Prodded by grieving parents, Spanish judges are investigating hundreds of charges that infants were abducted and sold for adoption over a 40-year period. What may have begun as political retaliation for leftist families during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco appears to have mutated into a trafficking business in which doctors, nurses and even nuns colluded with criminal networks. . . .I would note first that the prosecutor thinks many of the cases being referred to him will turn out not to have been criminal acts; you can see how people adopted by more regular methods might wonder if they had been part of this, and outright fantasists might also sign on: "That's why I never fit into my family; I was stolen from my rightful parents!" The Guardian says that sometimes blank spots in the records cover not criminality, but compassion:
Spain’s judiciary was forced into action after Anadir, an association formed to represent people searching for missing children or parents, filed its first complaints in late January. Attorney General Cándido Conde-Pumpido announced on June 18 that 849 cases were being examined, adding that 162 already could be classified as criminal proceedings because of evidence pointing to abductions. . . .
Antonio Barroso, 42, founded Anadir last year, after being told by a friend that they were both adopted. He took DNA samples from the woman he had always known as his mother and confronted her after tests showed that his sample and hers were not a match. She admitted paying a nun for a baby and misleading her son about his birth for decades.
Clandestine networks that once encouraged single women to hand their babies over for secret adoptions by respectable families in a mostly Roman Catholic country have added further confusion to past events. In those cases, births were sometimes registered fraudulently as being born to the adoptive mother.But there seems, nonetheless, to be something real behind these charges. The fascist government of Argentina did something similar, taking babies from leftist families and placing them with supporters. Franco's government passed a decree in 1940 allowing children to be taken from leftist families if their "moral education" was at risk:
Children of jailed left-wing opponents were stolen from their mothers with state approval and often the blessing of the Roman Catholic Church to purge Spain of Marxist influence. . . . Historians say many of the "lost children" were put in Catholic religious orders and became nuns or priests while others were illegally adopted by other families – usually supporters of the regime – with changed identities.Which makes me wonder: why were fascist families short of babies? Why was there such a shortage of babies in Spain and Argentina that people were buying and selling them, or just stealing them from ideological "criminals"? I thought that the contemporary baby shortage was the product of birth control and other aspects of the post 1968 world, and that before then there was generally a surplus of unwanted babies filling up orphanages and the like. But maybe I was wrong about this.
Some of the Spanish cases do come from more recent times, down to 1990. In those cases I have to wonder about the passivity of parents who allowed their babies to be taken:
I find this story almost unbelievable. Who would accept that her child had died and been buried in an unmarked grave without demanding to see the corpse or generally raising hell? I suppose the authoritarian structure of fascist Spain discouraged such acts, and the hospitals were run by the church, adding further authority to the actions of doctors and nurses. But in 1990? By then Spain had been a democracy for more than a decade.
Mrs. Rodrigo Romero, a former seamstress, gave birth, prematurely, in 1971. A doctor in a Seville hospital told her that she had had a son, who was small but “fine and capable of getting a lot bigger,” she recalled in an interview. The doctor never reappeared, and she never saw her baby again. Two days later, another doctor at the hospital told her husband that the baby had been sent to another hospital for further checks, but had died there. The second hospital had taken care of the burial, the doctor said, and the body lay in Seville’s San Fernando cemetery, in an unmarked grave.
“Deep inside, I’ve always known that my son was stolen from me,” Mrs. Rodrigo Romero said.
In some cases one has to suspect the involvement of clever criminals, who picked weak mothers to prey on and worked to deceive them:
A Madrid clinic that closed in the 1980s after being investigated for its role in illegal adoptions, the Clinica San Ramón, is at the centre of the allegations. Journalists found a baby's corpse in a fridge, leading to rumours that bodies were kept to show parents who doubted their own child had died. A former clinic employee recently confirmed that babies were illegally given up for adoption.
But according to Journalist Natalia Junquera of El País, many of the participants in the alleged Spanish baby stealing were motivated to correct social wrongs:
From what I've seen, the most important motive was ideological. Nuns and priests who simply decided that the child would be better off with families they trusted than with the ones to which they had been born.
I wonder if this sort of thing is still going on in some of the European and Asian countries with the lowest birthrates; I can easily imagine Italian or Korean doctors colluding to take babies away from "undeserving" 17-year-olds and sell them to wealthy couples in their 40s, feeling that the money they take is a reasonable payment for giving the children "better" lives.
I also find the emotional responses of the stolen/sold/adopted children very interesting. The desire of adopted children to find their "real" parents is strong in any case, and it must make things all the more difficult to suspect that their adoptive parents had done something criminal. I wonder how this will play out. Will those who find out that their mothers gave them up willingly be disappointed? Will they be angry with their birth mothers for letting them go so easily? Will they try to cut their adoptive parents out of their lives entirely, if it turns out they were bought or placed for ideological reasons? Some of the allegations involve the separation of pairs of twins; what will happen if they find each other? I have a feeling that this drama will go on for years.