On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he plans to sign into law a controversial bill that will ban American citizens from adopting Russian children. "I still don't see any reasons why I should not sign it," said Putin. But government officials and adoption experts in both the United States and Russia continue to offer plenty of reasons to block the adoption ban, which has drawn considerable criticism for the damage it could do to Russia's unusually high orphan population. Where did the adoption ban come from, and what effects could it have? A guide:
Why would Russia want to ban adoptions to the U.S.?
The proposed ban is widely regarded as a direct response to the United States' Magnitsky Act, which imposes bans and asset freezes on Russian officials who are suspected to have been involved in human-rights violations. Many in the Russian government have denounced the Magnitsky Act as overreaching and hypocritical, and the adoption ban is just the latest in a series of retaliatory steps over the past few months intended to reduce U.S. influence in Russia.
What does this mean for Americans who want to adopt?
If the ban is signed into law, the U.S. would lose its third-highest source for overseas adoptions (behind China and Ethiopia). UNICEF estimates that there are about 740,000 Russian children without parental custody, and only 18,000 Russians currently waiting to adopt a child. Over the past 20 years, more than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by American parents.
What'll happen to Russian children in the middle of the adoption process?
Russian child-rights commissioner Pavel Astakhov says the law would block the departures of the 46 Russian children who are in the process of being adopted by Americans, regardless of previous agreements and court approval. "They will not be able to go to America, to those who wanted to see them as their adopted children," said Astakohv, an outspoken proponent of the ban, in a statement. "There is no need to go out and make a tragedy out of it." Ashkatov has also petitioned Putin to extend the ban to other countries.
Is there any chance the adoption ban could still be blocked?
Despite his public comments, some experts continue to believe that the proposed adoption ban is strictly a political maneuver, and that Putin will eventually decide to block it. "This whole discussion over the adoption ban has served the purpose of shifting public attention from the corrupt Russian officials targeted under the U.S. Magnitsky Act to the problems of orphans and the dangers they face in foreign homes," says Nikolai Petrov the Moscow Carnegie Center.