Socialist Worker

The baby business

by Hazel Croft
Issue No. 1732

The case of the 'internet twins' has provoked cries of outrage from politicians and press alike. The tabloid press have portrayed the Kilshaws, the British couple who bought the six month old twin girls on the internet for £8,200, as eccentric and unfit parents. The twins' biological mother has been called 'shameful' and 'grasping'. The Kilshaws may not be particularly appetising people. He is a well-off solicitor and belongs to a far right fragment, the Democratic Party. But most people who are desperate for children are not like this. The same politicians and newspapers that have been in uproar over the 'internet twins' have helped create a situation that drives such people to take extreme measures.

There are thousands of people in Britain who are desperate to have children yet are denied the chance. Tory and New Labour health cuts have virtually wiped out the option of free NHS fertility treatment (IVF) for the majority of infertile couples. Despite this, one in six couples in Britain go through years of anguish and heartbreak to get fertility treatment. Some 80 percent of these couples are forced to go private at the cost of thousands of pounds.

Yet papers like the Daily Mail never miss the opportunity to rave about the 'wrong' people getting IVF-such as single mothers, lesbians or women who are considered 'too old'. William Hague's Tories have seized on the case to launch an attack on 'politically correct' adoption rules, particularly those over race. It is incredibly hard to adopt children in Britain. But the main problem is not 'political correctness'.

Some 2,500 children are in care homes. But there is little chance of them being chosen by potential adoptive parents because they feel they do not have the support to be able to cope.

The totally inadequate and often abusive care system creates huge emotional problems for children who have often had traumatic pasts. Many working class people are discriminated against when it comes to meeting the criteria about what makes a 'suitable' parent. The government wants to speed up the adoption process. But what would really help would be massive investment in council care, financial support for adoptive parents, and to make it much easier for lesbians and gay men, unmarried couples and single people who want to adopt. But none of this is on offer. In fact life in Blair's Britain is getting harder for children and parents.

Poverty, unemployment, job insecurity, flexible working and long hours, stress, bad housing, and lack of childcare facilities all put huge strains on family relationships. New Labour has pushed single parents into greater poverty by slashing their benefits.

The situation is even worse in the US, where millions of single mums are denied any welfare, where abortion rights are under attack, and where some have no choice but to give up their children. The buying and selling of babies can't be blamed on evil individuals or the internet.

It has to be seen in the context of a society that holds up a model of the ideal family which we are all supposed to aspire to, but which spectacularly fails to meet our needs and desires. Yet at the same time we are told that the market will bring happiness and prosperity for all.

If we want to stop desperate people trying to buy their family happiness, it means fighting for a society where we have full control of our lives, bodies and fertility.

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Article information

Sat 27 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1732
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