Voices of the infertile

Sharmila Choudhury identified herself as a “resource-rich adoptive parent in the United States who was raised in an area of India with many destitute families.” That describes me as well, if you change United States for another “rich” country and India for another “poor” country. I also care deeply that rich and poor are treated fairly, and thank Ms. Choudhury for giving parents like me a voice in the Washington Post. At the same time I’d like to mention that resource-rich adoptive parents in “poor” countries, like some of my friends back home, might also want to join this chorus.

As for Elizabeth Bartholet, I find her conclusions in this article on adoption troubling. 

The current tendency to glorify group identity and to emphasize the importance of ethnic and cultural roots combines with nationalism to make international adoption newly suspect in this country as well as in the world at large. But restricting international adoption does not put poor countries in a better economic position or a better power position with respect to foreign governments. It is simply a symbolic gesture “for” the nation and “against” the foreigners that is easy and cheap to make. The children themselves have no political influence, and their voices are not heard.

So acknowledging race and culture is “glorifying group identity?” Who can speak better for these children, foreign adoptive parents like Ms. Bartholet or local ones (adoptive or not)? Is Ms. Bartholet glorifying white identity by assuming she has a better knowledge of how resources in Guatemala or India should be allocated? It’s not always about being in a better economic or power position. In the end it’s about self-determination, and, yes, that’s what those wars of independence were also about.

Obviously, Ms. Bartholet’s view of poor countries is static. For her, no progress has been made except in rich countries.

One side benefit [of  facilitating international adoption] would be that many more of the infertile who want to parent would be given the opportunity to do so through adoption. These people now feel under significant pressure to pursue biological parenthood through high-tech infertility treatment or complicated surrogacy arrangements—pressure that makes little sense in a world suffering in myriad ways from overpopulation.  

She fails to realize that there are infertile people, say in Guatemala, China, India, Korea or the Philippines, for whom modern reproductive technology is affordable. That in these countries infertility treatments make much less sense. That people in these countries need to be educated and given the opportunity to adopt their “own children.” Certainly, there are still countries where little or no local demand for adoptive children exists. International adoption, like many foreign aid programs, probably has a role in the development process of a country, but where it tends to perpetuate perceptions of helplessness one the poor-country side, a savior mentality on the rich-country side, and corruption and profit-making on all sides, just as with foreign aid, it’s time to re-examine the concept.

One thought on “Voices of the infertile

  1. I agree with what you’ve written. However, I think I see Bartholet is trying to say in the first quote:

    “It is simply a symbolic gesture “for” the nation and “against” the foreigners that is easy and cheap to make.”

    If countries choose to end IA based solely on politics (I mean to say, for ‘spite’); the children are the losers. The country has not put in place reforms to give those children permanent homes in country, and would be depriving them of homes internationally. (Of course, childen should first and foremost be helped to stay in their birthfamilies (if possible), or placed in loving domestic adoptive homes. IA should always be the last option.)

    That said, I don’t think the children have a voice either way. They are really powerless in the equation.

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