Spanish Parents Demand Records on Franco-Era Child Kidnappings

July 8, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It’s hard to know under which category to file scandals like this one (Wall Street Journal, 6/26/18). How about “Government Interference in Families?” Or perhaps “Governmental Deprivation of Parental Rights?” “Big Brother Knows Best” is another possibility. So is “Child Trafficking.”

I first wrote about this way back in 2011. Then as now, thousands of Spanish adults are clamoring for the government to produce records of a policy during the post-WWII Franco regime that encouraged hospitals to take newborns from Leftist parents, tell the parents the children died, produce fake death certificates and hand the children over to parents more friendly to the government. Needless to say, money greased the wheels of this particularly odious practice. It went on from just after the end of the war until after Franco died in 1975.

Now, thousands of those deprived parents and their now-adult children are fighting back. The article details one 49-year-old woman who’s sued the doctor who, she alleges, told her mother she’d died and handed her to strangers.

Inés Madrigal told a three-judge panel in Madrid that the woman she had always considered her biological mother confessed to her before she died that a gynecologist named Eduardo Vela had given her a baby in June 1969. Dr. Vela told her to act as if Inés were her birth child and provided no clues about the baby’s origin, the court heard…

Spanish officials at homes for unwed pregnant women and hospital clinics allegedly took newborns from mothers who were considered leftists or communists and gave them to families connected to the Franco regime. The practice later morphed into a network to traffic babies for money, prosecutors and some academics say, and carried on when Spain transitioned to democracy after Franco’s death.

Ms. Madrigal’s case is the first to reach trial, but Spanish activists have been putting the heat on the government for at least a decade to provide more information on the policy. Unsurprisingly, the government hasn’t been overly forthcoming.

As readers of this blog will perhaps recall, much the same thing happened in Israel shortly after its creation in 1948. As I wrote here, the United States and Great Britain encouraged Yemeni Jews to emigrate to the new state and some 50,000 of them did. But the Ashkenazi power structure in Israel wasn’t amused. In what must count as a Top Ten irony, those European Jews considered the Yemenis, if not subhuman then certainly subnormal. So they adopted a policy much like that of Franco. They took Yemeni newborns and gave them to couples considered more in line with government standards.

As in Spain, the government’s documentation of the atrocities has been hard to locate. Indeed, the Israeli government established a commission to look into the matter. Its findings are widely considered a whitewash of the scandal, a conclusion much reinforced by the fact that the government simultaneously sealed all records of the policy and its effects for 50 years.

More outrageous behavior by a government toward parents would be hard to imagine and certainly nothing in the U.S. even remotely qualifies. But, as I said in my 2011 post, adoption law and practice certainly have parallels, particularly as regard fathers. Putative father registries exist for the sole purpose of removing biological fathers from the process of adoption. Children lose fathers, fathers lose children and the whole mess is paved with money from adoptive parents and, not occasionally, the U.S. government.

So under what category do we file these governmental policies that, by hook or by crook, shanghai children away from perfectly fit parents and create an active baby market in the process? I’m not certain, but the exercise of state power over parents and children, in situations that are plainly none of the government’s business, continues. It is at all times to be scrutinized and usually resisted. Almost invariably, parents know better than the government about how to raise children and do a far better job of it than anything or anyone the government has to offer.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly called the right to parent one’s children a fundamental liberty interest, one of the most basic rights supposedly preserved to us by the Constitution. We must never forget that that is exactly what it is and act accordingly.

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