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.