Spanish society has been shaken by allegations of the trafficking of thousands of babies by nuns, priests and doctors, beginning under Franco’s rule and continuing into the 1990s. The practice of removing children from parents deemed “undesirable” and placing them with “approved” families, began in the 1930s under the dictator General Francisco Franco. Although government officials cannot provide specific figures, lawyers involved in the case believe that as many as 300,000 babies were taken.
The scandal is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which under Franco assumed a prominent role in Spain’s social services including hospitals, schools and children’s homes. Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.
After Franco’s death in 1975, the major political parties agreed an amnesty to help smooth the transition to democracy. But this amnesty law has never been repealed, so attempts to investigate Spain’s baby trafficking as a national crime against humanity have been rejected by the country’s judiciary and resisted by its politicians.
The Spanish government’s refusal to set up a national inquiry into the scandal has frustrated affected families, who in many cases are carrying out their own investigations, as best they can. Babies’ graves have been dug up across the country for DNA-testing. Some have revealed nothing but a pile of stones, while others have contained adult remains. Spaniards have flocked to clinics to take DNA tests in the hope of reuniting their families. The first few matches have now been made between so-called stolen children and their biological mothers. But there could potentially have already been so many more. Data protection laws prohibit DNA banks from sharing or cross-referencing data and the Spanish government has yet to fulfill its promise to set up a national DNA database.
Title: Spain Stolen babies and the families who lived a lie
Author: Katya Adler
Source: BBC News Magazine
Date: October 2011
Student Researcher: Yessenia Mendez, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Suzel Bozada-Deas, Sonoma State University