Thursday, July 28, 2005

a slippery slope (and my law professors involuntarily cringe)

Last week, an article on Blogging Baby incited a stream of angry commenters and even a petition for readers to boycott the advertisers on Blogging Baby. This article started the controversy, when the author compared a young woman in Michigan selling her baby for $5,000 to a typical adoption. The conversation grew rather heated when the author then compared adoption to purchasing roast beef. She meant the analogy as a comparison of payment for services rendered, the end result being a piece of meat. As you can imagine, adoptive parents reading the article did not take it well. I understand that the author was simply trying to make a point, and did not think that a child was comparable to lunch meats (particularly since she appears to be a loving mother of five and has considered adoption). Regardless, readers called for her apology and pointed out the cruelty of such a comparison.

The author wrote a heartfelt and sincere apology this week, saying that she certainly did not mean to hurt people and was terribly sorry for her words. She is, in fact, quite familiar with the adoption process and certainly did not mean to insult adoption in the least.

While I haven't adopted and haven't been a birth mother, the original article inspired me to comment on the difference between a woman selling her baby and legal adoption. You see, in law school I spent 2 years involved in a legal clinic on international human rights. A clinic, for non-lawyer readers, is an opportunity for students to do "real" legal work under the supervision of practitioners. I have classmates who worked in housing clinics helping individuals fight landlords on housing violations, others that helped abused women get restraining orders against their spouses, and still others that visited nearby prisons and assisted those prisoners in filing petitions for various forms of relief. In an often wholly theoretical legal education, clinics may offer the sole opportunity for practical experience.

Since I had experience from my university days in human rights, I signed up for our international human rights clinic, which tends to lean more toward the theoretical side as well. I loved it. Each of my fellow clinic members was incredibly compassionate and kind, all with specific passions that led them to sign up for these projects.

I worked on several smaller projects, and after a few months of experience, signed up for two major projects. One was researching and compiling information for the years leading up to the genocide in East Timor. The second was creating a manual for the United Nations, and specifically, UNICEF (remember the little coin boxes at Halloween?), to distribute to field offices on child trafficking.

This manual included basic information on child trafficking, statistics, common reasons for its occurrence, and most importantly, trainings for each field office to conduct with different segments of the population in a country where child trafficking is rampant. These trainings included border patrol officials, police, teachers, prosecutors, judges, etc. Child trafficking is extraordinarily difficult to pinpoint, of course, so these trainings would teach individuals to look for signs in children or families in their communities.

I'm not claiming, in any way, shape or form, that I am an expert on child trafficking. If anything, this short year taught me that the subject is far more convoluted than I ever thought. I learned of the successes and limitations of non-governmental organizations like UNICEF. My research made me realize how very hard it is to spot children being trafficked, and that often, rescuing them from a terrible situation would result in returning them to another terrible situation. Some stories involve happy endings, but many do not, and that, for an idealistic law student, is hard to swallow.

In reading the article mentioned above, I realized that while many people recognize that purchasing a baby, regardless of intentions, is wrong, not many realized that this also constitutes child or baby trafficking. I don't dare to pass judgment on the young woman who sought to sell her baby to another woman, because I suspect her intentions were good. I also suspect that perhaps she was simple ignorant of the consequences. But as you can imagine, without proper legal channels, selling a baby can result in terrible consequences to the child. Countless stories of missing and trafficked children resulted from families with the best motives, who thought their child was receiving a better life elsewhere.

There is no point in telling you the morbid stories I heard from individuals working in field offices with first hand experience, but suffice to say that it makes you question humanity as a whole. Legal adoption can be a frustrating and difficult process, but just one of these stories is enough to make someone realize that the alternative is far too dangerous.

I hate to be all gloom and doom, but sometimes I get frightened by public conceptions of issues. I have often thought about adopting in the future, and once suggested that I could adopt from Argentina (since I'm Argentinean). I later found out, upon researching the subject, that Argentina doesn't allow foreigners to adopt, and Argentine blood or not, as a US citizen, I'm a foreigner. My mom was outraged about this. She proceeded to tell me that I should just go to Argentina and talk to some of the orphanages or birth mothers and certainly something could be worked out (hint, hint). As lovely as it would be to share some heritage with an adopted child, I think I will just consider adopting elsewhere. My mom has the best of intentions as do most people, and no doubt that the child would be loved, but again, the slope is far too slippery.


Yankee T said...

This is a wonderful, thoughtful post. I read the article, and the resulting windfall of comments, and was at once offended and baffled by the misperceptions that still exist about adoption.

Running2Ks said...

I think this is a very insightful and intelligent discussion. Thank you for bringing it to our thoughts. It boggles the mind how misguided many still are.

Anonymous said...

Not to go off topic or anything, but Happy Birthday! You're a great whiner in my book.

halloweenlover said...

Thanks everyone! I really wanted to just post about my birthday and all the gifts I have received, but I am trying to be a little selfless here : )

Thanks for the birthday wishes though!!!

Phantom Scribbler said...

Oh, man, how frustrating and horrifying was it to be compiling information on East Timor only to see what went on there?

Still, amazing work you were doing! You are my hero.

Scrivener said...

I came in to give birthday wishes, but I stayed for the insightful writing! Thanks, and Happy Happening Day anyway.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Write about the gifts you received here in the comments, then. ;-)

RussianViolets said...

A brilliant post! I love your blog.

alena said...

Hey, I have enjoyed...your blog is informative - even entertaining.

I have a halloween sites. They pretty much covers costumes and masks related stuff.

Thanks again and I'll be sure to bookmark you.