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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/13/10

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Baby Selling?

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Bartholet's Pro-Adoption Extremism is Anti Child and Family

The buying and selling of human beings, including babies, is unlawful in every state in the United States and most of the world. Who then would proclaim in regard to adoption:

"Baby buying is generally not thought of as a serious evil in today's world in other contexts. Commercial surrogacy is the institution in which true baby buying takes place systematically. Surrogacy contracts specify that the woman who provides pregnancy and childbirth services, and often her egg as well, will receive money in exchange for turning over the baby born, and terminating her parental rights. Commercial surrogacy is flourishing in the United States and many other countries." (1)

Certainly an attorney would know that baby buying and selling is illegal and an attorney who specialized in adoption would condemn baby sellers. Why then would Elizabeth Bartholet, Harvard Law Professor who is a fervent proponent of child adoption and supports attorneys who practice adoption family law defend baby buying? 

Like many of the claims put forth by Professor Bartholet, this one is based on intentionally misinterpreted facts and statistics. Using the questionable practice of surrogacy to justify an unquestionable wrong--the buying and selling of babies for adoption--is reprehensible. The specious argument that baby buying is acceptable because surrogacy is, is absurd. Far from "flourishing", surrogacy is in fact permitted in only six U.S. states, eight states allow it with restrictions, while nine states outlaw it, some, such as D.C. and Michigan punishing violators.

Surrogacy, where allowable, is largely unregulated, controlled mainly by fertility doctors, agencies and clinics that many of which do not adhere to guidelines. The lax atmosphere "raises vexing ethical questions."(2)   Hardly a model to emulate.

Internationally, surrogacy contracts are unlawful in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and the UK. In March 2008, the Science Council of Japan proposed a ban on surrogacy and said that doctors, agents and their clients should be punished for commercial surrogacy arrangements. In India surrogacy has become a major industry and mothers participating in surrogacy programs are said to be cared for with advanced medical, nutritional, and overall good care. However, bioethicists remain concerned that Indian surrogates are exploited by being paid poorly for their maternal services called "rent-a-womb" in a country with a comparatively high maternal death rate.

Who is Professor Bartholet?

Professor Elizabeth Bartholet is a Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Faculty Director of their Child Advocacy Program. Bartholet is author of two books on adoption(3) and also an adoptive mother who "spent three months in Lima for each adoption, enduring" what she describes as "the most challenging experiences of my life." Nursing each child through "terrifying illnesses" Bartholet "agonized through endless sessions with police, social workers and courts.  I fought off mysterious threats to remove the children who had become mine in every way except the law, threats that hung over us until the day we flew home"."(4)  When it comes to adoption, it appears that Bartholet considers her personal desires and entitlement, when in conflict with the law of the land, the greater of the two. She carries this passion fervently into her advocacy for all who wish, and can afford, to adopt privately, protecting a non-existent "right" to adopt an unrelated child in disregard of every child's right to know and be cared for by his or her own parents, whenever possible.

Despite her self-portrayal as a child advocate, Bartholet's greatest concerns regarding barriers to adoption are for paying clients seeking children and those who profit from child redistribution. She and the organizations she is affiliated with represent attorneys who specialize in adoption and whose livelihoods depend on adoption placement fees. Adoption attorneys are no more vested in protecting the best interests of children than divorce attorneys are vested in saving marriages. Their obligation is to protect the rights of their paying clients who hire them to obtain a child, regardless of how the child is obtained and regardless of the outcome for the children involved.

Bartholet is associated with, and spokesperson for ACT for Adoption, The Center for Adoption Policy (CAP), and the Harvard Law School's Child Advocacy Program (CAP). By forming multiple Internet organizations, Bartholet attempts to make support for her mission appear to be widespread and supported by "experts" in the adoption community, when in fact they oppose internationally recognized child's rights advocacy organizations for "having a lock on the child human rights position."(5)   Such radical positions are not supported by and in some cases in conflict with the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (EBDAI), the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), Ethica and other widely recognized authorities of ethical adoption practices.

ACT for Adoption (ACT) was mobilized in 2008 "to communicate with the White House, Members of Congress, government agencies and the press to educate and advocate for legislation, policies and administrative procedures supportive of adoption."  ACT appears to exist in name only acting as the PR arm of The Center for Adoption Policy (CAP) and Harvard Law School's Child Advocacy Program (CAP), the latter founded and directed by Prof. Bartholet for the purpose of promoting international adoption. With no Internet site or physical address  ACT disperses press releases regarding the pro-adoption stances and efforts of CAP and CAP. These announcements are sent from ACT with an ACT logo at the top of the page and a "reply to" address of ebarthol at Harvard law.

The Center for Adoption Policy calls itself "a pre-eminent legal and policy institute engaged in adoption issues."   It was founded and is and directed by Diane B. Kunz and Ann N. Reese. Kunz practiced corporate law for seven years and is Associate Professor of History at Yale University. Reese spent over 25 years in a career in finance with ITT, Mobil Oil, Union Carbide, Bankers Trust and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Jones Apparel Group, Kmart and Xerox. She has an MBA from New York University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Reese is a director of Their only connection to, or "expertise" in adoption, is that Kunz is the mother of eight children, four of whom were born in China and Reese is the mother of five children, two of whom were born in Romania. Their website reports no source of funding or non-profit status for CAP.

ACT, CAP and CAP support their pro-adoption agenda in part by creating newspeak such as their newly coined term "unparented children"--which they capitalize for further effect--in order to encourage the adoption of children of living parents, as they did in supporting Madonna's adoptions while recognizing that International adoption "has come under fire recently from UNICEF" because of corruption and baby selling. They also use language such as a need to eliminate "barriers that hinder children from realizing their basic right of a family and ways they might act to eliminate them" without any consideration of a child's foremost basic right to have his family receive the resources they need to remain intact or reunify.

Bartholet is also involved with Both Ends Burning and organization formed by Craig Juntunen who adopted three children from Haiti. The singular goal of this group is to promote inter-country adoption with the hope of reaching a quota of 50,000 adoptions per year by 2010.  Never mind any attempt to resolve the issues that might necessitate familial separation and loss.

Lies and False "Statistics"

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Mirah Riben is a human rights activist with a focus on families, children and adoption reform. She is author of two internationally acclaimed books - "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption" (1988) and "THE STORK MARKET: America's (more...)

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