Trading in babies highlights adoption problem

19-11-2004

The police have cracked down on an illegal trade in babies, arresting five people, including the head of a maternity ward. The highly publicized case, in which a young woman and a doctor were arrested at Trebic airport as they were preparing to hand over a newborn baby boy, has opened a great many questions, primarily: how much of this is actually going on?

Daniela Lazarova has been following the story and joins me now in the studio.

Daniela, the fact that a doctor - the head of a maternity ward - is involved sounds serious. Do we know for how long this has been going on and how many cases there may have been?

"Well, for the time being the police say there have been minimally two cases, but that other arrests may follow. They have apparently uncovered a new baby scam where the risks are not very big - it involves persuading a woman or teenager who is pregnant not to have an abortion but to sell her baby. She gets an advance payment and when she's given birth she is told who to name as the father on the child's birth certificate - which is of course the name of the person who's ready to pay for the newborn. And under Czech law the father is perfectly entitled to walk into the maternity ward and leave with the baby. Now, as I said we don't know how many cases there may have been but the fact that the woman who organized this scheme actually put an ad out in the papers looking for mothers who could not afford to keep their children is fairly revealing. This woman was either running a big business or saw the potential for a big business."

That's the gist of the problem isn't it - the fact that most people have to wait for years and years to get a baby -so some get desperate enough to break the law to get one?

"That's a big part of the problem - yes. The process of adoption is extremely lengthy in this country with lots of hurdles along the way -and the result is that Czech orphanages are filling up with children when there is a long waiting list of childless couples who would love to adopt them. There are around 2,000 such children aged under three in orphanages - which is the highest number in Europe. So as you said, some couples look for other ways of acquiring a baby."

So isn't there pressure on Parliament to change those laws?

"Well, NGOs have been putting a lot of pressure on Parliament in recent years. And a couple of weeks ago Parliament approved in its first reading an amendment to the law which would simplify and speed up the process of adoption, especially by speeding up the process in court which often takes years. But the battle's not over yet because the bill must pass two other readings in the Lower House and then be approved by the Senate - so it will mean more months of waiting for the children who are in orphanages right now."

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