March 5, 2024

Spain’s stolen generation

My hunch is that the lead story of this
week’s newsletter sheds light on some of the most contested issues in today’s
bioethics, reproductive technology’s ability to create children without
procreating them.

A grim story has emerged in Spain about 50
years of underground baby trafficking. About 30,000 children of mothers on the
losing side were taken from their mothers after the Spanish Civil War. That was
bad enough, but amazingly, the practice appears to have continued well into the
1990s. By some media accounts, as many as 300,000 children may have been fraudulently
adopted out, separated from their biological parents. Now many of these
children – the fortunate ones who know the truth — are distraught and
resentful. I recall similar stories from Australia, Britain and Argentina.

This sheds light on two competing views of
children and parents. The genetic attachment view insists that only natural
parents can properly care for children; the hygienic view that only properly
educated, well-resourced parents can. In the 1950s no one turned a hair if babies
were removed from single mothers. Today this seems brutal and blind.

But something in our culture favours the
hygienic view. It is trotted out to justify the existence of hundreds of
thousands of babies who will never know their father or mother because they were
the products of anonymous gamete donation or of surrogacy.

Aren’t we creating yet another stolen
generation? Are we just as blind as the blinkered bureaucrats of the 50s if we
say that children born through anonymous sperm donation are ungrateful if they long
to know who their parents really are?

What do you think?

Michael Cook