Most women describe giving birth to a child as a life changing experience – in a word – “challenging”, “joyous”, “miraculous.” But generations of young, unwed women describe their experience of giving birth to a child as a nightmare – and decades later their suffering has yet to end.
From Australia to Spain, Ireland to America, and as recent as 1987, young mothers say they were “coerced”, “manipulated”, and “duped” into handing over their babies for adoption. These women say sometimes their parents forged consent documents, but more often they say these forced adoptions were coordinated by the people their families trusted most...priests, nuns, social workers, nurses or doctors.
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Two weeks ago, a prominent Canadian law firm announced that it would file a class-action lawsuit against Quebec's Catholic Church accusing the Church of kidnapping, fraud and coercion to force unwed mothers to give up their children for adoption.
Attorney Tony Merchant represents several hundred women who claim that when they were in maternity homes in the 1950s and 1960s, social workers, nurses, doctors, and even men and women in the employ of the Catholic Church cooperated with government officials to force or, even coerce, young women to sign away their rights to keep their child never knowing they even had a choice.
Merchant was quoted in the Montreal Gazette as saying, "The beliefs the Catholic Church (in Quebec) had about premarital sex and the judgmental approach the church had, made it particularly aggressive in pressuring women into putting their children up for adoption."
In Spain, an 80-year-old nun, Sister Maria Gómez, became the first person accused of baby snatching in a scandal over the trafficking of 1,500 newborns in Spanish hospitals over four decades until the 1980s. The babies were either stolen, sold or given away by adoption.
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We have interviewed numerous women in the U.S. who told us that they were sent to maternity homes, denied contact with their families and friends, forced to endure labor with purposely painful procedures and return home without their babies. Single, American mothers were also denied financial support and told that their children would be better off without them.
In some cases, they too were told that their babies had died. Many signed away their rights while drugged and exhausted after childbirth. Others were threatened with substantial medical bills if they didn't surrender or were manipulated through humiliation. According to Fessler [author of The Girls Who Went Away], these seemingly unethical practices were used against as many as 1.5 million mothers in the United States.
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