If you don’t think money plays a role in adoption…

CBC’s The Current just aired Alison Motluk’s incredible but disturbing radio documentary about a Jessica Allen, woman who thought she was carrying twins as  a surrogate mother and then discovered that one of the “twins” was actually her own child.

Allen only discovered one of the babies was hers after giving birth by cesarean section and not right away either, because she wasn’t allowed to see the babies after their birth. One of the twins looked different and the couple who hired her to carry their baby was from China and the Chinese government insisted on a DNA test before allowing the twins into China. It was then that the discovery was made that one of the male twins was the genetic child of Allen and her husband. Allen’s husband is black and Allen is white so the differences between their son and the Chinese couple’s son were pretty obvious.

You’d think the ethical thing to do would be to return the baby boy to his parents but no, the surrogacy agency insisted the parents pay them back for extra money Allen received for carrying twins, for a clothing allowance, for medical expenses related to her son, for the cost of child care, formula, a birth certificate, circumcision, the list goes on, before they would return her child. No money, no child.

But Allen and her husband Wardell Jasper were told that if they signed adoption papers, they wouldn’t have to pay the agency back for these costs because the agency had parents waiting to adopt their child!

The couple had to hire a lawyer and fight to get their own child back, which they did two months later. Had they not been able to afford a lawyer, they would have lost their child. Allen had turned to surrogacy to make money but also to help others. But nobody cared about her when her own child became part of the mix. She was legally contracted to only carry the child of a stranger and she says she followed every instruction given to her by the surrogacy agency.

A lack of money is probably, if you research it, the most common reason children end up for adoption. The general public thinks adoption is all about a girl or woman being in a position of power and freely choosing to relinquish a child, making a carefully-considered, informed decision. Look into the stories of people who relinquish children and you’ll find that they’re usually in some sort of distress.

In this instance, with the lines presumably being so clear (an accidental, unexpected pregnancy accompanying a surrogacy), it’s hard to believe that someone would even try to take the naturally-conceived baby of a woman doing another woman a favour and risking her own health by carrying a stranger’s child but at the end of the day baby brokering has nothing to do with ethics or morality. The baby becomes a commodity, the product of a legal transaction. Nothing else.

Allen and Jasper continue to fight for legal recognition that they are their own child’s parents because when their baby was born, it was assumed he was the child of the parents who contracted Allen to bear their child and those other parents are listed on the birth certificate as the legal parents.

You’ll find the CBC story about Jessica Allen’s nightmare experience and Motluk’s powerful radio documentary here. Do check it out!

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