BILL TARGETS BABY BROKERS

CINDI ROSS
The State
May 25, 1988

Baby brokers wouldn't be able to do business in South Carolina under an adoption bill passed Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The measure, drafted in response to a Florida adoption broker's reported interest in moving his business to the Palmetto State, was passed by the committee with little opposition and is expected to fare well before the General Assembly.

"This state just doesn't believe that that's a proper business practice," said Sen. John Hayes, D-York, who sponsored the measure. "There's no question that individuals who want to adopt should have the resources available to help them find a child, but we don't feel the children should be going to the highest bidder."

Hayes crafted a baby-broker amendment to a House-passed adoption bill after The State reported that Richard Gitelman, a Florida baby broker whose for-profit adoption practices have prompted new laws in Louisiana and Oregon, wanted to go into business in South Carolina.

Hayes said he had so far encountered no opposition to the measure, which would further tighten adoption laws that the General Assembly had revised in 1986.

"I don't think there's going to be any vast objection to it," said Hayes, who noted that members of the House didn't know about Gitelman when they passed their version of the bill. "My main concern with the broker part is there's a lot of people with a lot of ingenuity, and I hope we've adequately addressed all the loopholes."

The bill would allow adoptive parents to pay for medical and living costs for the biological mother and to pay for background investigations, for a guardian and for attorney fees.

The law, for instance, wouldn't interfere with a couple paying a mother for lost wages or living expenses while she was pregnant. "I think that if society wants that child born as opposed to aborted, I can see where there's no problem with saying, 'OK adoptive family, you can pay the necessary expenses to have this baby,' " he said.

The 1986 law didn't consider the possibility of a middleman such as Gitelman, who charges $24,000 to $45,000 to secure babies for prospective parents. The amendment would stop such practices.

The amendment says that "under no circumstances may any person charge, receive or pay a fee, compensation or anything of value for locating a child to be adopted or for locating a person or prospective adoptive parent to adopt a child."

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