Tag Archives: forced adoption

Forced adoption: mothers demand Government apology

A report published today from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights highlights the cruelty of forced adoptions in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Many women who were went through this, both as mothers or as the adopted children, are now calling for an apology from the Government.

You can download the latest report here: The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949–1976

As Lib Dem Voice’s resident oldie, I can remember those days. I find it difficult to explain in these more liberal times that negative attitudes towards unmarried mothers ran right across society back then. As it happens, the Chair of the Committee is Harriet Harman, who was a near contemporary of mine at University, so she will also have recollections of life at the time.

The post-war years up until the mid 60s was a period of austerity, as the country recovered both economically and emotionally. Dramas set in that time often project today’s liberal values onto the period setting, assuming that people really were as sexually liberated as they are today but just hid it. I can assure you that was not the case. Not only was there a huge fear of getting pregnant without reliable contraception, but the opportunities for sex were limited for many young people, many of whom lived at home until they married. Couples simply didn’t live together, and girls were expected to be virgins at their weddings. There was huge shame associated with a pregnancy outside marriage.

If a young woman became pregnant she had three options – an illegal abortion, a so-called “shotgun” marriage or birth followed by adoption. Keeping the baby simply was not an option. I knew several girls who chose to have an abortion, got married straight away or whose babies were adopted, but I cannot remember anyone who kept their baby. It would have been impossible to live independently with a baby or young child as there were no benefits available, no jobs and no childcare.

As the report says

The experiences of the mothers and their children are at the centre of this inquiry. They did not, as is often said, give their children away. Unmarried women who found themselves pregnant during this period faced secrecy and shame from the earliest stages. Those who would have seized the chance to keep their sons and daughters with them and brought them up themselves did not have the opportunity to do so. Societal and familial pressures, and the absence of support contributed to thousands of children being taken from loving mothers and placed for adoption.

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