I, along with 40 other Members of Parliament, am calling for a public apology for, and a public inquiry into, the forced adoptions that took hundreds of thousands of babies from their teenage unmarried mothers in the UK of the 1960s and 1970s.
I remember that era well, being a teenager myself at the time, living with the constant terror of pregnancy in those days before the contraceptive pill. We need a public inquiry because this is what I believe it will find.
It is a travesty to say that these young women “gave away” their babies. There was no meaningful consent.
They were told, “It’s the best for your baby, who will suffer if you selfishly keep it to live in poverty and under the shame of illegitimacy. You will ruin your own life and bring shame on your family”.
Most often there was not even a “force choice”, there was no choice at all.
Yet to this day these women live with the anguish of whether there was anything they could have done to keep their precious baby.
There wasn’t, and a recognition and an apology for that even after all these years later is necessary to ease their suffering.
There was the pain of giving birth without proper help in order to inflict a punishment to deter them from being “wicked” again.
They were told that they would “forget about it” and move on with their lives.
But there was the lifelong everyday pain of a woman separated from her baby.
Mothers do not and cannot ever forget about a baby that they have given birth to.
Only a public policy and a society dominated by men who never listened to women could even consider that possible.
Many endured such turmoil they never had another child or the shame they felt for “giving up” their first child marred their relationship with their subsequent children.
Girls who were made pregnant by unmarried men often had “shotgun weddings” to ensure the child was born into wedlock.
But the young women in these forced adoption cases were those who were impregnated by men who were already married or ran off before they could be pressured into marriage or simply denied they were the father.
These men had sex with the women, got them pregnant and then abandoned them.
Often the young girl who had sex with an older married man was not even consenting in the way we understand consent now.
It was common for families to conceal the young woman’s pregnancy and bring up the child as if the grandmother had given birth to it.
The family then lived a lifelong lie where the child would believe that its mother was its sister.
Being denied the knowledge of who your mother is, when you live in the same home, is a terrible thing for both mother and child.
The adoptions were forced decades ago. But the pain and suffering is there today.
It is not too late to acknowledge this barbaric system and learn hard lessons about young people, oppression and inequality which we still need to understand today.
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