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Romanian Legislators Approve Orphans Bill

June 16, 2004

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Romanian legislators have approved a bill severely restricting adoptions of Romanian orphans by foreigners.

The measure says Romanian children can be adopted by foreigners only if the foreigners are their grandparents and only if a search for Romanian adoptive families has failed.

Parents who request or take money or other goods in exchange for giving up a child face up to seven years in prison under the measure.

Lawmakers approved the measure Tuesday, and President Ion Iliescu was expected to sign it into law.

The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest has criticized the bill, saying it is too harsh and that Romania won’t be able to absorb its abandoned and orphaned children without international adoptions.

International adoptions in Romania boomed after television pictures of children living in squalor in orphanages were broadcast worldwide following the 1989 ouster of communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu, who banned birth control and abortion.

Some 30,000 children have been adopted since 1989. The country’s state institutions currently house about 40,000 children, some of them abandoned, others orphans.

Some families _ mostly impoverished _ have placed their children in the institutions but maintain ties, making the children ineligible for adoption.

The adoption bill was crafted after Romania imposed a moratorium on international adoptions in 2001 at the urging of the European Union, which was concerned about allegations of baby trafficking and corruption within the adoption system. Romania hopes to join the EU in 2007.

The measure would take effect on Jan. 1 after being signed into law by Iliescu.

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