The Russian Parliament has unanimously approved a ban on U.S. adoptions, escalating tensions between the two countries and setting the adoption community reeling.
The ban, which will prohibit all U.S. citizens from adopting Russian orphans, will become law when President Vladimir Putin signs it, which he is expected to do within a matter of days. With Putin's signature, the bilateral agreement on international adoptions that was ratified earlier this year and took effect on Nov. 1 will effectively be unraveled.
Some Russians have cited American adoption abuses, including the 19 Russian-born children who died while in the care of American parents, as cause for the ban (that statistic should be put into some context. More than 60,000 children have been adopted by Americans over the past two decades.)
However, the adoption ban has been more widely been seen as retaliation for a new U.S. law that cracks down on human rights abuses. Earlier this month, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, which imposes a ban on visas and freezes the bank accounts of Russian officials suspected of human rights violations.
Top levels of the Russian government, including Putin, have alluded to as much. Last week a press conference for Russian and foreign journalists, Putin was asked why he supported making "the most destitute and helpless children into instruments of political battle." He responded by asking how the journalists in the room could stand by while the U.S. "humiliates" Russia? "You think that's normal?" Putin demanded. "What's normal about being humiliated? You like that? What are you, a sadomasochist? The country will not be humiliated."
He did not, of course, directly respond to the reason he and the legislature is demonstrating its anger at the United States by denying Russian orphans a chance for a family.
Putin's supporters, who are largely comprised of older, less educated and rural voters tend to favor this ban. A recent poll conducted by the Moscow-based research marketing company Public Opinion Foundation, found that 56 percent of Russians support the law because they largely do not favor foreign adoption.
More highly educated, younger and more urban voters tend to feel differently, and the Orthodox Church and some liberal critics of Putin's have spoken out against this bill, which disproportionately hurts Russian children.
Some senior-level Russian ministers have also spoken out against this legislation, citing the horrific effect it will have on the estimated 700,000 orphans currently living in Russian institutions. After all, more Russian orphans are adopted by families in the U.S than in any other country other than Russia.
Perhaps most heartbreaking is the fate of the 46 Russian orphans, some of whom are ill or disabled. All of these children were on the verge ongoing home to families. This week, the Russian government announced that the adoption of those children will not be finalized and that will remain in orphanages in Russia. Their names will be added to a Russia database, possibly condemning them to a childhood spent in institutional care.