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Some child sales remain legal in Missouri

April 07, 2003
By: Sara Bondioli
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB148

JEFFERSON CITY - Slavery was abolished in Missouri almost 150 years ago, but it's still legal to sell a child -- as a Ray County case demonstrated.

Ginger L. Martin had charges of child trafficking dismissed in 1999 after she sold her daughter to raise bail money for a former boyfriend. The judge said there was no evidence that she intended the sale to be permanent.

The mother of Martin's boyfriend tried to make the deal as part of a sting operation after she reported to police that Martin had offered to sell the child. The child was then taken into Missouri Division of Family Services custody.

The sale of children in Missouri got international attention when a St. Louis woman was accused of selling her twins twice over the Internet after their birth in 2000. The children were sold through an Internet adoption broker to a family in California and then to a Welsh family.

She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in February that she didn't receive any money for the adoptions -- it all went to the Internet adoption broker. The children are now in Missouri state custody.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown, would make the sale of a child in Missouri illegal for any reason. Currently, the law prohibits the sale of a child only if it is for adoption or services.

Crawford first introduced the bill in 1999 after reading about an Arizona girl who was sold twice by her Gypsy parents. Arizona law did not specifically prohibit this.

Crawford said he realized the same could happen in Missouri. Soon after his decision to introduce a bill on the issue, he heard of the Ray County case.

Rep. Gary Kelly, D-Richmond, was a police officer in Ray County when the sale occurred. He co-sponsored an identical bill with Crawford in 2001 and 2002.

Kelly said he won't predict whether the bill will make it to the floor this session but hopes it will at least pass as an amendment to another bill.

Crawford said some attorneys had concerns that the bill would prohibit them from collecting fees for helping with adoptions. To address that, Crawford included a statement that the changes would not apply to legitimate adoptions.

Crawford said most people can't believe the bill is needed.

"Once they get past that hurdle, people take you seriously," he said.

The bill is currently before the House Crime Committee. Crawford is asking that it be combined with other measures in an omnibus crime bill.