What’s Wrong with Selling Your Baby for an IPhone?

truth about the adoption industry profits

 Call a Spade a Spade: It’s Adoption Without the Agency Middlemen Collecting Money

truth about the adoption industry profitsSo there is a big hoopla this week about the story of a Chinese couple, called “Mr. Teng and Ms. Zhang”, who hide a pregnancy, placed ads for a newborn baby, sold the baby for about $8,000.00 and then went shopping and bought an IPhone among other items on a online “shopping spree”.

Of course, they got caught and are being prosecuted.

According to the stories, they are unemployed and have two children together.

“We did not give the baby away for money, but in order to give it more security. Giving away the child was not for obtaining benefits, but giving the child better guarantees.”

So.. they gave their baby a “better life” and everyone is all outraged?

What I want to know is; why is this really so much different than a traditional adoption relinquishment?

Yet this is Acceptable Adoption Practice?

Granted we know very little about the complete set of circumstances surrounding this particular Chinese couple that decided to openly sell their baby, but that means that my valid guesses are just as valid as anyone else’s.  So take a minute and look at this “baby selling for iPhone” sensation though this pair of lenses if you would:

They hid the pregnancy: Does that really give us any right to pass judgment? Plenty of people hide pregnancies for a variety of reasons. We know it’s China. We know they already have two children and much of China is still under a one child policy. What if it would of caused trouble if she was known to be pregnant again? What if they had planned on an adoption and didn’t want to have to explain that to people? Since when is avoiding neighborhood gossip a major sin of some sort?

They placed ads for the baby: Again, isn’t this what people do? They look for “adoption situations”. The goal of many adoption networking websites is to create a “match” between the prospective adoptive parents and the expectant natural parents. PAP’s do it in the US all the time and, while it is completely morally reprehensible, it is usually perfectly legal to advertise that you want a baby on Craigslist, you just can’t sell your baby. So the big deal is that they PLACED the advertisement rather than replied TO an advertisement. Right…

Maybe they simple read the “how to adopt a baby” advise and recommendations for the adoptive side, rather than the birth side! Do the adoption professionals tell prospective adoptive parents in China to “be proactive” and “network” that they want a baby? Do they instruct PAP’s how to create the best “Dear Birthmother” website and what pictures to use? Do they tell them about creating business cards to leave all over the place and give out to high schools and churches, or pregnancy clinics and Gyn-OB offices?

They got about $8,200.00 for their baby girl: That’s hardly impressive.  I mean, it’s not like they demanded half a mil. Eight grand in US dollars would probably just cover the hospital outpays for mom and baby; now granted they hid the birth at home, but it’s still not a massively huge profit for a baby!

Is Baby Selling a Question of Schematics?

We seem to think that it is acceptable for a woman to purposely become pregnant and be paid “fees'” for the trouble and risk of carrying a baby if we call her a “surrogate“.  A traditional surrogate can easily net 20 to 40K a transaction. The difference between the Chinese couple and a surrogate is almost only a matter of planning. If they had the couple picked out first, THEN had the baby, it could be called something of a surrogacy situation! A cheap one at that!

It’s also OK if a couples was to pay 20 to 40K to adopt a baby, but those funds are required to go to the adoption agency in the name of “fees.”  Of course what the everyday “nonprofit adoption agency” considers necessary fees might be quite different from what the typical prospective adoption parents thinks they are paying for.  Again, we might be impressed with the minimalist 8K especially when so many complain that it is too expensive to adopt and have to hold things like fund raisers and bake sales.  The difference, again, is more semantics that a true moral separation; the adoption agency, the adoption attorney, the adoption facilitator, the counselor; THEY all receive funds for their part of the transaction and the birth parents cannot get a payment – directly! Or can they?

We know parents can have certain ‘birth mother expense paid‘ as long as approved by the various state laws. Again, this is typical adoption practice in the United States.  Birthmothers often get their rents paid, there might be food allowances, and cell phone bills, maternity clothing and doctor’s visits; almost anything that one can imagine the pregnancy might have hindered or the lack of might hinder the pregnancy. How can she call the agency when she goes into labor if her cell phone is turned off?  That  does create a bit of room for some creativity; there is that old story ( 2005) newly floating about questioning the  birthmother payments of breast augmentation, televisions and bail money. Apparently having adoptive parents pay for new boobs gets in the “immoral” zone, but maybe a down payment on a new car would be acceptable if potential birth mummy needed something safe to get to work every day?

What if the Chinese couple called the payment “expenses”? What if they had used part of that money to pay for an adoption attorney to draw up papers and then bought the iPhone? I’d wager a bet that there are many, many adoption professionals that have gone off and bought IPhones with the money’s obtained though the transaction “fees” in domestic infant adoption in the USA!

Why are we horrified by this? Because it is OPENLY baby selling? Because this Chinese couple didn’t put enough pretty pink bows on it so we can feel good about giving a child away to a “better” life?

At least they are not lying and pretending it is something else; they had a baby, they claimed they wanted to baby to have “more security” and “better guarantees”, and someone else paid for the privilege of parenting that baby. They even called it ” adoption” but the big difference is that the birth parents took the money directly and that makes it selling a child?

Why Does the Adoption Middle Man Sanctify the Baby Trade?

I’m just really having a hard time wrapping my head around why this is to bad when the Chinese couple does it but it’s OK when you factor in all these buffers? What magic fairy dust does an adoption agency or facilitator or lawyer have that makes it morally acceptable? Why is it OK to give a child away, to relinquish your flesh and blood, to place a child, to abandon a child, to make an adoption plan for a child, to give the “gift” of a child, but not just openly sell the privilege to parenting?

Is the child still not trading parents? Is still there not a separation of the child and his or her true parents? Does not the perspective adoptive parents part with cash funds in order to become parents? Is there not a profit to be made from adoption? So why is there an outrage when the birth parents benefit monetarily?

We can only GIVE our children away? Is it the concept of the “gift” that purifies the act?

While a gift or a present is an object given without the expectation of payment, a gift still implies ownership. To give a gift, one must first own the possession that which is given. Even if a child is a “gift” given away, it still seems to say that one has the RIGHT to give away another human, which does imply that one therefore OWNS that other human, in this case, the baby to be adopted.

Selling on the other hand does put a monetary value on what is sold. One has to determine what a possession is worth to both the buyer and seller. Of course, the idea of putting a monetary value on human life is immoral or in poor taste, but we do that all the time in real life, just not as openly as in adoption.  When a person dies and there is a resulting malpractice suit, they do put  monetary number on the value of that human beings life. When there is an accident, we award a person on damages for losses such as an arm, a leg, even a penis.  I once figured out that based on basic pain and suffering settlements, I was due over 200 billion dollars in pain and suffering post relinquishment.

The point is we CAN put a value on human life when we want to, but it makes us really feel uncomfortable to put a direct value on a baby, so we dance around that, wrap it up with pretty words, add the buffers and call it adoption.

This is NOT Baby Selling:

Tom and Ellie are an unemployed couple with two other children in the USA.  Ellie is pregnant and they really do not feel they have the recourses or support to give this baby all the opportunities that it deserves, plus they feel that a new baby might also endanger their other children by strapping  their recourses even more. So they look into adoption and decide that they don’t like the local agencies, and instead talk to a lawyer about negotiating a private adoption.

So they look online, read parent profiles and, like many others apparently, read the “Looking to Adopt” ads in Craigslist.  They answer an ad from another couple who is interested in adopting their unborn daughter, the couples met, decide they are a good match and then the two sets of lawyers go to work finalizing the paperwork for the transaction.  Tom and Ellie will have a few extra expenses form the birth of the baby that will not be covered under the state insurance plan especially since they had all agreed to deliver at the nicer hospital closer to the PAP’s area in the state.  The PAP’s also agree to pay for all the legal fees incurred including Tom and Ellie’s legal representation. They also negotiate some funds for extra time in day care for the two other kids so Ellie can make all her doctor’s appointments.

The Craigslist add was free of course, but the PAP couple, we’ll call them Sam and Jenny, did have to pay for their home study previously. They also took Ellie shopping for some maternity clothes, plus brought the other kids some presents so they wouldn’t feel bad. And then they sent Tom and Ellie on a weekend away when they were having a hard time. In the end,  Sam and Jenny paid less than 10K for the adoption with about 8 thousand dollars gone to Tom and Ellie for the attorney retainer, left over hospital bills, day care, gifts, clothes, the weekend getaway and a few dinners. Most people would look at Sam  and Jenny in awe and praise them for being able to adopt a baby so cheaply.  We would the turn around and call Tom and Ellie things like strong and selfless for giving away their baby. Jenny bought Ellie a new IPhone for her birthday;  did Ellie sell her baby for an IPhone?

No? Why? Because we used different words and pretend everything is a gift?

What If We Really Could Sell Babies?

Stay with me one more second here why we really play devil’s advocate. What if we said; you know what? You MAKE the babies, it’s your body, your DNA, your kid, and the hell with the adopting agency crap, go ahead and sell babies! What would THAT look like?

Prospective adoption parents would still have to get home studies and hire lawyers as adoption really is a legal transaction. The lawyers for the two parties could met and discuss terms just like they often do now in private adoptions. People could still pay 30K for a baby like they do now in adoption and surrogacy if they  felt that parenting a child had value, but the money could go directly to the birth parents.

Now aside of openly accepting that we are now treating human beings as commodities and selling them like slaves,  there are those who would act aghast and say “Well then you might have people purposely getting pregnant just to make money”.  And yes, we would because we already do; we just call that surrogacy.

One might say, “Well then you might have women forced to get pregnant so other’s can sell the babies.” And yes, we already had that in AdoptionLand too. They called that Guatemalan Adoptions.

Another might worry, ‘What of people pretend to give another person’s child away or without one of the parents knowing, or even worse, if they harm the mother to get the baby!” But that’s already called regular domestic infant adoption in the US when it comes to father’s rights and “Baby Safe Havens”.

The benefit of open baby selling might be that some women WOULD choose to make their living by making babies. Just like some men go through college selling sperm or some women sell their eggs.

I would bet that the mothers who had nice easy pregnancies and made nice babies could demand a higher price.  Of course we might then see that blue eyed blond mommies got higher prices for the darker Latino of mixed race babies, but that already happens in adoption too.

However, maybe the baby making business could become profitable and acceptable enough that  MORE mothers actually choose to become birthmothers for profit. Maybe they even create a union and demand higher prices because they now control the supply and they know that the long term ramifications is worth MORE than 30K, maybe it is like 100K a kid. Maybe then they are more empowered and can negotiate real legally binding open agreements because they can afford their own lawyers who really then do look out for their clients best interest. Maybe then the supply of babies goes up and MORE adoptive parents can adopt more easily and the other moms who really don’t want to relinquish will not have as much pressure on them to do so. Maybe the moms who do make the babies really ARE the ones who don’t want them and are broken inside and can walk away from their kids more easily. Maybe the rest of us will just be left alone…..

I know. I’m just dreaming. It is better to have a system where mothers with lack of recourses are seduced by the promises of adoption to give their babies away to strangers who they hook up with online or through a match maker. It’s better to have people who want to be parents hand out business cards to pregnant waitress and pay advertising agencies to “find them a birthmother.” And it’s much better when the 30K goes to the adoption professionals for “fees” and the 13 billion dollars in profits stays in their hands.

What the hell would birth parents DO with all that money anyway? They don’t even know the value of a baby!

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

7 Comments on "What’s Wrong with Selling Your Baby for an IPhone?"

  1. Claud…wow, just wow…such great thinking and writing…

  2. jan stewart | October 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm |

    well………wouldn’t that mean the chinese couple were not in china?

  3. Elizabeth Jurenovich | October 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm |

    Ironic– when I saw your headline in my Newsfeed, I figured the story was about that notorious adoption network in CA, since their online ads picture iPhones with a promise of a “free cell* phone” (in seemingly-clear violation of state laws that prohibit gifts of value in conjunction with placing a child for adoption.) I’ve been told that $8k is currently the average “cash-payout” offered to placing parents by several equally notorious CA adoption attorneys (that’s after pregnancy expenses, btw?!) so it seems the Chinese couple was merely playing in the same ballpark? (smh)…

  4. Totally rad post, Claud!

  5. I have an adoptee friend, monk-monk, who wrote in her blog: “You can try say that the money I spend in a restaurant is to go for the servers and the cookers and the dining room chairs, but, I am, at the end of the day, buying a burger to eat. And that is how current adoption is functioning, here in America. When money gets involved the corruption skyrockets.”

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