By Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo
My readers must surely be aware of the recent initiative by the National Post (March 10, 2012) to investigate the excesses committed against unwed mothers who were forced into giving up their babies for adoption.
Over a hundred such women have reported the cruelty they suffered when there was no legal procedure to ensure they were given a chance to exercise their consent.
These incidents occurred some 40 or 50 years ago when abortion was illegal and the Charter of Human Rights was under approval by the United Nations but had not yet been implemented. Some of these women now want to incriminate religious institutions that operated maternity shelters and facilitated adoptions under duress or against the will of the unmarried mothers.
Nurses and caretakers used false pretexts to persuade mothers to give up their illegitimate children. Deeply wounded by the censure of their families for having lost their virginity, despite the strict surveillance of their parents and the curfew imposed, the mothers complied.
Parental indignation and intransigence was supported by society, which wanted, albeit with good intention, to provide care for the child, which the young mother was unable to give. It was not fair that a baby should be raised without a father, and especially one who denied his paternity for fear of criminal action against him, or for his inability to provide for the child and mother.
The article in the National Post tells us that three churches - United, Presbyterian, and the Salvation Army - are searching for archival evidence of abortions forced on rape victims. The names of the mothers will be kept confidential.
Girls who were violated suffered the devastating effects of rape. The sexual assault left them feeling ugly, dirty, evil, and good for nothing. In their depressed state, they no longer cared what would happen to them.
Extremely low self-esteem made them feel that no good man would ever want them. And often they would never want to see the predator who himself was afraid to confess how he orchestrated the opportunity to force himself upon the girl. No wonder the hearts of these girls became a nest of shame, rage, anguish, and despair.
Fred wanted to have sex with Carla and got a school friend to bring her to his home. After they arrived, the friend vanished, leaving them alone and Fred brutally assaulted her. Her protests were in vain. For Carla, her virginity was her most precious treasure, to be preserved for her future husband. When she went home she fled straight to the bathroom and cut her wrists. Her parents found her there and rushed her to the hospital. Crying inconsolably, she related what happened and said that suicide was the only solution.
The parents wanted to sue the boy but he had left the country. A child was conceived as a result of this perverse deed and when Carla gave birth, her parents had a family ready to adopt the baby boy. Carla was never permitted to see him or hug him, and today she is in an asylum.
Even if there had been mutual consent, the social environment was not flexible or forgiving, and demanded that the child be given up for adoption.
The National Post recounts a horrendous case: "I had my 18th birthday in that hellhole," said one victim of sexual violence. She described how a matron escorted her to the hospital for the express purpose of telling the staff that she came from the maternity home and that her child was up for adoption. But that she never intended to surrender her daughter.
United Church activist, Nicole Vonk has identified places that were likely maternity homes in several provinces. She was asked: "Did the United Church and the Children's Aid Society collaborate on policies aimed at counselling unmarried women into giving up their child for adoption? Could a woman live in the home if she planned to keep her child? Was the primary client the expectant mother, her parents, or the social workers?"
Today the United Church questions in its report: "Is it right that we continue to service the wishes of the parents rather than the realistic needs of the girls? Are we in collusion with parents over these issues?"
If improprieties were committed, are forced adoptions under federal or provincial jurisdiction? Can victim mothers and children claim compensation for such reprehensible practices if in fact society was the real criminal?
Certainly, humanity has come a long way and cruel traditions are disappearing. Chastity belts were once used to prevent the sexual act and some tribes in Africa even carried out mutilations - who knows if after a hundred years a religious ritual like circumcision may be prohibited. O tempora! O mores!