By Ann Tatko-Peterson
Wednesday, August 6th, 2008 at 6:05 am in Adoption.
Some stories just break your heart. Manjhee is less than two weeks old. Already she has been abandoned by her two “mothers” and labeled the world’s first “surrogate orphan.” And not because there isn’t a parent who wants her. It’s a convulted case that shows how the unexpected can turn a family’s life upside down.
A Japanese couple — Dr. Ikufumi Yamada and his wife, Yuki Yamada, contracted with a woman in India to be their surrogate. Commercial surrogacy was legalized in India in 2002. It’s also known as renting a womb, with often poor Indian women receiving about $3,000 to carry a child that is biologically another couple’s. The hitch for the Yamadas came when they divorced in June, a month before Manjhee was born. Yuki gave up her rights to the child. Upon the little girl’s birth, as stipulated in the contract, the surrogate mother also walked away from her. But all wasn’t lost because Ikufumi still wanted his daughter. Only a law in India is blocking his way.
It seems India never imagined this scenario occuring. As a result, they never wrote an addendum to the 1890 Guardians and Wards Act, which says single fathers cannot adopt a girl child. Although Ikufumi is the biological father, the legitimacy of the birth remains in question because she was born to a surrogate. To take the child out India, he needs a passport. The Japanese embassy can give the child one only after the Indian courts give Ikufumi custody of the child. And right now, the law is preventing him from doing so. That leaves Manjhee in the hands of Ikufumi’s 70-year-old mother, whose tourist visa is about to expire.
What happens to the child remains to be seen. But for anyone going through the adoption process, this is just one more reminder of how tangled a process it can be.