Friday, May 23, 2008

The BSE...Why Now?


There has been much negativity in the natural family preservation (read*anti-adoption) community towards those of us who are seeking justice and redress for the millions of us who had our babies taken from us with arrogant impunity during the Baby Scoop Era. That time frame is held to be from the end of WWII into the mid-1970's with some small pockets of that antiquated mindset still operating into the early 80's. From talking to our sisters in Canada, the BSE was all over North America.

The arguments range from the erroneous charge that we think that we from that era were more hurt by the loss of our children than the mothers of adoption loss who came after us, to the dismissive attitude of wondering what good an apology, recognition and redress would do. Both these arguments are emotional and illogical albeit the subject matter is most emotional in nature.

The fact is that nothing has ever been recognized as a "sanctioned evil" by the general public unless it was brought forth with full umbrage showing and an answer demanded from those in power. Cases in point are the recent apology from the state of Virginia for slavery, the national government's apology for the wrongs done to the Tuskegee airmen and the national apology to Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated for no good reason other than national paranoia and bigotry during WWII.

What happened to millions of young women and their infants during the BSE was a harvesting of adoptable infants of genocidal proportions. Those numbers, those methods, those social attitudes and the wholesale degrading of single women who became pregnant has never been rivaled. We had no access to birth control or information about birth control. With most of us, it was illegal to sell birth control to unmarried women. Safe, medical, LEGAL abortion was unavailable to anyone except those with the right connections and enough money for the Medical Professional to risk his or her career to perform a "D & C," for "excess menstrual bleeding" so most of the less affluent had to carry to term and form that bond, in utero, with that baby, only to be forced, in the most overt manner, by family and social workers, to surrender our child.

More fathers involve themselves today than in our time. Most of the boys/men who fathered BSE children denied paternity, DNA tests were not available to prove our claims and they just danced off with a wink and a nudge. It was our word against theirs. WE, the girls and women of that era, were seen as solely responsible for our "delicate conditions."

We were not allowed to attend school, we were denied work or fired from jobs if our situation became known, no one would rent to a never-married mother-to-be and we spent most of our time isolated from our friends and life in general, hidden away like a shameful secret. While there were some social services in effect at that time, you can bet everything possible was done to make sure we stayed unaware of those services. Maternity "homes" were full with waiting lists.

The medical care we were given was usually done by interns and doctors doing their residency requirements at local hospitals located close to the homes. It was cursory and often humiliating and given grudgingly, as though we didn't deserve it. We were told very little about what to expect when the time came to give birth and then were usually left alone to labor in pain and fear, or doped so badly that our babies slept for days so we wouldn't cause any trouble. It has actually been said to a number of us, when we would moan or cry out in our pain, by prudish nurses, that we were getting what we deserved. We had to beg to see our babies and were often denied the right to even know the gender of the child we delivered. We were administered dangerous drugs to dry up our breast milk and there was no one there to hold our hand when we cried after our lost children.

Now be honest.... in the past few decades, can any of you see any woman of the recent past putting up with that kind of treatment from medical professionals? Back then, we didn't know we could complain, file suits and there was really no fear on the part of the medical community because they knew that our families wanted to keep our shameful secret so nothing would be done.

Those are just some of the DIFFERENCES between the BSE and later decades. That doesn't mean that it hurt less to lose one's child but, whether you want to admit it or not, there were more options open to the single, pregnant woman than in our day. What changed was how the adoption industry did business. Coercions became slicker, more covert and "spin-doctor" disguised and adoption was touted as a morally superior and heroic act on the part of the mother. We got bullied in huge numbers, the ones who came after us got badly scammed and taken in by a social myth and in much fewer numbers.

I know this isn't a new one...this quote has been around a while, bit it fits. George Satayana said, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There are forces at work in our nation, today, that want to return to the old shaming, blaming, isolating of and removal of infants from single mothers. The Christian Coalition, the far right wing and the anti-choice are all for this country taking a giant step backwards in the status of women and the right for a single woman to raise her own child. What we learn from the BSE and what this nation might learn from it could keep this from happening to your daughter or granddaughter.

The biggest and most compelling argument for addressing the BSE on a national level is the pure aspect of total injustice in what happened to us. Yes, we know that "things were just like that, back then." Well, slavery was how things were up until the 1860's, but that still doesn't make it right, excusable or ignorable. Konrad Adenauer said, "History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided." In the case of the legalized crimes against the women of the BSE it should also be said that it SHOULD have been avoided. Injustice is injustice.

The adoption industry has a lot to answer to for women of the BSE and those who came after. But let's start at the beginning and show this nation just how bad it can get. And, please, please, let it happen before we of the BSE are all dead and buried. Posthumous recognition isn't going to help those of us who suffered through that time.
We all want to help the mothers of today. What some just don't want to admit or recognize is how much this action of taking the BSE out of the closet of the past would do just that. It might help them recognize that the wolf isn't dead...it is just wearing sheep's clothing.

4 comments:

Shadow said...

Robin..

What so many mothers from our era and mothers from the present and not too distant era in the past and the Babies of the BSE, fail to understand or recognize..Once you came/come under the radar of any social worker, agency or maternity home.. there was no choice, there was no option. The Adoption Wheels were set in motion and they turned faster and faster til the signature for surrender was taken. I knew some young unmarried moms way back when, who did keep their babies born out of wedlock..the difference was...no agency, no maternity home and those girls I knew were mostly Hispanic. There were also many black unwed mothers giving birth in that time to...their babies weren't taken either. The University of Chicago back in that time was doing research on the BC pill, and were freely giving out the pill to young black unmarried women on the Southside of Chicago. Yet the 'middle-class white' girl would have had to seek out the pill back then, much like a drug-user today seeks out drugs in the street or find some smarmy quack doc on what use to be 'skid row' in Chicago. There was most certainly a real life social engineering project, that involved many highly educated people from different areas of studies and degrees, that were purposefully hell bent on separating white unmarried mothers from their mostly 'healthy white infants'. When you tell people this, they are most disbelieving. Surely not in this great nation of ours could such a thing happen! Especially to WHITE PEOPLE!!! Yes, it can and it did!! And I believe this is what scares the Bejesus out of ordinary people. That bad things do happen to good people in America..Always have and still does. So rather than believe that bad things happen to good white people, ordinary white folks stuff cotton in their ears and put blinders on their eyes. I have often thought, especially when speaking to my own lost/found now adult child. How could it be in America.. in a very short period of time..that at the very least a couple of MILLION young white unmarried mothers would all think the same way, same thoughts, same methods at the very same time...that would result in the supposedly 'voluntary' surrender of the newborn by the young mother. Mostly involving Catholic Charity adoption agencies, Lutheran adoption agencies, large city child welfare depts. and of course well known maternity homes. That is not mere coincidence...that is a most well developed, orchestrated PLAN, by those who were in power and authority over those who had the least power and authority over their own lives and the lives of their babies, young unmarried mothers...Unmanned! This is no 'blame game' folks...these are the facts and those 'facts' are written down on paper. One only has to make an effort to 'read' historical studies on 'unwed', 'unmarried' pregnant mothers to avail themselves of these facts, The Truth in how millions of young unmarried mothers and their newborns were separated. It is a most ugly truth, it is a scary truth..but truth it is. If it happened once, like anything else in life, it can happen again. But! ordinary people don't want to feel afraid..they want to feel safe and secure in their homes and their families, and comforted in the fallacy that they are the only Masters of their individual destinies and that of their natural families. No you are not!!! The State, always has and still does...trump the 'control' of the parents/family..as the State (Father)sees fit. You don't have to be a sexual abuser, a neglectful parent, drug addict, a general ne'er do well....all you have to be is young, naive and short on cash, and O! yes...pregnant. How much justice you receive in this country, is based on how much Green, one has in one's pockets! No Green you say?... well then..you are unfit and unworthy and you can hit the road Jack! but without your kid! You have been warned!

Robin said...

You have made a good point, Shadow. The industry didn't want "children of color" as chronicled in Ricki Solinger's "Wake Up Little Susie." They wanted that "healthy white infant" for those poor, able to afford them, infertiles. Funny that a group against whom there was outright discrimination was made up, largely, of middle-class, white girls and women. I know two African-American BSE moms and they are both from the Bible Belt as I was so that says something for regional situations, as well.

Ungrateful Little Bastard said...

It's like that Alex Haley quote: "History is written by the winners". With the internet and blogging and groups we have the ability to try and make sure that doesn't happen for this nasty bit of women's history.

If people understand the Georgia Tann story, they can understand how she paved the way for the BSE to happen. Understanding the BSE helps understand how the adoption industry needed to regroup and come together during the late 70's through the mid 90's, and then pave the way for the well-oiled machine it is today.

There's so much to learn and so many stories yet untold. How can anyone not see how important this era is?

I see the BSE as a distinctly feminist issue. I just wish more women who considered themselves historians or feminists would too. Then again I don't have a lot in common with many women today who consider themselves feminists. Too many of them are busy adopting :(

Robin said...

"Then again I don't have a lot in common with many women today who consider themselves feminists. Too many of them are busy adopting :("

From your keybpard to God/dess' ears, ULB! I am so sick of watching women predate on their sisters like lionesses culling the weakest out of the herd. At least, that is natural, unlike adoption. This IS a women's issue and we mothers of adoption loss and our children represent the women that the feminist movement has ignored and failed....miserably!