In one of the recent posts on the Russian adoption fiasco, I linked to a discussion of Professor Michelle Goodwin’s observations about the effect of money on adoption. Perhaps it is true that money lies at the root of many of the problems with international adoption. The potential of financial gain may motivate people to snatch children in order to make them available for adoption or to conceal relevant information about children they have available for adoption.
Whether you characterize it as greed or need, the availability of money (which is clearly linked to commodification) can warp human behavior in countless settings. This isn’t the first time the corrupting influence of money has come up in this blog.
Not long ago I wrote about the market for eggs. Here, too, concerns about exploitation surface. Women may be offered substantial sums of money for their eggs, which are in time sold to couples seeking to use ART to have children.
And then there is surrogacy. (There’s a new story in Mother Jones I will comment on shortly, and it has frequently been a topic here.) I worry about the corrupting influence of money and, in the globalized market, the exploitation of poor women in India.
So it might be possible to generalize and say that money corrupts these exchanges and that therefore, money (and by extension commodification) lies at the root of many of the problematic practices in adoption and ART.
There’s truth to this, but as is so often the case, the simple story isn’t an adequate analysis. For instance, it makes little sense to me to say a woman can donate (and I mean it literally here) an egg, but cannot sell the same egg. Rather, as I think the comments on the post I linked to discuss, perhaps the problem isn’t as much the money paid to the woman as the profits secured by other players in the industry that surrounds here.
Similarly with adoption, when a social worker completes a home study required in order to qualify for adoption, she or he is paid. This it seems to me is only reasonable. In the same way, there’s nothing wrong with paying many of the people involved in the process of adoption.
So while you might be able to say that many of the problematic aspects in these transactions can be traced to the role of money, it’s not the case that payment of money is always bad.