political power

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.

Adoption and Feminism

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This post was inspired by the  article  “Adoption as a Feminist Issue,”  and is expanded from a comment I posted there.

The awareness of adoption as a feminist issue, as a women’s issue,  goes back decades.  Feminism as a movement is concerned about the exploitation and oppression of women. It speaks out against the violence and abuses which are perpetrated against women because they are women.   Reproductive exploitation is thus a feminist issue.  And reproductive exploitation is the basis of the adoption industry.

In her landmark book Death by Adoption (Cicada Press, 1979) feminist policy analyst Joss Shawyer states:

“Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage. The crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned.”

(I would also like to recommend Shawyer’s article “Adoption ‘Choice’ is a Feminist Issue.”)

And, in 1986,  Celeste Newbough wrote the landmark article “Adoption, Surrogate Motherhood and Reproductive Exploitation” in the feminist quarterly Matrix: for She of the New Aeon.

Shawyer’s quote, to me, sums up adoption.  Along with the statistics that show that the majority of women who surrender babies to adoption do so against their will.  These are babies they love and want to keep, but there is a thriving industry that currently sells newborns for $25,000 and more.  See some sample price-lists for newborns.     Just google “adoption situations” to find many more.

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.   It is easy to exploit a woman if you deny her the supports she needs in order to keep her baby, and then convince her that she is undeserving of her child and that surrender is “heroic, noble, and selfless.”  It is even easier if you get her to meet people who are eager to adopt her child, who she may then “fall in love with,” and who she then won’t be able to bear to disappoint by “changing her mind” and keeping her baby.   Coercion takes many forms.

How is it not a feminist issue when women are being harvested for their babies, due to combination of a lack of legal protections and an enduring stigma against “un-manned mothers” (or now, “teen mothers” who are now the new “undeserving mothers,”  striking fear into the hearts of the populace).    Pregnancy and childbirth is an experience unique to women, it is part of their innate biology, a natural process that defines womanhood.  When governments violate human rights by withholding the support necessary for a mother to keep her baby, this is blatant sexism and in effect punishes her for being  a woman.

Let’s look an example illustrating the sexist double-standard.   Men are not punished for fulfilling their reproductive imperative.  Men don’t have body parts amputated off by agencies in retaliation for impregnating a woman (another natural act that is specific to their sex) — so why are women’s babies taken away from them (or women being manipulated into surrender (“choosing adoption”)  by the NCFA’s  “adoption is the loving option” crap), a traumatic act that feels like an emotional and physical amputation, if they get pregnant at a time that “violates” the artificial mores of society, who has “offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality…”?

A friend of mine, Karen Wilson Buterbaugh, who lost her baby to coerced surrender during the Baby Scoop Era, approached N.O.W. for their support.  They refused to talk to her, and a woman there implied that it was because many in N.O.W. are adopters:

” When I was working in Washington, D.C., I called the N.O.W. office to schedule an appointment to speak with a representative. I wanted to discuss the issue of adoption surrender, especially during the Baby Scoop Era, being a major feminist issue. I wanted to see what they thought of this and if they were aware of the fact that so many babies were removed during that time from mother, mostly under age 21, who wished to parent their baby but were denied that right by social workers practicing in adoption, many of whom worked at maternity homes around the country such as the Florence Crittentons and Salvation Armies.

 ” I arrived and was told to wait. I waited and waited. An hour later I asked how much longer it would be. I was then told that I would not be seen. I asked why.  She said she didn’t know but that no one wished to speak to me.  I left and walked down the stairs to the lobby of the building. A woman approached me saying that she had overheard why I was there. She said, ‘Don’t you know that the women of N.O.W. adopt?’ I admit that I was startled at this as I had not considered that to be a factor!

 ” She then said, ‘Don’t tell anyone but here is the email address for the current President of N.O.W.’ (whose name I do not recall at this time). This would have been approximately 1997 or 1998. I thanked her for her flagging me down and for the information she shared with me. When I arrived back at work, I composed an email to the President of N.O.W. and sent it. Not hearing back, I sent it again,. I never received a reply. Not even a response saying she had received my emails or even saying she wasn’t interested in speaking to me or even defending adoptions. (My concern was specifically infant adoptions.)

 ” That experience was certainly a rude awakening to the fact that NO ONE cared, not even other females, about babies being removed from unprotected single mothers. “

So, mothers who have lost children to adoption have no advocates to speak for them and no support from the feminist community.  I would like to call out to all feminists to help change this.

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.

“Abandonment”: A Disconnect in Adoption

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There is a huge disconnect in public discourse related to the subject of adoption. I believe that this disconnect is directly related to the fact that the dominant voices that “own” the conversation about adoption do not include the voice of the natural mother, when women are kept silenced and invisible in shame and blame for a traumatic event that often they had no control over. The dominant voices belong to others, and others often attempt to speak for us.

A small example of an event illustrating the unintentional but systemic marginalization of the voices of natural mothers (and adoptees) is provided by Lorraine Dusky, in her excellent article on mothers in Korea, who describes a personal experience of marginalization at a conference.

About the program for creative works, primarily attended by adoptees and natural mothers:

the program … was scheduled late in the evening and held in one of the more distant buildings… the only people who were present were a handful of adoptees, their friends and partners, and ALL the birth mothers … the overwhelming participation [at the conference] was of adoptive-mother-academics

And about the conference in-general:

… Everyone was at least marginally polite, but I did feel like a stranger in a strange land there. The academics did not seek me out. I was more of a…um, pariah.

It is no social coincidence that the main body of “academics” at the conference were primarily adoptive mothers — adoption is more popular and accessible among the more educated and “monied” classes in our society, and, on the other hand, mothers are often pressured by poverty to surrender babies.  As well, a career in academia can often entail putting off reproduction until fertility is no longer assured.

This experience will sound familiar to those whose voices are marginalized and disenfranchised, whose voice is not heard in the “dominant discourse.”

And the dominant discourse surrounding adoption (and of course its underlying paradigm) involves the repetition and acceptance of the theme of “abandonment.”

The main focus of Lorraine’s article is about a recently published article about mothers being forced and coerced by lack of resources and social pressure to surrender their babies for adoption. Sounds familiar? Happened to thousands if not millions of mothers in Canada United States, Australia, the U.K., for decades. It was called the Baby Scoop Era. But this latest story is focused on Korea:  “Group Resists Korean Stigma for Unwed Mothers,” where the Baby Scoop Era obviously has not ended. This is tragic, because this systemic coercion of mothers in Korea was also pointed out 21 years ago, in the article “Babies for Sale”(Progressive, 1988, see footnote). Has no-one been listening for the past two decades?

With “Western” governments and society finally acknowledging their human rights responsibilities and providing at least token support and resources to mothers, the demand for babies has moved overseas to other nations where mothers are still vulnerable, where women are still second-class citizens, and human rights abuses and acts of reproductive exploitation go unnoticed and unchallenged. Similar to the Baby Scoop Era in Western nations, adoption serves in placed such as Korea as a “social safety valve” to remove the children of single mothers and provide them to strangers who are judged to be “more deserving” of their babies than they are. I know this feeling all too well — others were judged by society, Victoria General Hospital, and the government social wrecker adoption worker to be “more deserving of, more entitled to” my own beloved baby.

The disconnect?  The dominant discourse surrounding babies for adoption focuses on “abandonment,” exemplified by article such as this one, “South Korea’s troubled export: babies for adoption“:

Thousands of babies are still abandoned every year due to divorce, economic hardship and the difficulty of raising children in a society that sometimes looks on single mothers with scorn.

Now, I would state that a mother who surrenders her baby under pressure is not “abandoning” her baby. Abandonment has many implications: that the parent is performing the act out of genuine free will, that the fate of their child (life, death, injury) is of no concern for them, the child is rejected and unwanted, and is being  “disposed of” like some inconvenient garbage. The parent can freely be reviled and considered to be some sort of inhuman monster — after all, what kind of loving parent would abandon their child? Society justifiably considers child abandonment to be a crime.  Is it surprising that reading this phrase in her adoption paperwork would be upsetting to the adoptee involved?

“For reasons of their own they abandoned the baby…”

But are these the words of a mother who has abandoned her baby?

“I need to see him, and that I wasn’t the one who sent him away … I lost everything when I lost my child.”

These are the words of the Korean mother in the trailer for the film Resiliance.  Exiled from her baby, can anyone truly believe that she “abandoned” him?

As a mother who also lost her beloved newborn baby to adoption, I know what she and other exiled mothers must have experienced, the extreme pain they must feel and likely must still be feeling.  A mother who “abandons” her baby feels none of this. I do wonder:  Would these heartless people actually think that I also had abandoned my baby?

…. a delivery table as flat as an ironing board, my arms strapped down to the sides, feet up in stirrups … a sheet put up in front of my face to prevent me from seeing him. they whisked him away as soon as the cord was cut … not allowed to see or hold my baby. Never told I had any rights …

In Korea:

“After delivery at a hospital, the baby is taken from the mother …”(from “Babies for Sale“)

“Myung-ja Noh had no choice in giving up her baby for adoption. Her relatives took her baby to a hospital, which then contacted an adoption agency that came and took the baby away.”
(from “Resiliance“)

How different is this, in Korea, from what was done to mothers here in North America? How it is “abandonment” when a mother’s baby is taken from her, when resources and support are withheld? When her voice is silenced under oppression from those who have the power to take away her baby and withhold it from her? When someone listens to the voices of Korean mothers, it is not abandonment that is spoken of, it is trauma:

“She initially made contact with over 30 different birth mothers, interviewed six and planned to include three in her documentary. She said that the unifying thread between all the mothers is the devastating impact it has had on their lives.”

On a personal note, is “abandonment” also the rationale that the people who adopted my baby used, in order to feel entitled to “claim” him as their own? Was this the justification they used In order to lay down the law post-reunion that they were his only family, his sole mother and father? Is the assumption of “abandonment” the underlying theme that can be used in order to dismiss the enduring love a natural mother may have for her lost child?

The next time you hear of a baby being “abandoned” and adopted — even if it is in another nation, another culture — consider what this says about the natural mother of that baby.   Think about what happened to her. Did she really “abandon” her baby? Or was she forced to surrender her baby by lack of resources? By her family? By a hospital or an adoption agency?   Read this article about single mothers in Korea.  Read Mei-Ling’s story of how her parents were forced to surrender her in order to save her life.  Read about the crimes committed in the name of “international adoption.” Do you still consider her to be a “heartless abandoner”?

If the voices of natural mothers were actually heard and listened to, instead of marginalized and dismissed, if our experience of the (often violent and traumatic) loss of our babies were acknowledged, would the word “abandoned” be applied to readily, be so much a part of the dominant theme of adoption? The disconnect between the dominant theme, of “child abandonment,” and the experience of the natural mother who has no choice, should be recognized, explored, and eliminated in the adoption discourse.

~ ~ ~

Disconnect [noun]: a lack of or a break in connection, consistency, or agreement (Merriam-Webster). an unbridgeable disparity (as from a failure of understanding) (The Free Dictionary)

Excerpt from “Babies For Sale,” exposing blatant coercion of unwed mothers in Korea:

“‘According to the questionnaire that we distribute at the orientation interview, 90 percent want to keep the babies, says Kim Yongsook, the director of Ae Ran Won. But after counseling, maybe 10 per cent will keep them. We suggest that it’s not a good idea to keep the baby’…. After delivery at a hospital, the baby is taken from the mother.. ” (“Babies for sale. South Koreans make them, Americans buy them,” 1988)

Why adoption is how it is

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Child adoption, as it currently exists in Western law, was first created in an 1851 statute in the state of Massachusetts to deal primarily with the social welfare problem of poverty and “unwanted and unloved children.” At the time, social welfare reformists were looking for a solution to the problem of poverty: work-houses, orphans on the street who were in danger of exploitation, and rapid population growth in-part due to birth control prohibitions and legalized marital rape.

“Its illegitimate origins, its birth in the workhouse, so to speak, has been another adoption secret and is usually omitted from official genealogies of adoption” (O’ Shaughnessy, pp. 68-69).

Child adoption was considered a “progressive” social policy at the time, and other states and countries (the U.K., Australia, Canada, etc.) soon passed their own similar laws. By the 1930s, almost every Western jurisdiction had some form of adoption law.

That child adoption is a modern invention is often a surprise to people who believe that it has existed since time immemorial. The fact, however, is that it was relatively rare and legally limited throughout history, and while it has been common practice throughout history for children to be fostered, legal adoption in most nations and situations was usually reserved for adult males to adopt other adult males for inheritance purposes.

As opposed to fostering or legal guardianship, adoption involves a complete legal severing of all legally recognized family relationships (“filiation”), inheritance rights, and parental rights. Before the 20th century, with high child mortality rates being the norm worldwide, adopting an adult to be a legal heir was a much surer bet.

One example of this distinction between fostering and adoption is the case of Moses in Jewish and Christian religious tradition, for whom a strong argument can be made that he was fostered, not adopted. At no time were his birth records changed to indicate that an Egyptian princess was the mother who had given birth to him, nor were his legal ties and legal family relationship with his Hebrew family severed. Aaron remained recognized as his brother, and Jochebed as his mother..

There was also little demand for adoption prior to WWII, as the historical norm up until the 20th century was for women to marry in their middle to late teens and began their reproductive careers long before the progressive and inevitable decline in fertility due to age. Thus, the late 20th century “infertility epidemic” did not exist.

Adoption laws since then have not changed significantly since they began a century and a half ago, other than to close and seal original birth records in most jurisdictions and issue new official birth records falsely stating that the adoptive parents gave birth to the child (beginning in the 1920s and going onwards). Other minor changes have included gradual elimination of inheritance rights from natural parents, modifications to the legal process of surrender, and a few jurisdictions that have re-opened their records again under highly restrictive circumstances. None of these changes affected or questioned the underlying assumptions on which adoption was founded.

But adoption as a legal and social institute assumes that the child is unloved and unwanted, or that the parent is devastatingly unfit. That’s the social problem adoption was created to address. No matter how one fancies it up, this is the reason behind it. Find a home for an unloved and unwanted child.

And adoption would likely have stayed this way except that after WWII, the interest in adopting newborns grew. In part because the emergence of social work as a profession defined unwed mothers as neurotics who could be “cured” with separation from their babies, and defined the unhappiness and “empty homes” of childless couples as an equally important social problem to address. Add to this mix the rise of J. B. Watson’s behaviorist psychology (“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select … regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.“) which left the former universal belief in “bad blood” in the dust, and a market demand for newborns emerged.

And on it went. But adoption laws still assume that the mother and father do not love or want their baby. Read almost any state or provincial adoption statute and it is evident that the law is built upon the assumption of complete legal and emotional cut-off from the original family. The complete absence of the natural family from legal statutes after the surrender has taken place reflects the assumption that this family has no continuing interest in the welfare of their lost child. The loving mother’s interest in the continuing welfare of her child, her love for her child, and the mother-child bond forged during nine months in the womb, are all assumed to not exist.

And, tragically, moms who love and want their babies, and assume that a continuing connection will be guaranteed through open adoption (as the industry began to promised them as it worked to persuade more moms to hand over their babies), get caught in the middle. Those who buy the promotional hype that “Adoption is the Loving Option” and surrender their babies on this assumption find out the hard way to their surprise that they are suddenly judged by both the law and by society to be “heartless abandoners,“as one adoptee so eloquently put it.

Is it any wonder that many (most?) adoptees feel abandoned and/or rejected on some level?

One hundred and fifty seven years of continuity in adoption law is not going to change any time soon. Especially because the underlying legal principle that adoption was founded on (child abandonment) is never questioned by politicians or society in general. And especially as adoption is now used by child protection departments to “save” children from parents who have been judged unfit and abusive in a court of law.

It is a tragedy that we who are natural mothers of adopted children got caught in this trap, of believing what we were told by adoption industry workers: that adoption was what it wasn’t (loving) and would provide what it legally can’t guarantee (a lifetime of happiness for our child and a continuing connection with us). We were sold a bill of goods. Adoption was created to provide homes for “children with no parents,” abandoned children, and unwanted children. In essence, it is a form of legalized abandonment. No matter how you dress it up, this fact will always remain.

But if you are an 18 year old mother, lying there in your hospital bed with your precious and much-loved baby in your arms, the facilitator and the “waiting parents” standing there wanting you to hurry up and sign the papers, has anyone told you any of this? You are but one signature away from signing into a system that assumes your baby is unloved, unwanted, and to being willingly abandoned into another family’s hands.

Recommended Reading:

  • Brace, Charles Loring. (1872). “The Life of the Street Rat,s” an excerpt from The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years’ Work Among Them.
  • O’ Shaughnessy, T. (1999). Adoption, Social Work and Social Theory : Making the Connections. Ashgate Publishing, Limited, ISBN 1-85628-883-8.
  • Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (Nov. 2006). “Aging and Infertility.” Fertility and Sterility, Vol 86, Supplement 4.
  • Samuels, Elizabeth J. (2001). “The Idea of Adoption: An Inquiry Into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records” Rutgers Law Review #367.
  • Solinger, R. (2000). Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade. New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0-41592-676-9.

Copyright 2009 Cedar Bradley. All rights reserved.

Old Rich White Men

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It is hard not to notice that the political leaders of this nation are old white men.* Yes, we have a few MP’s who are women (not many, and none in positions of power) and a few MPs from non-white minority groups, but all the rest are white men, including the leaders of the four federally-elected parties:

old-white-men

Even the contenders for the Liberal leadership, now that Dion is stepping down, are old white men :

more-old-white-men2

This is not a coincidence. Who has the resources, education, and influence to rise to the top of the political pyramid? Typically, the demographic in a society that has ready access to these resources. And this power imbalance shows even in the inequality of labour resouces within marriage:

“… Male politicians have wives who are full-time homemakers, or who adjust the hours and other demands of their work to the needs of their husband’s political careers. But few female politicians are endowed with similar husbands.”Norms, Values, and Society, by H. Pauer-Studer, p. 85)

But of course, most of us take this “white male face of power” for granted and assume it to be both generous and benign — even the women of this country, who are left to “choose” among these single-demographic leaders who claim they “best represent” them. It is no coincidence that daycare, housing for poor families, paid maternity leave, and other issues that concern women and impact their lives are given only token nods (if at all) in party platforms. Many women know that they are “one divorce away from poverty.” Many single mothers struggle in poverty trying to keep their children without them being apprehended when Mom has choose between feeding the child and paying the rent. Many moms are on waitlists for 3 or more years before finding daycare for their child, or have to return to full-time work just weeks after their baby is born, during the time their infant needs them (and NOT a stranger) most.

What do you need to get into power? The exact opposite qualities of voters who are some combination of young, female, poor, or don’t have a palid pink skin hue.

According to the The Global Gender Gap Report 2008, Canada is ranked 60th out of 130 nations surveyed in terms of women’s political empowerment. Only 22% of our elected MP’s are women, nowhere close to the 52% of Canada’s population that is female.

A report by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women states that 30-35% women is the critical mass necessary before legislatures address women’s concerns through public policy reform and before political institutions begin to change the way they operate.

And ultimately, this mismatch, this exclusion of women and women’s issues from the national (and provincial) agendas, affects the power of women to keep and raise their babies. When it is assumed that the male model of parenting (birth-onwards rather that conception-onwards) applies equally to women, when it is assumed that women can walk away from their newborns as easily as many men do (evident in the number of women left to raise children as soles-supporting single mothers), then little recognition or support is provided in public policy for mothers who are left vulnerable due to youth, poverty, disability, social injustice, or marital status.

Here is a thought exercise for you: The next time you see an “old white man” in front of a TV camera in House of Commons, remember that women in Canada make up over half of our population. For every one of those men, there is a woman out there who is NOT in the “corridors of power.” What is she doing? Why is she not there?

The next time a political party phones you or knocks at your door asking for donations or support for their candidate, ask them about the issues that concern you most as a woman. Ask them about what they are doing about the plight of mothers who have been abandoned in our society and who are being forced to surrender their babies or children for adoption due to punitive welfare or employment policies. Think about how our nation can be forward-thinking in supporting mothers, looking to nations such as New Zealand and Australia for examples, where the number of infants surrendered by desperate mothers are a miniscule fraction of what they are here. If other nations can do it, so can we. But it likely won’t happen as long as our nation is run by rich old white men.

* Yes, Harper (49) and Dion (53) are actually “middle-aged,” but the rest are elligible for “Seniors Day” at Zellers. And the average age of all six is 57.

Related links:

Adopting-Back My Son

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This is the first time i have “come out” about this on-line. Last summer, one year ago in 2007, i adopted-back the son who was stolen at birth for adoption from me when I was 17.

I say ‘stolen’ because the coercion that was used on me left me with no choice at all but to surrender him — it is not a “choice” or a “decision” if there is only one viable option given or allowed. To say i “placed” him denies the reality that keeping him was NOT an option I was given and thus there was NO choice. I loved him, I wanted to keep him, and i never wanted to lose him. I was NOT unfit! But unwed mothers where i lived, in 1980, had babies removed at birth by hospital staff if they were unwed minors with no family support for keeping their babies (I have plenty of testimony from other mothers that it was done to them as well). It was truly a form of rape — just as traumatic.

Looking back, I felt so powerless at the time, so much without choice, that I had no way of fighting what they were doing to me. Plus I was entirely naive. I had no idea that nurses taking and withholding my baby from me was not what was done to all mothers. It was only when I “woke up” from the medicine-induced fog I was in, several days later, that I realized they had not brought my baby to me, and that this was not right. I was allowed to see him (but not touch) for about 5 minutes, under the gaze of hawk-like nurses (but I found out much later that they then moved him to another hospital to prevent me from finding him — he told me he had been picked up from the Jubilee, when I had given birth in St. Joseph’s). And I now now first-hand that only when a mother has given birth, has fully recovered from birth without her baby being taken from her or coercion being applied, can she make any decision about adoption.

My 62-yr-old Fundamentalist parents made it clear that they considered it rightful punishment for the sin of fornication, and the social worker had a waiting list of clients she was under pressure to provide babies for — i was forced to sign papers in her office under blackmail that unless i did, my baby would be indefinitely held in foster care. I was not told about welfare or any other resources and my abusive parents (they would use the belt on me if i so much as “talked back” to them) made it clear that i was not allowed to bring my baby home.

After 19 years of searching, i found my son again, and we hugged for the first time one day before his 20th birthday.  It was the first time I was allowed to touch him.

His adoptive parents first told him that they supported our reunion — but he found out as time went on that their view was that “reunion” meant a one-time or limited-time event, that his curiosity would be satisfied and he would say “thanks and bye” to me. Their attempts to control him, to force him to end contact with me, escalated into abuse — culminating in 4 hours of confinement and torture (his words) one night when he was 21 yrs old. He eventually left their house one New Years Day on the advice of the Victim Services units of two police departments.  He was so traumatized by this that he could not speak at all until one year later.

We began talking about me adopting him back. After several years of discussion, and after the complete breakdown and ending of the relationship between him and the people who raised him, we decided to go ahead with it.

So we did it. And we have not looked back. It is a dream come true for both of us.

Reunion can go places beyond what one first expects. It can restore a family which has been involutarily torn apart.

But separated families reuniting again shows that the bond between mother and child can endure past the worst of separations. And it also proves that anyone who is promised by an agency or other adoption business that adopting an infant will provide them with a “life-time guarantee” of “a child of their own” should sue their broker for making false promises. No-one can make promises on behalf of another human being, especially an infant who cannot speak for themselves.

But the best thing of all is that we are back together again, and both of us have reclaimed what was taken from us