The case is called Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl. It should be called Adoptive Couple vs. Deadbeat Dad.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in what is known as the Baby Veronica case (the “baby” is now 3½ years old). Some observers, including one of the justices, call it a case that demands Solomonic wisdom.
The case divides people along brittle ideological lines. Yet if we take ideology and politics out of it and apply common sense and ask what is in the best interest of the child, the case is not so complex.
Baby Veronica was the product of a union that went awry. Her natural father renounced her mother and split. He gave up all parental rights to Veronica (though he now says he meant to do so only with respect to the mother, not possible adoptive parents). He gave mother and daughter no financial or moral support.
Veronica was adopted by a couple who lovingly cared for her for 27 months. Then she was taken from them and given to her natural father, who had changed his mind. Now he wanted her.
This gross injustice is possible because of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress passed in 1978 to help preserve Native American families by erecting high barriers to ending the rights of Indian parents. Veronica’s biological father has a small amount of Indian blood.
The law gives natural parents who are Native Americans extra rights that, at least in this case, trump decency and the interests of the child. A lawyer for the adoptive parents told the justices that the law had been turned inside out, and that affirming the decision to return Veronica to her natural father would set a dangerous precedent. “You’re basically banning the interracial adoption of abandoned Indian children,” she said.
The court also heard arguments from a lawyer representing a court-appointed advocate for Veronica. He said the case should be returned to the South Carolina courts with instructions to do what is best for Veronica.
You don’t have to be Solomon to see that this is what’s right here. If you have doubts, consider that Justice Antonin Scalia, in oral arguments, seemed to side with the deadbeat dad. Lots of kids have imperfect fathers, he groused.
The Indian child welfare statute is a bad law, based on race. Its application in this case is worse. Being a parent is not like ordering from a menu.
And children are not property. They have a right to parental care as well as biological truth and, when possible, biological connection.
The parents who wanted Veronica and cared for her are her “real” parents. Love is thicker than blood.