01/03/2013 04:51 pm ET Updated Mar 05, 2013

The Russian Adoption Ban: Rescuing Children Should Trump US-Russian Bickering

So I'm sitting here, trying to concentrate and get this article written. But I continue to be distracted by the loud, irritating giggling of two, hyperactive 14-year-old girls in the next room. Its maddening; it can drive you to drink.

It's not easy to be a parent at this stage of life. My daughter, who has a friend over to our house, is at that horrible, loud teenage stage where defiance is an art of adolescence, and where she meets every word of advice and attempted discipline you speak her way with contempt. Telling her to calm down would be a waste of time.

We adopted Hannah from a Cambodian orphanage when she was 3 months old. She was half starved to death, weighing only 8 pounds. The first time I saw her, she was hanging in a filthy hammock covered in a cloud of flies, surrounded by other young, grimy babies and toddlers, many suffering from AIDS, all with red hair, a sign of malnourishment. Now, she is beautiful, tall, American teenager who's obsessed with the boys of One Direction. She is constantly texting and living out a world of drama on social media. She can't get enough hot wings and has to be incessantly chased to do her homework and clean her disgusting room.

So, unlike most frustrated parents of teenage girls, I'm a little different. I temper my exasperation with her with an encompassing gratitude that only a parent with an adopted child can understand. My wife and I were given a special opportunity to bring her into our family, and I appreciate that chance to adopt her every single day.

So when Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a bill last Friday that was passed by the Russian Duma 400 to 4 banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens, it infuriated me.

It should make you angry, too.

Putin and the Russian Parliament passed the law mainly as a punitive measure against the U.S. for our country's recent move to ban travel and seize assets here of Russian human-rights violators.

Unlike prior administrations, President Obama's has for the most part turned the other cheek toward Russian human rights violations and continued crackdowns on democratic institutions. It's done the same with China and other autocratic trading partners, as well. It looks as if this adoption ban will be tolerated, too.

Putin's action warrants a hardening in our relations with his autocratic Russia -- or at least more than the cursory reaction Russia received from the U.S. State Department.

It's time to take a hard line again against Putin's Russia, and the adoption ban is perfect justification to do that.

A renowned medical authority and founder of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, Dr. Jane Aronson wrote in The Daily Beast that children in Russian orphanages, which she described as the worst in the world, will now be "abandoned to languish and rot in 'gulags' in Russia."

When you adopt a child from another country, you save not one, but two lives, by allowing another orphan a bed or a hammock in an orphanage and the chance to be adopted.

This adoption ban is actually a death sentence, killing hundreds if not thousands of children.

We need to reinstate sanctions implemented in the later part of the 20th century when Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which denied the Soviets "most favored" nation status for human rights violations back then. That law was recently rescinded in favor of the new, narrower bill favored by the Obama administration, which now "normalizes" trade with Russia while still allegedly addressing human rights violations.

By implementing this adoption ban, the Russians illustrated their contempt for our concern over continued systemic human rights violations, even if the new law passed actually eased up economic restrictions on them. They deserve nothing less than a loss of economic opportunity to trade in this country.

In fact, a this country should boycott Russian products, particularly their revered vodka, until the adoption ban is lifted (please join my Boycott Russian Vodka Until US Adoption Ban Lifted Facebook page).

International adoptions by U.S. citizens are now at historic lows. That's a shame, if not a crime.

It's important to send a message to the Russian government that allowing Americans to rescue children from their abysmal orphanages should continue unabated.

Until the ban is rescinded, just don't buy their wonderful vodka, even if it's your drink of choice when you struggle with your teenager.

Published in the Florida Voices on December 31, 2012

Steven Kurlander is an Attorney and Communications Strategist. He writes weekly columns as a columnist for Sun Sentinel and Florida Voices. He receives feedback at