Leading Article: Bureaucracy makes a case for buying babies

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The Independent Online
IT IS a crime under Romanian law to 'buy' a baby, as Adrian and Bernadette Mooney, now being held in a Bucharest prison, learnt to their cost. But it is surely not a moral outrage.

Consider the allegation against the couple from the Home Counties. It is that they paid both a 'fixer' and the parents of five- month-old Monica Baiaram, who they attempted unsuccessfully to smuggle out of the country. Had they succeeded, the unwanted baby would have become a part of their apparently happy family, which already includes a daughter, Grace, another child of Romanian origins, legally adopted in 1991.

Why then did the Mooneys, who are unable to have children of their own, not go through the same, lawful, procedure on this occasion? The answer is that they fell victim to over-regulation - in this country and in Romania. The Berkshire social services department reportedly ruled that, at 38 and 40 respectively, they were too old to adopt. This may have been bureaucratic bloody-mindedness but it may have reflected the politically correct belief that transnational adoption is to be discouraged.

Whatever the reason for this snub, it set the Mooneys on the road to Bucharest for the second time. There they ran up against the prickly chauvinism that has bedevilled attempts to build a rational policy towards the transnational adoption of some of the 200,000 Romanian children living in primitive orphanages.

The official and monopolistic Romanian Committee for Adoptions, set up in the aftermath of the chaos following the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime, seems to regard foreign adoption of its country's neglected orphans as a national humiliation, not a benign meeting of supply and demand. As a result, the committee makes the business of adoption as bureaucratic and long-drawn-out as possible. For example, it will process only five applications from the United Kingdom at one time. After a delay which can be as much as two years, it allocates a child to would-be parents. There is no element of choice involved.

From Bucharest to Berkshire, the same principles apply: over- regulation and obstruction do not destroy demand, they divert it into unhealthy channels and encourage otherwise law-abiding people into technical breaches of the law.