The on-line publication: The Conversation, features an article authored by Professors Fronek, Cuthbert and Keyes. The article raises concerns about a conflict of interest amongst those influencing intercountry adoption policy and legislation. Adoptive parents, particularly high profiles, such as Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness, have the ear of the PM and have undoubtedly a personal vested interest in making it “easier, cheaper and quicker to adopt” for couples like themselves. According to the Professors the serving of their and those they represent interests are superseding the “best interests of the child”.
The article primarily focuses on intercountry adoption, but I suggest the pro adoption lobby’s influence extends much further and has been quite apparent in domestic adoption policy and legislation. When Tony Abbott and former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s hosted adoptive parent elites at a party at Kirribilli House just prior to last Christmas, Abbott stated that he was not only going to make it quicker easier and cheaper for adults to adopt overseas, but he was going to free up more children for domestic adoption. Specifically, those children whose parents he considered “not effective”. Presumably he meant the poor and vulnerable. So it seems young, single women are once again at great risk of losing their newborns via forced adoption. This should come as no surprise because contemporary adoption relies on market principles of supply and demand. And at present because there are so few babies available and so many affluent infertile adults, the demand is great.
Over the last 8 years intercountry adoption has fallen globally because of its relationship with kidnapping, child trafficking and criminal gangs. So adopting a baby or very young infant from overseas now involves years of waiting as many sending countries have closed their intercountry adoption programs. Coincidently since 2006 there has been a number of law changes, particularly in NSW, making it easier for child protection officers to remove newborns from their mothers. So in my opinion the focus on domestic adoption by the pro adoption lobby is an attempt to fill the void left by the declining numbers of children coming in from overseas. Professor Ainsworth discusses the implementation of various laws that now empower social workers to forcibly remove babies at birth in his well researched article ‘Babies for the Deserving’. He is highly critical of the dubious practice and basically concludes that it is the heralding in of yet another stolen generation.
Since well mobilised activists are fighting back at the reintroduction of Forced Adoption the availability of babies though “surged” has not met demand. So many couples are now turning to surrogacy in countries like Thailand and India. However recent cases have revealed a very dark side to commercial surrogacy – the creation of children for adoption by paedophiles. If the Australian government had listened to the experience of many adult adoptees here it might not be surprised by this occurrence. The same could be said if it thoroughly researched the misuse of intercountry adoption by paedophiles
Chief Magistrate John Pascoe writes of the creation of children via surrogacy for the benefit of adopting couples:
As the National Committee on Bioethics of Cyprus observed “[T]he use of a surrogate mother conflicts with the principle of human freedom. A new kind of slavery and commercialisation of human beings is created.” In this commercialised arrangement women are often reduced to moveable property and objects of reproductive exchange in a transaction that may more aptly be termed “reproductive trafficking”.
Pascoe acknowledges the suffering of the children created via surrogacy quoting one who states:
Because somewhere between narcissistic, selfish or desperate need for a child and the desire to make a buck, everyone else’s needs and wants are put before the kids[‘] needs. We, the children of surrogacy, become lost. That is the real tragedy.
In another article Pascoe also acknowledges surrogacy and intercountry adoption as ways for paedophiles to access children.
The Chief Judge warns that lack of regulation in many countries “creates a risk that children could be ‘commissioned’ specifically for trafficking or abuse purposes’’.
“Tragically this is a risk that has too often been realised,’’ he says. Chief Judge Pascoe quotes from a UNICEF report that suggests that one in four inter-country adoptions in Germany has a “commercial or criminal background, some of which have links to facilitating pedophilia’’.
Unfortunately Judge Pascoe believes that making commercial surrogacy legal in Australia will stop the exploitation of surrogates and the provision of children to paedophiles. I do not agree.
The Forced Adoption Program operating in Australia for decades was in effect a forced surrogacy service for infertile, white married couples. Speaking to my experience and thousands like me I carried my baby for 9 months for a married couple. Whilst pregnant I was continually told that because I was unwed I was unfit to parent therefore was carrying a baby not for myself nor its father, but for a “respectable married couple” who would give “it all the things you cannot”. A married couple was selected and matched with my baby prior to birth. So I was told from the time I met the social worker at Crown St Women’s Hospital when I was only 5 months pregnant, that the baby I was carrying was not mine it belonged to someone else. It did not matter what I said my baby was targeted for adoption and assigned to a specific couple during my pregnancy. The coercion and brain washing was overwhelming and my sense of powerlessness complete.
On having being told explicitly that I was carrying a child for an infertile married couple I was then expected to relinquish all rights to my child and to become absolutely invisible in the process. If I objected, which I did, particularly when admitted to the hospital, I was heavily drugged and restrained before during and after the birth. For my pregnancy and my healthy newborn I was not paid but rather was expected to work for 60 to 70 hours a week for $10. This was, as Pascoe rightly claims, reproductive slavery. Many mothers were expected to perform hard labour in laundries within mother and baby Homes for their board and keep. We were not only reproductive slaves but labour slaves as well.
Pascoe discusses how East European pregnant women are transported across borders and their children adopted by French or Italian couples.
In Australia many young pregnant women were also transported across borders and held captive in mother and baby Homes and then had their babies forcibly taken and given to strangers they never met. I commend the Chief Magistrate for acknowledging the damage done to overseas surrogates and their children. I do not agree, however, that making commercial surrogacy legal in Australia will stop the abuses, as Pascoe suggests, because the Australian legal system is superior. The abuses he imagines it will prevent have already occurred. And did so on a massive scale. The Australian legal system did not protect us or our infants. Imagine nearly 10,000 healthy babies taken for the adoption market in one year alone (1971-1972). Taken from their healthy mothers, who were not carrying another woman’s egg, who were most likely in their first committed relationship, so were in love with the father of their child. We did not have the luxury of imagining we were carrying another couple’s baby – no we were carrying our own. What happened to us was the worst kind of surrogacy – the theft of our children for the domestic adoption market to satisfy demand – over which we had no control whatsoever. When the laws changed and we finally were able to meet our now adult children many of us found them full of rage thinking we had abandoned them. Many were damaged because they had been sexually and/or physically abused. Many rejected the mother that bore them. Some mothers never met their children because before they could they had committed suicide: the suicide rate amongst adoptees being four times greater than their non-adopted peers.
What needs to be understood is that when wealthy, powerful individuals feel entitled to a less powerful woman’s womb/baby, exploitation occurs, irrespective of a country’s laws. No matter how it is spun, no matter what weasel words are used – as Pascoe has identified it is reproductive slavery.
We are presently watching as powerful individuals referred to at the beginning of this post, are manipulating law and social policy to advance their personal agenda – even if it is not in the best interests of children. And certainly not in that of the exploited mother’s!
We supposedly had laws in place to protect us, they did not. Our bodies were exploited for the babies we could produce, for the cheap labour we could provide and then we were thrown away as if we were rubbish. Reproductive slavery and the trafficking of children will only stop when society really values the human rights of all its citizens. When it is understood that certain privileged individuals are not entitled to exploit citizens that are poorer, weaker or to use Abbott’s words: “not effective”. It is not the exploited that should be regulated it is the exploiters. It is not only the exploited that need to know their rights, but for exploiters to understand that those they wish to exploit do indeed have rights – whether that is having rights over their own bodies, the right to parent their own children – even if that is with support – and the rights of children to be brought up within their own family, culture, country and to know their biological heritage. We who have lived through the era of Forced Adoption know what it is like to be a surrogate, to be exploited and have the laws of the land totally fail to protect. No, commercial surrogacy, intercountry or domestic adoption that rely on the exploitation of one group by another should not be part of any civilised community. Particularly one that declares it values human dignity and rights.
 (Babies for the Deserving: see Submission 18 http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2010-13/commcontribformerforcedadoption/submissions)
 According to Brian Robins (SMH: 2010, April, 10) in an article titled: ‘Surge in infants taken from mothers after DOCS crackdown’ the number of newborn babies taken by the Department of Community Services has risen sharply in the past two years: “Each day in NSW an infant younger than four weeks old will be removed from the mother”. This is a rise of 70% in two years. Prue Goward is quoted as stating: “They are removing children as soon as possible … before they are too damaged’” But the question Robins poses is: “Are they simply creating another stolen generation?”