Column: Legislature must act against baby mills
It is Hawaii’s decency that has made us exemplary throughout history; we are better than this.
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In 2020, the dehumanization and trafficking of humans has no place in a civilized society. It haunts me, knowing that here in our midst some of our most powerful and privileged neighbors are in effect selling babies through the adoption system. What we know from recent investigation by multiple media outlets into adoptions of Marshallese infants for financial profit, and its complicated network of deceit, manipulation and fear, should cause us outrage.
The reason why we have the Indian Child Welfare Act is because until 1978, over 25% of Native children were removed — and where loopholes exists, still are — from their homes and adopted to non-Native peoples under flimsy pretexts. Non-Native children are rarely removed from their homes for the same reasons. The loss of over 25% of Native children depopulated over 500 legally-recognized peoples in the United States, driving the extinction of languages, cultural practices, and the infliction of severe, psychological trauma on families.
The Star-Advertiser reported on March 31, 2018 (“Marshallese in Hawaii struggling with poverty, according to new report”) that our island state has stark racial disparity and poverty. Yet many of us blame our Marshallese and Chuukese neighbors as collective groups, for the indigent or criminal individuals who have failed to integrate in Hawaii.
Simultaneously, we treat successful individuals of those ancestries as being rugged individuals, exceptions to their peoples. Or their “Micronesian” ancestry may remain invisible to us, because they do not match a stereotype of how we think certain peoples look, act, and function in society.
Our duty is to be vigilant against our prejudices. It is not our individual fault that we have this prejudice across Hawaii, but it is our responsibility to end it, to treat each other with dignity, and teach our youth to be better. Only in a climate of cold-blooded prejudice and disparity can these predatory baby mills occur with impunity.
The list of potential offenses done is extensive: violations of our U.S. treaty with the Marshall Islands to bring pregnant women here to deliver and adopt babies within the U.S., packing five or more near-term women in a single room, possibly neglecting to provide prenatal care, defrauding Medicaid, deceiving pregnant women — by omission or outright — that they could maintain contact with their babies to bring them here, only informing them of the adoptions being closed at the signing of contracts.
One solution: Our state Legislature must join the 45 U.S. states that specify under what conditions birth mothers can receive lump sum payments for adoptions. Right now, the desperation of pregnant women is being weaponized to con them of their children. This first step is key.
It is Hawaii’s decency that has made us exemplary throughout history; we are better than this. End the loopholes that allow the commodification of infants, and the manipulation of young families’ hopes or the desperation of the poor.