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dear birthmother letters


Married vs. "unmarried" - Pregnancy, Birth and Falling in Love with Your Baby


 Human Rights Abuses - Then and Now
By Mary E. MacDonald, Adoptee


To the extent that governments are willing to address the issue at all, secrecy concerning adult adoptee's access to their files is invariably justified on the grounds that "some [exiled] mothers were guaranteed and still demand secrecy". Let us examine this argument more closely.

The pretext is now commonly used that first mothers' privacy rights are at stake. When those same natural mothers gave birth to their children many years ago many were coerced, intimidated, shamed and stigmatized to the extent that no real choice existed for them. They were often forced to leave their communities and deliver their children in strange surroundings. Sometimes they were under the direct control or influence of disapproving church representatives who lectured them as to women's 'proper role'. No meaningful choice existed for the vast majority of natural mothers who may very well have wanted to keep their children if their family, community and social environment had not been so judgemental and hostile.

Unwed mothers often had no legal counsel available to them when an adoption agent or church representative appeared, ready to hustle away their newborn infants. Branded, labelled and stigmatized as fallen women, frequently no advocate was there to inform them of their rights. My own adoption illustrates this pattern in that the only person who signed my surrender document as a witness was the director of the Protestant Family Service Bureau. It was taken as an article of faith that unwed mothers were manifestly unfit and not a second thought was given to the systematic procurement of their offspring. These actions should properly be understood as human rights abuses on a massive scale and I will cite a contemporary case of recent kidnapping to illustrate that fact.

During the period spanning 1977-1982 a ferocious "Dirty War" occurred in Argentina. This war consisted of a protracted campaign by the country's military rulers against the perceived communist insurgents. The so-called communist collaborators were rounded up by the thousands and were frequently tortured and later killed. Among the many thousands of detainees were many young pregnant Argentine women who were suspected of being communist activists. These women were kept imprisoned by their military torturers and were forced to give birth while blindfolded and shackled to their beds. Their babies were immediately taken away from them and were "adopted" by childless military families who were supportive of the dictatorship. The mothers of these infants were usually killed after having given birth. The babies of these young women are now reaching adulthood in Argentina and many are coming forward to question why they were removed from their mothers. They are seeking answers as to their family background, the circumstances of their "adoptions" and why they were so cruelly removed from their mothers in the first place. In coming to terms with the terrible human rights abuses committed during the Dirty War, the theft of newborn infants from their first mothers is viewed as among the most despicable episodes of that dark period.

Although no declared Dirty War existed in Canada at the time when adoptions were approved without a second glance, the point remains that first mothers in this country were treated to similar inhumane treatment as that which was later practiced in Argentina. My own first mother and many thousands before and after, were deemed at face value to be unworthy and unfit. Hundreds of young Argentine women were branded and labelled as unfit communists who were stripped of all parental rights. If we examine the legal codes that were in place during the 1950s and 1960s the stigma which was attached to single mothers is evident. They were subjected to disapproval and shame by a patriarchal society which stripped them of their most fundamental human rights. Apologists for the adoption industry cannot argue that these women gave informed consent to the relinquishment of their infants when no legal counsel was available to them as was the case in my own custody transfer in 1958.

Contemporary secrecy provisions are predicated on the assertion that first mothers demand secrecy and privacy rights. How are we to make sense of this current justification of secrecy laws when the human rights of those first mothers were systematically violated by the same governments who now purportedly act as their protectors?

The human rights abuses to which first mothers were subjected have now been reproduced in the odious secrecy provisions which now impact the second generation.

The adult adoptees are seeking information on the first mothers whose human rights were blatanly violated. Proponents of secrecy have characterized as deviant the most human of inquiries--the search to know who we are and from where we came. We are told by proponents of secrecy that we are maladjusted, that no one wanted us in the first place, that the system was functioning in good faith and that our best interests were the paramount consideration in our placement. In other words, adult adoptees are now branded, labelled and stigmatized in much the same way that first mothers were in the generation that preceded us.

Our court records are sealed and 'compelling reasons' must be proven before a Court will reluctantly allow an adoptee access to his or her own adoption files. This standard applies across the board, even in circumstances where the first mother and adopting parents are dead. This is not indicative of a system that has 'the best interests of the child' as its overriding concern. This level of extraordinary secrecy is indicative of corruption at the deepest and most far reaching levels. It is axiomatic that pervasive secrecy protects special interests. The special interests who are being served by the all- pervasive secrecy codified in provincial adoption laws are those of the broker, the lawyers, the religious orders and the judiciary, all of whom conspired to commit human rights abuses against first mothers a generation ago and are replicated today against the offspring of those women who are presently being denied the human rights that non-adopted persons take for granted.

Copyright © Mary E. MacDonald. All rights reserved

Visit Mary's Site: Prince Edward Island Adoption Abuses


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