Madonna Fights Malawi to Adopt Mercy

She may have once been the biggest-selling female pop artist, but, these days, Madonna is raking in more headlines for her adoption crusade than her music.

Madonna has appealed a court ruling preventing her from adopting a 4-year-old girl from Malawi, her lawyer said on Friday. "I just filed the notice of appeal this afternoon on instructions from my client," Alan Chinula told Reuters.

A Malawian high court ruled earlier Friday that Madonna would not be allowed to adopt a second child, Mercy James, from the country. Judge Esme Chombo said the pop star shouldn't be allowed to bypass residency rules, as she did when she adopted David Banda, requiring that prospective parents spend significant time in Malawi.

The Human Rights Consultative Committee, a nongovernmental organization, has also accused Madonna of using her celebrity status to circumvent Malawi law to bring Mercy home faster than the traditional process allows, saying that the children should be kept within their communities.

Still others have condemned Madonna for adopting overseas when there are an estimated half-million children in foster care in the United States.

But not everyone's a critic.

Adoption advocates say that the need to place children in good homes knows no borders.

"I think that this construct of one child versus another is really unhealthy," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and advocacy group. "They both need homes, how can we put one kid against another?"

And while Madonna has been accused of using her celebrity status to bypass local laws, celebrities bring needed attention to countries like Malawi, where the United Nation estimates that half of the 1 million children who have lost one or both parents have been orphaned by AIDS.

She officially adopted David, 3, last year after taking him out of the country in 2006. She also has two natural children, Lourdes, 12, and Rocco, 8.

"On the positive side -- and I think it's mainly positive -- maybe they can help normalize this process," Pertman said. "If Angelina Jolie and Steven Spielberg and Hugh Jackman did it, it must be OK. And that normalization is good for kids.

"The big negative is this notion of adoption as baby buying and something only people of privilege get to do, that Madonna stepped to the front of the line, and how is Angelina going to raise all these children," he added. "It's this notion of children as trophies. And it's just not true. There is no evidence she's doing anything illegal or unethical. She's simply getting more attention."

Fueling the fire are stories like the one posted on The Huffington Post Web site Monday. The story tracked down the black velour tracksuit Madonna was wearing during her tour of an impoverished school in Malawi and learned it was by designer Chanel and retails for $2,800.

But the attention that's paid to celebrities who adopt transracially diverts attention from the real story facing African-American children and adoption, experts say. There was a small increase in transracial adoptions from 17.2 percent in 1996 to 20.1 percent in 2003, according to a study by the Donaldson Institute.

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