Hundreds of UK women demand formal apology for forced adoptions

Hundreds of UK women demand formal apology for forced adoptions

Hundreds of women who were forced to give up babies for adoption in the 1950s, 60s and 70s are demanding a formal government apology.

Many of the women were unmarried teenagers when they became pregnant, and gave birth in church-run “mother and baby homes” in the UK.

An estimated quarter of a million women were coerced into having babies adopted during the period. In recent years, some have said they were made to feel shame and guilt.

Three years ago, Jill Killington told the Observer: “I was never asked whether I wanted to go ahead with the adoption. It was a fait accompli.”

She became pregnant in 1967 at the age of 16. Her baby Liam was taken from her nine days after she gave birth. “I was expected to just go on with my life as though nothing had happened … I’m certain it has had an impact on my life. There’s a cycle of grief and anger. A kind of melancholy is always there in the back of your mind.”

Veronica Smith was sent to a hostel run by the Crusade of Rescue, a Catholic adoption society, when she became pregnant at the age of 24. She named her daughter Angela.

“No one ever said I could keep her … I was told to just get on with my life. I never had any more news about her … It blighted my life,” she said.

The former Labour MP and government minister Ann Keen gave birth aged 17 to a son, who was adopted. “It was coercion. The phrase they used was ‘this is for the best’ and ‘if you really love your baby, you should give him up’,” she told the BBC.

“I did not give up my son or abandon him. An apology would clear my name and my son’s name. An historical injustice is what happened. It’s time to say sorry.”

Sue Armstrong Brown, the chief executive of Adoption UK, said: “What happened to these women is heartbreaking and indefensible. Apologising to them is the right thing for the government to do.

“Today, adoption is only used when it is not safe for a child to stay with their birth family because of abuse, violence or neglect … But we owe it to these women and their children to face up to the wrong that was done to them in different times.”

In 2017, the government rejected a demand for a public inquiry, saying there was “insufficient justification”.

Religious institutions ran 150 mother-and-baby homes in the UK in the postwar years before the main responsibility for handling adoptions was moved from voluntary organisations to local authorities in 1976.

In 2016, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, apologised for its part in the “hurt” caused to women who were pressured into handing over their babies for adoption. “Sadly for unmarried mothers, adoption was considered to be in the best interests of the mother and child,” he said.

The Church of England also expressed regret. “What was thought to be the right thing to do at the time has caused great hurt.”

In 2018, MPs backed a motion calling on the prime minister to apologise to the women on behalf of the nation. The Labour MP Alison McGovern said at the time: “Young women were made to feel ashamed. They were robbed of their dignity and self-respect when they had done nothing wrong, and were forced into horrific separations from their children.”

In 2018, the then Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, apologised for illegal adoptions in Ireland, saying they were “another chapter from the very dark history of our country”.

Five years earlier, Australia apologised for forced adoptions.

 

SOURCE