human rights

Babies for Sale

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Think adoption is a non-profit service for children?   Think again.  If it was so charitable, it would be provided as a public service with no money changing hands.

Instead, adoption is a multi-billion-dollar industry.  Each transaction, each time money is given to an agency in exchange for an infant, a profit has been made, a human being has been bought.  And, usually by people who would recoil at the concept of human trafficking.  But if you can dress it up in euphemisms of “adoption services” and “adoption situations,” you can get away with treating babies as commodities.

Here are examples of price-lists for babies.   These are screen-captures of actual pages from business websites.  I am leaving out the business names to avoid legal hassles.  But just google “adoption situations” to find these and many more.

(Click on graphic to see full-sized image.)


And, gee, this one below even offers a great discount for African American babies — only $17,000!  These prices are not based on the needs of children — they are based on market demand.


And the mother gets a kick-back as well, under the euphemism  “living expenses” (although I would also classify “medical expenses” under this heading).

Want to compare how much profit is being made by these businesses? It cost me all of $200 to adopt-back my son.  This is because there was no business needing to make a profit on it.  Only the court paperwork.

In most other nations, it is illegal to sell children, it is considered to be human trafficking.  In Canada and the U.S., however, it is just considered to be business.  See Gerow’s article “Infant Adoption is Big Business in America” (PDF) for a good analysis of why this unregulated industry exists.

The United Nations has also expressed concern:

“During the course of 2002, the Special Rapporteur received many complaints relating to allegedly fraudulent adoption practices. Where such practices have the effect that the child becomes the object of a commercial transaction, the Special Rapporteur, like his predecessor, considers that such cases fall within the “sale” element of his mandate. The Special Rapporteur was shocked to learn of the plethora of human rights abuses which appear to permeate the adoption systems of many countries. The Special Rapporteur considers that the best environment for most children to grow up in is within a family, and the adoption by a parent or parents of a child who does not have a family able to look after him or her is a commendable and noble action. Regrettably, in many cases the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing needy parents with a child. As a result, a whole industry has grown, generating millions of dollars of revenue each year, seeking babies for adoption and charging prospective parents enormous fees to process the paperwork.” – from “Rights of the Child:  Report submitted by Mr. Juan Miguel Petit, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/92.  

Want to do something about it?  Write to your legislator and let them know that this is human trafficking and you are offended and appalled by it.  Ask them to pass laws to take the profit out of adoption, to prevent situations where money needs to change hands in order to provide a new home for a child.  Ask them to pass laws to protect unwed and new mothers from reproductive exploitation.  And,  if you are seeking to adopt, refuse to patronize these businesses.   Instead, look at alternatives where you are not paying in order to obtain a child.

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The Power of Words … and an Adoptee Rights Petition

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Sometimes my blog posts are inspired by conversations which occur on message boards, and this is one of them.  So, it is very possible that you have read the original conversation where this took place, and if so, then I apologize for the repetition.

This came from an online conversation about a recent “birthmother petition,” where an organization is requesting the signatures of natural mothers to support adoptee-rights.  Now, I believe wholeheartedly in open records, and that EVERYONE has the right to their original birth records, their family history, and the right to make contact with their lost family members if they choose (this means both ways!) … BUT, I also do not believe that it is the right thing to do to objectify a group of people in order to further the rights of a separate group, at the expense of the first.

So, in this conversation about this petition, several natural mothers such as myself stated that we would not be signing it.  Not that we do not support adoptee rights (we wholeheartedly DO! and the women discussing this have spent years of their lives actively working for open records), but because: (1)  being mothers still, we are not “birthmothers;” (2) we find it offensive, dehumanizing, and objectifying to be defined and labelled as “incubators;” and (3) we feel that the organization which sponsored this petition could just as easily have used the term which respects us:  “natural mother.” Even if it used both terms, that at least would show respect for all of us, those natural mothers who respect themselves as being mothers, and those who accept the adoption industry’s statement that we are no longer mothers.

So, this is my response to the person who defended the use of the term “birth mother” in the petition.   I sincerely respect her an an open records advocate, but I do feel that even if she does not feel that her own natural mother is a mother to her, that is her personal choice in her life, but it does not mean that this can be generalized to cover other mothers-of-adoption-loss without our consent.  And I do not give consent to be dehumanized.

” I am sorry to hear, xxxxxx, that your natural mother is nothing more than an incubator to you (yes, this is what she is reduced to if your adoptive mother is awarded the status of being your sole mother, it means that her only relevance/action as a mother in you life was to gestate and push you out), but the word dehumanizes and objectifies women as being nothing more than convenient uteri. Legislators also recognize and understand the term natural mother. They have for ages, as much currently-in-effect state and provincial legislation still uses that term.

”  I disagree with you that it is necessary to use this term with politicians. I have been involved in open records campaigns in 3 provinces, actively writing to politicians, creating websites that promote open records, and sending out bulletins to members of nonprofit organizations I belonged to in order to publicize open records campaigns and get members in involved in open records. I have never yet had to use the term ‘birthmother’ in any of these actions.

”  People have the right to not be objectified. The ‘birth terms’ objectify women. They were invented and defined by the adoption industry, which treated and treats us as livestock anyway:

‘… the tendency growing out of the demand for babies is to regard unmarried mothers as breeding machines…(by people intent) upon securing babies for quick adoptions.’ – Leontine Young, ‘Is Money Our Trouble?’ (paper presented at the Nationa…l Conference of Social Workers, Cleveland, 1953)

”  And, if one reduces a human being to an object, one can then treat them as voiceless, with rights, in need of protecting. The term ‘birthmother’ actually plays into supporting closed records legislation by defining us as having NO continuing love or connection with our lost child, and thus no interest in ‘reunion’ or being ‘found.’ And reunion IS the elephant on the dining room table when it comes to ‘adoptee rights’ and ‘open records.’

”  I have the right not to be defined as an non-mother, an incubator, etc. So do all other MOTHERS who have lost children to adoption. Thus the term natural mother, which recognizes and respects our continuing motherhood, is the one which is not derogatory or denigrating to us. Or you can call us mothers, or mothers of adoption loss. Or mothers separated from a child by adoption.

”  What is a natural mother? I am a mother by the laws of nature. The adoptive mother is the mother who was created by the laws of modern human society, pursuant to laws which began with the first child adoption law, invented in 1851 in Massachusetts. So, natural and socially-created. But the continuing love and blood-bond I have with my child, our sharing of genes, that I created him through the processes of Nature, all count towards me being a mother. (He also calls me Mom and I have adopted him back, but these are moot points). If laws and social-worker-procedures and the adoption industry had not been created to rip us apart, we would still have been together. My love for him never died, my connection with him that is just as strong as my connection and love for my other children. This is NOT saying that adoptive parents are unnatural. It is not a game of ‘Opposites,’ because if you say that this makes adoptive parents ‘unnatural’ then in the ‘Opposites Game’ the term ‘birthmother’ makes them into ‘deathmothers.’


Sometimes I feel that i beat this topic to death, and you, dear readers, are likely sick of hearing it. But why ask for my support in a way that treats me as less-than-human, that assumes that I do not have or want a family relationship with my son?   The issue this time is that we, as natural mothers, are being asked to further the interests of another group while ignoring our own interests (e.g. open records for natural parents as well), but we’re being asked as “incubators” do to so.

Meanwhile, please sign this petition, which has been active and on in the internet since 2000:

Mothers for Open Records Everywhere
(MORE)

The residential schools tragedy … there are just no words for it.

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(Note:  This post is not directly adoption related, but pertains to another issue close to my heart, the mistreatment of First Nations peoples in Canada)

The first “national event” of the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” regarding the First Nations residential schools tragedy is taking  place this week, with 4 days of hearings in Winnipeg.

There are no words to describe the magnitude of the horrors that occurred during the 150 years of the residential school system  (they were instituted in the 1840s, started winding down in the 1950s, and the last one only closed in 1996).

Some people who went to them talk about having “positive experiences,”  but the horror stories of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that took place in these “prisons for children” are overwhelming in number.   Not only were children forceably taken from their families and forbidden to speak their native languages, but it was all part of a “cultural genocide” which had the purpose of trying to “eliminate Canada’s Indian problem.”

I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed. They are a weird and waning race…ready to break out at any moment in savage dances; in wild and desperate orgies.” – Duncan Campbell Scott, Head of Indian Affairs, Canadian Government, 1920.

The researcher, activist and former minister Kevin Annett is a controversial figure, but no matter how you feel about him, I very much recommend his documentary “”UNREPENTANT: Kevin Annett and Canada’s Genocide” (January 2007). ”  on his site “Hidden From History: The Canadian Genocide — Telling the Untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

It went beyond abuse — to murder and the withholding of proper medical care.  At a time when tuberculosis was being successfully treated, some of these schools had a huge mortality rate.   John Milroy, author of A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, has data indicating that at it’s peak, from 24% to 42% of the children in some residential schools died of it.    This is quote from a small article in New Scientist (reprinted here)

” In 1907 Peter Bryce, a chief medical officer for the federal Department of Indian Affairs, recorded that 24 per cent of pupils at 15 schools had died of TB over 14 years. At one school, 63 per cent of the children died… Other documents show that officials knew death rates were high until the 1940s, Annett told New Scientist. They record children being admitted with active, contagious TB, with no quarantine or even ventilation in their rooms, the only ways to control TB before antibiotics. Former students say they slept in crowded dormitories with sick children, and were often hungry: hunger lowers immunity and exacerbates the spread of TB.”

But did news articles about a possible 28 mass graves found at residential schools ever made it into your local newspaper?  (The list of locations, as compiled by the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared Children is available here).  (Annett writes about it here).

But, just like with adoption, a child and a parent were separated, often against their will.  Sometimes parents talk about willingly sending the child to residential school as they thought it would help the child get a good education and good care.  Sometimes former residential school students speak about having had a good residential school experience.  But, just like with adoption, we must listen to the  stories of those who suffered at the hands of people in positions of trust and authority who forcibly separated families against their will, those who were abused, those who suffered trauma for which there may be no recovery.

And, to quote the dedication on the T&RC website,

“For the child taken.  For the parent left behind.”

Endnotes:

1)  Further reading: “‘Aggressive Assimilation’: A history of residential schools in Canada – FAQs on residential schools and compensation,” CBC News, June 14, 2010.

2)  The end of residential schools did not spell the end of the en masse removal of First Nations children from their families.  As they closed, the  “Sixties Scoop” began, lasting well into the 1980s.  For more information, see “Stolen Nation,” “Aboriginal Justice Inquiry – The Sixties Scoop,” “The Sixties Scoop: How Canada’s ‘Best Intentions’ Proved Catastrophic,” Native Children and the Child Welfare System by Patrick Johnston, and Stolen From Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities by Ernie Crey and Suzanne Fournier.

A Mothers’ Bill of Rights

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A Mothers’ Bill of Rights


Expecting? Considering adoption? The adoption agency may not have told you all your rights!

If you are considering surrendering your baby for adoption, remember that you are still the only mother that baby has until you have signed the surrender papers and until any revocation periods have passed (this varies from within 30 days of birth in British Columbia, to no revocation period at all in some states such as Florida and Illinois). Some adoption agencies publish “Birthmother Bills of Rights,” which invariably neglect to inform the “birthmother” that she has rights that every other mother takes for granted – including the right to change her mind.

This list below is provided so that expectant mothers considering adoption can take this to adoption agencies and potential adopters and ask right-off-the-bat if they’ll honour these rights. And if they refuse to, then mothers go to a different agency or different potential adopters that will. According to an article (“Love for Sale”) in Adoptive Families Magazine, there may be up to forty couples vying for every baby available, so there is no lack of choice if one couple says “no” to you. And in fact, the best parent for your baby may well be you!

As a mother, maybe being called a “birthmother,” these are your rights.

~ Your Rights as an Expectant and New Mother ~

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO:

  • … see your baby after he/she is born.
  • … choose to hold, nurse, and care for your baby in the hospital.
  • … decide if the potential adopters can be in the labour or delivery room, and the right to change your mind and ask them to leave at any time.
  • … have independent legal counsel (i.e not also representing the potential adopters, known as “dual-representation”) to explain the surrender papers and to be present when you sign them.
  • … choose to care for your baby without feeling pressured to decide about adoption within ANY certain time period.
  • … choose to take your baby home from the hospital if that is what you want to do.
  • … say “No” to adoption at any point before or after the birth without fear of hurting or disappointing the potential adopters.
  • … adequate financial support from the state which would enable you to keep and raise your baby.
  • … expect child support from the father of your baby, and take him to court for enforcement if this is not provided.
  • … be free of any monetary obligation, such as repaying living or medical expenses, should you choose to keep your baby (potential adopters can buy insurance to cover all costs if a mother changes her mind, it is a risk they knowingly take).
  • … choose to decide on adoption after recovering from birth and any post-partum depression.
  • … be treated as the mother and a parent of your baby until and unless papers are signed, and to be thus treated with the respect granted any other mother.
  • … be a mother. No matter if you’re unmarried, young, or financially strained, you still have the right to be a mother.

These rights come from the application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (at http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html), which since 1948 has guaranteed these protections to ALL citizens of the U.S., Canada and all other nations that signed it. Articles 12, 16 and 25 of the Declaration specifically guarantee protection and social support to mothers and families:

  • Article 12. – No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, FAMILY, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  • Article 16(3) – The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
  • Article 25(1) – Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Copyright © B. Lake 2004.  This article may be reprinted on other not-for-profit websites as long as it is reprinted in its entirety with copyright statement included.

Reprinted with Permission of the Author

Away from my blog for a while

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Hi!  I haven’t written any posts lately, and I apologize to my readers for the delay.  I’m spending every spare waking moment finishing off a large report for the clinic I volunteer for, as the final requirement for my practicum work term there.   And, following “Cedar’s Third Law” (or “Cedar’s First Law of Project Management”:)  “Every project will take twice as long as you originally estimate.” And, indeed, this one has.  So, wish me luck.  The finish line for my Masters degree is finally in sight … !

Meanwhile, as most of you know, I am a support and advocate for young mothers.  I want to share these two sites with you:

Promoting Respect for Young Mothers at http://prymface.yolasite.com

and Moms and Mentors Society at http://www.momsandmentors.ca

Maureen Hobbs, who coordinators Moms and Mentors, wrote an excellent Masters’ thesis for  her Nursing degree, written on how support for young mother can make so much difference for them.  (Frankly, this support is something that older mothers take for granted!).   On a discouraging note, I heard from another mother in Vancouver who spoke with the coordinator or a support group for young mothers — she said that young mothers are still openly insulted to their faces and yelled at  on Public transit in Vancouver — there is still a huge amount of stigma against a woman having a child during the first half of her most fertile years, the time when Nature intends us to give birth.

Human Rights, Motherhood, Reproductive Exploitation … and Adoption

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This is a post about human rights.   Rights that we all enjoy because, well, we are human beings and not tadpoles, buttercups, or granite slabs.  We are born human, and in a special position in the world even if we share most of our DNA with a host of other similar creatures.

Humans have the ability to commit both magnificent acts of good and terrible acts of evil.  In the mid-20th century, the world was recovering from a horrific world war and related events of genocide and destruction, which had ripped apart families and left much death and suffering in their wake.

A coalition of “civilized” nations swore that this evil should never happen again, and worked to create what became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations ion December 10, 1948.

Included in the Universal Declaration are rights that are belong inherently to all living human beings.  They include rights to dignity and equality, the right to be free from slavery, and the right to equal protection of the law.  Also included in the Universal Declaration are rights  that protect even the most vulnerable of our citizens  from systemic cruelty and exploitation.  Rights that our governments try to conveniently forget.

A mother and her child together are one of the  most precious and yet are often the most vulnerable families in any society.  Vulnerable, that is, because in some cultures, they are rendered without protection from external forces that work to separate them. In many patriarchal nations, a mother is often only certain that she will be able to keep her baby if:  (1) she is married and thus financially/socially protected by a man, or (2) she has sufficient status  in the employment market such that she can independently support her baby by herself.

Men and women are equal, but due to biology they are very different, an example being when two people of the opposite sex make love.  The man can walk away from his responsibility for any resulting child — he may not even know he is a father.  The woman cannot walk away.  She must deal with the consequences in a directly personal way.  During her pregnancy,  social sanctions limit not only her options, but stigmatize her into solutions that society either provides or withholds from her.  A baby is a part of her body for nine months, and that experience is one she can never walk away from.

To be a woman means the inherent capability (or implied capacity) to create and give birth to a child.

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone

Human rights factor into the experience of every woman who becomes pregnant.   Firstly, human rights are universal, guaranteed to all human beings.  Article 2 of the Universal Declaration states:

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Article 16 states:

“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” A mother and her child together is a family. There can be no doubt, and no argument, about this. They thus have the right to protection by society and the state.

But perhaps most explicit is Article 25, which states:

“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

This explicitly provides every family — every mother and her child — with the support and means required to keep them together, as a basic human right.   It also means that women have the right to social protection, the right to keep their children, without having to be the “social property” of a man  (did you know that until very recently, in many areas the birth certificates of the children of unmarried mothers were stamped “Illegitimate”?).   It means that marriage is not required to “legitimize” a woman fulfilling the natural function of her body, a natural function of being a woman:  giving birth to her child.  Marriage or at least a long-term parental commitment from both partners is indeed the ideal situation, but for many mothers it is just not feasible or possible.

This Declaration agreed to in 1948 protects all mothers and their children.  It provides mothers with rights such that no mother need be forced by poverty, coercion, or social pressure to surrender her baby for adoption. Every mother has the right to protection and social support for herself and her child as a family unit such that horrific trauma of surrender, the coerced separation from her infant,  is not inflicted upon her.

“Almost everyone believes that on some level, [mothers] made a choice to give their babies away. Here, I argue that adoption is rarely about mothers’ choices; it is, instead, about the abject choicelessness of some resourceless women.” (Solinger, 2001).

It is clear that if the basic human rights of ALL mothers were respected, protected, and codified into the laws of each nation, that there would be far fewer unnecessary adoptions.  Fewer families would be destroyed, fewer mothers would be forced to surrender their beloved infants, and the world would be a far more ethical and safe place for mothers who are giving birth — mothers left vulnerable to the  adoption industry because their human rights have been violated.

* * *

References:

  • “Elizabeth Stone Quotes” at http://thinkexist.com/quotes/elizabeth_stone
  • Solinger, R. (2001). Beggars and choosers – How the politics of choice shapes adoption, abortion, and welfare in the United States. New York: Hill & Wang.

Shortlink to this post:  http://wp.me/p9tLn-ei

Origins Canada – check it out! :)

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I’m absolutely thrilled to share a very special link with you, the new Origins Canada website:

Origins Canada: Supporting Those Separated by Adoption

http://www.originscanada.org/