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dear birthmother letters


The New Minority
by Robin Westbrook

An old story is getting new coverage these days. In the 50's and 60's, it was the story of the hour..the "problem" of the unwed, teenage Mother and what to do about her. Our national response was to try to save everyone. We were going to provide the infertile with children, protect the future and reputation of  the young Mother and save the baby from the stigma of illegitimacy.  Brilliant!  Problem solved!  Thus began the heyday of the social experiment we call adoption. 

Now this society is scrambling to preserve its "perfect solution." As more and more young women, freed of the social censure of those bleak days of yester-year, opt to keep and raise their babies, a once lucrative market is suffering from a dearth of product.  Abortion rights has also reduced the number of healthy, adoptable infants.  The self-righteous right blames abortion, the infertile potential adopters blame the natural parents, deeming them "selfish" for keeping their babies and the non-adoption affected members of society wonder what happened to the beautiful myth of adoption, American style. 

There is a new minority, a new underclass against whom an insidious form of discrimination is still permissible without being labeled politically incorrect. The Natural Mother is a new stereotype.  We are either crack heads, dopers, baby dumping prom queens, she-cats who lie to the Natural Fathers or illiterate sluts living in squalor.  Every little mistake we ever made is splashed across the headlines in ominous bold print in every adoption custody dispute, while the peccadilloes of the adopters are given one brief sentence, usually buried within many lines of text. 

The cold, hard lesson we are learning is that, rather than being free of the stigma and the Scarlet Letter of our youth, we had best lie even lower or we will surely be classified as one of "them." If we step forward with the story of our pain, grief and loss, we are told that we should have kept our pants on or something of that nature. 

We are the girls who got "caught." We were the mostly middle class, white teenagers whose parents could not afford the fees for safe, medical abortions that the affluent could and did procure for their daughters. We did not have the family support to keep our babies that the African-American community gave their daughters. We were not well versed in birth control.  We did what many other young women were doing. Our only distinguishing factor was that our sexual activity became visible.  The many young women of our era who were "luckier" than we were, are now among our detractors.  Some of them are probably among the infertile adopters who took our children. 

Rosa Parks decided she was no longer going to move to the back of the bus and stand when there was a perfectly good seat there in the front among the white passengers. Robin Westbrook is no longer going to retreat into the shadows and tiptoe around the adopters and the American love for the institution.  There will be hate mail and protestations from adopters and the infertile who want to adopt. As I and others like me fight for the rights of our younger sisters, as we keep telling the truth about adoption and its effects on Natural Mothers and adoptees, we will have to develop thick skins to withstand the vitriol of a public being deprived of its popular mythology. 

But, we will overcome. 

Copyright © Robin Westbrook 2001 

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