Friday Legal Updates – Adoption, Surrogacy & Exploitation in Guatemala

A disturbing story from RH Reality Check:

Since the turn of the Millennium, approximately 200,000 children have been adopted from abroad by U.S. families. While there are many success stories for international adoptions one downside is what some people refer to as the “baby trade” where adopting families will pay at least $25,000 and upwards to $50,000 to be matched with very young and healthy children.

This problem has been most evident in Guatemala where it is believed that payments to birth mothers for their infants have become routine. It was estimated that at the peak of this practice, Guatemala sent 17 children a day to other countries as inter-country adoptees. Under these conditions, the demand for infants became such that Claudia Rivera, a child rights advocate, asserts that “children were manufactured” in the nation to supply the system.

Concerns over these types of practices have lead the United States and Guatemala, and over 70 other countries, to adopt the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption which was developed to prevent child sales and theft and ultimately promote the best interests of the child.

With this new system in place, adoption has become much more regulated and difficult in Guatemala. Due to this, surrogacy has had a surge in popularity to meet the growing demands from infertile couples and individuals seeking babies. However, Guatemala is recognized by the UN to have the greatest gender inequality in the Western hemisphere and the nation has no regulatory laws on surrogacy. Desperately poor, Guatemalan women will inevitably find themselves being offered an opportunity to earn a wage to birth a baby in this dollar-a-day nation—not unlike previous underground adoption activities.

Very little is known about the surrogacy situation in Guatemala or how it will play out in the future. Those looking to use a Guatemalan surrogate or those looking for surrogacy services in Guatemala should be very cautious in their arrangements because they could be stepping into a grey area of human rights.

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