in the past due to problems such as desperately poor parents selling their children. Andy Elvin of Children and Families Across Borders comments:

When people want something so very much, like a baby, the amount of money they are prepared to throw at it can be limitless.

I recently commented on falling numbers of domestic adoptions in Western countries.  For example, according to Child Youth and Family, in New Zealand the number of domestic adoptions has fallen 40 per cent in the last five years.  This means that couples who would like to adopt in their own countries are increasingly unable to do so due to very long waiting lists.  Part of the problem is also that people want to adopt babies not children – of which there are many in foster homes.

On this issue Penny comments:

In America, which is the biggest importer, if you like, there are 23,000 children in the foster system waiting for adoption, but most of them will be aged 5 to 16.  

Elvin, of Children and Families Across Borders, commentsthat:

There is an almost inexhaustible demand for very young children to adopt. People looking to adopt are generally looking to adopt children under the age of 3, and preferably under the age of 1. That's your essential problem.

China has had the highest number of inter-country adoptions in 2009, with 5078 Chinese babies leaving the country.  Russia adopted out 4039 and Ethiopia 4564. 

I have no doubt that the majority of Western couples who adopt from overseas are trying to do a good thing – and it is a good thing for both parent and child generally.  It certainly isn’t an easy thing to do, given the attachment problems that many children have after being in orphanages and less than loving environments for the early months or years of their lives. 

However, as genetic research moves towards a designer baby mentality and infertility problems rise in the West, we must be cautious that we don’t let babies be seen as anything less than a gift of life and a precious child – not a commodity for amoral businessmen to make money from.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | Adoption, International

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Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive humans will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions. 

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