By W.H. MARSHNER
May 15, 1975
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Abortion referral agencies across America are tied into a lucrative, black- market adoption racket, according to testimony presented Monday, April 28th, before Sen. Walter Mondale’s (D., Minn.) Subcommittee on Children and Youth.
Robert J. McAuley, a reporter with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, testified on the results of a month-long investigation carried out by himself and three other reporters. The investigation uncovered “a national network, with Cleveland as one of the hubs, in which babies were channeled into the hands of couples willing to pay as much as $25,000 to adopt them.”
“The transactions were handled by lawyers who wheel and deal with unwed mothers and the adoptive couples in order to bring about an adoption,” McAuley said. “Lawyers told Plain Dealer reporters that fees to arrange adoptions can be as high as $13,000.”
“Initially,” McAuley continued, “the investigation found that a New York City lawyer, Stanley B. Michelman, had contacted Cleveland area women and had offered to pay their living and medical expenses in return for the right to handle the adoption of their expected children. The question was: just how could a New York City lawyer learn of a Cleveland woman’s pregnancy, when the woman herself was attempting to keep the pregnancy from her closest friends and her family?”
“The answer turned out to be a loose-knit national referral system which operated from abortion advisory services. The investigation found six interstate abortion advisory services were referring pregnant women to lawyers in New York or Pennsylvania. The advisory services had toll-free phone listings in at least 61 cities across the Nation,” McAuley said.
“Reporters found that Mr. Michelman had reached pregnant women in Cleveland through two abortion information centers operated by Mrs. Angela Zajachuk.”
The names of these two centers, according to McAuley, were Abortion Information Division (with phone listings in at least nine cities in seven States) and Abortion Information Service (with listings in 16 cities in 10 States).
McAuley testified to an interview in which Michelman “denied any direct link with Mrs. Zajachuk; however, he did admit having contact with three abortion advisory services.” McAuley subsequently found that “Mrs. Zajachuk had referred pregnant women to a New York woman who operated an abortion advisory service called, Abortion and Adoption Assistance, Inc., in Roslyn Heights, New York. The New York woman, in turn, put the pregnant woman in touch with Michelman.”
In another interview Michelman admitted making around $90,000 a year handling adoptions.
Another lawyer involved in the trade, Robert H. Burns of Florida, runs what amounts to a baby factory on the outskirts of Miami. A woman whose illegitimate child had been placed with adoptive parents by Burns told McAuley that “she shared lodging with six other pregnant girls in a house outside Miami. The house, she said, was rented by Burns and was used as a dormitory for unwed mothers who agreed to let Burns handle their children’s adoptions.”
One of the catches of the racket, of course, is that a mother cannot change her mind and keep the child once she has received emoluments from the lawyer. McAuley testified to an instance of a Cleveland woman who “was forced to give up her baby even though she had changed her mind about the adoption and desperately wanted to keep the child.”
“The woman said she had been flown to New York by an attorney during the last months of her pregnancy. After she gave birth to and had held her daughter, the woman said she changed her mind. She said that when the attorney heard of her decision, he came to the hospital and threatened her with a lawsuit. The woman said she was frightened, alone, and without money and for those reasons gave in to the attorney. She is currently trying to regain her daughter through the Legal Aid Society,” McAuley said.
McAuley’s charge of a connection between black-market adoptions and abortion referral agencies is not isolated, according to other testimony. Lynne McTaggart, a reporter for the New York News, was able to corroborate his charges abundantly in a story published April 13th, 1975, in the Sunday New York News Magazine, entitled, “How I Sold — And Almost Bought — A Baby.”
Further confirmation came from Joseph H. Reid, executive director of the Child Welfare League of America, Inc. “Of concern,” he testified, “is a new approach — black-market profiteering via abortion counseling centers. For some time the Child Welfare League has suspected that there might be a connection between some such counseling services and black-market adoption operators. This area for exploration was suggested to a few newspapers and we subsequently have been glad to see that several have given excellent coverage to this alliance. Other papers have investigated different aspects such as ‘importing’ pregnant women from other countries or buying infants born in other countries. Just as the abortion center racket, all of these are odious as ‘blood money’.”
Reid indicated that the target of this collusion is usually “an expectant woman or adolescent too far advanced in pregnancy for abortion or one considered likely to change her mind for profit.”
The testimony did not make clear what kickbacks, if any, the abortion referral agencies receive from the black-market operators.
Black-market adoptions are defined as independent adoptions arranged by an intermediary where the intermediary functions for profit. Such an operation is illegal in all 50 States because it amounts to the sale of a human being. However, now that the January, 1973, Supreme Court decisions on abortion have defined the fetus as a non-person until live birth, it is difficult to see how these black-market adoptions can any longer be prosecuted. The biological mother or her intermediary need only claim that the fetus was “sold” prior to birth.