Babies are not commodities

In the Philippines, there have been far too many horror stories about hospitals selling abandoned newborn babies to couples willing to pay the price. Some hospitals will even throw in an “authentic” birth certificate into the package. In other instances, selling babies and selling birth certificates are two distinct businesses. No, it isn’t just rumor. Back in the mid-70s, a relative bought a baby from a Bicol hospital then bought an “authentic” birth certificate from a Manila hospital.

In the first place, babies — children — are not commodities. At least, they shouldn’t be. And I say “shouldn’t be” because we know that, in practice, babies are sold and bought like ordinary market commodities. Couples and individuals who have otherwise been disqualified to adopt under regular procedures can buy babies from baby brokers. Those who are unwilling to wait out the length of the normal adoption process can save time by going to the same baby brokers. Selling babies is a thriving underground business.

Another factor that encourages the underground baby business is the fact that legal adoption is an expensive and often a long drawn out process. A friend who adopted a young boy a couple of years ago spent tens of thousands of pesos for the mandatory psychological tests alone. Add the legal fees to the testing fees and the entire process can burn a deep hole in the pockets of any prospective adoptive parent.

While I agree that a certain amount of screening is necessary to gauge the fitness of the prospective parents (who wants to hand over a child to a latent pedophile or potential child abuser?), it is likewise true that legal adoption has become something that only the affluent can afford.

Another aspect that depicts the treatment of babies as commodities is how couples filter prospective adopted children.

The decades of American presence in Clark and Subic resulted in the birth of thousands of Filipino-American children. The ones given up by their mothers, a lot of whom were bar girls who could not hope to care for nor financially support their babies, were sought after in the underground baby adoption circles. These were beautiful children with the peculiar good looks from the combination of Asian and Caucasian genes. Clearly, prospective adoptive parents preferred good-looking babies over the less physically attractive ones.