Adoption, Surrogacy, and Birthright

Adoption and surrogacy are today uniquely framed in terms of family creation, and the mythologies that surround this status quo still hold within all realms of “First World” societies, despite a growing challenge from adoptees, true mothers and families, as well as originating communities that source such children. Such challenges recognize the economic and political realities that undergird adoption and surrogacy as we understand it today, and most recently take the form of government apologies for the Baby Scoop era, the Magdalene Laundries, and the targeting of Indigenous Peoples within the era of Anglo-American empire.

Examined from this normally unvoiced perspective, the functional aspects of these practices reveal themselves to be premised upon economic and political factors based on the needs of growing nation-states, with the desire to “create family” relegated to a supportive conceit of bourgeois society. These “pseudo-” or “proto-adoption” practices are nonetheless manifested in the industry as it is known today, in a formalization of what would otherwise be considered ethically and morally questionable if not bankrupt.

The extent and ramifications of these practices are less familiar to us for having passed into the historical record, but research allows them to be categorized along very particular lines, some of which include: the hiring of child labor and the practice of indentured servitude; the ethnic cleansing of indigenous and subaltern populations; the exporting of the poor to populate foreign colonies; the adoption of the so-called orphan as a by-product of war; and the secreting of children from their “illegitimate” origins. Examined this way, the lone focus on creating family becomes simply a recent aberration in a much longer history of dubious societal beliefs concerning the poor and marginalized.

Expanding further, today’s concept of “family creation” thus maps the desires and actions of prospective adoptive or surrogate parents onto the domestic and foreign policy goals of a given nation-state, which in turn enables legally and socially the preservation and maintenance of their class position as economic stakeholders. Adoption and surrogacy in a “bigger picture” thus continue to be avenues of trafficking and dispossession, no different from other such economically based displacements such as gentrification, apartheid, migrant labor, the creation of refugees, land occupation, and enforced statelessness, which all serve similar class interests.

This honest appraisal of the adoption and surrogacy industries, reflecting a trafficking and abuse of children unfettered by ethical or moral constraints or concerns, was more overtly expressed within fascistic nations (arguably the logical conclusion of current “democratic” states), which viewed the adoption of children from unwanted populations as a valid way to increase the amount of “desirable” children in the country, or else as a pointed means to cleanse the country of the politically or economically unwanted.

This ideological view has likewise been challenged recently, as witnessed by the scandals of disappeared children in Spain and Argentina, whose fascist governments last century provided a conduit for children from the poorer classes to the wealthy, with the involvement of the Catholic Church creating a kind of missionary backdrop to the practice. In Spain this was a prominent feature of the Franco regime; in Argentina, the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo represents the political class targeted for decimation by a fascist government.

This political destruction finds reflection in the practice of rape as a weapon of war, as well as the role of such governments in attempting to augment their population by forcing women to bear children who fulfill the nation’s genetic prerogative. For one well-known example, an estimated 20,000 children—12,000 in Norway and 8,000 in Germany—were forced to be brought to term in this way, or were kidnapped by German soldiers and placed with Nazi families, during the Nazi regime’s “Lebensborn” program.

It should therefore not surprise us to read the following quote as reported by Electronic Intifada:

[Frederick] Hertz says that Israeli same-sex couples view child-rearing and surrogacy as a “queer contribution to the building of the Jewish state.” Driving this point home, Hertz told the “Out in the Bay” podcast in July 2012 that Israeli Jewish gay activists see surrogacy for same-sex couples as important for “maintaining the demographic advantage over non-Jews.”

In this disturbing light, the Zionist belief in populating Greater Israel is little different from economically and politically motivated fascistic impositions on the nether classes during the days of the attempted extermination of European Jewry. Similarly, the current French push to allow for gay and lesbian adoption, and even the American attempts to legalize on the federal level gay marriage (and by extension family creation via adoption) cannot be seen as progressive or “liberal”, but instead are regressive and “neo-liberal” expansions of the economic base of the country at the expense of those without such luxury or privilege, as befits capitalistic societies.

Viewed this way, the practices of adoption and surrogacy have little to do with human dignity or rights or even love, and everything to do with an arrived bourgeoisie willing to trade in their so-called activism or resistant status for a place within the halls of power. When this formerly involved only the kowtowers and compradors themselves, we might understand this as simply a continuation of the co-optation of resistance within a dominant framework for the benefit of those who are primed to survive such dystopia.

On the other hand, when innocent children are involved without their consent, and with their right to know their origins and progenitors trumped for the constructed rights of their traffickers, then we have surpassed a definitive moral limit. When the nether classes are exploited in order to provide for those who can only be seen as their eventual annihilators, then we must admit to having truly hit the bottom of the abyss. When the entire practice is mythologized within idealized concepts of adoption and surrogacy, ignoring their destructive underpinnings as well as more communal and cooperative alternatives concerning the commonweal and childcare, then we have indeed devolved as societies if not as human beings.

Daniel Ibn Zayd currently lives in Beirut. In 2009 he founded the artists' collective Jamaa Al-Yad. He co-founded a collective of transracial adoptees, Transracial Eyes. He can be reached by email at: daniel.ibnzayd@inquisitor.com. Read other articles by Daniel, or visit Daniel's website.