Women forced to give up babies for adoption demand action over 'injustice'

Campaigners 'implore' MSPs to help deliver measures to help those affected by historic forced adoption policies.

Women forced to give up babies for adoption demand government action over ‘injustice’

Women forced to give up their babies for adoption in Scotland say the words in an apology made last year ‘lose their worth every day’.

The group Movement for an Adoption Apology has written a letter to over 60 MSPs urging action over the “ongoing injustice” and to help people in the community searching for answers about their relatives.

It comes a year after former first minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered an official apology in the Scottish Parliament to those who have been affected by historic forced adoption policies.

It is estimated around 250,000 families in Scotland have been affected by the practice throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Hundreds of thousands of children were given up for adoption between 1949 and 1976 across the UK, at a time when unmarried mothers were often rejected by their families and ostracised by society.

Adoptions were generally handled through agencies run by the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army.

The letter sent by Movement for an Adoption Apology reads: “After one full year, elderly mothers and fathers continue to pass away, having endured for decades, the pain of not knowing what happened to the babies who were taken.

“They have no right to information about the identity or well-being of their grown sons and daughters. They may not know whether they are still alive, married or had children of their own – grandchildren.

“Any subsequent children that they raised wonder about their siblings and reflect on the hurt that they witness in their parents.

Nicola Sturgeon delivered a formal apology in parliament in March 2023

“This year, we implore the government to take urgent action on this ongoing injustice. The words of the apology lose their worth every day that they fail to be supported by concrete measures on this issue.”

Sturgeon delivered the apology on March 22 2023 – one of her final acts in government.

The recognition was the first formal apology in the UK to tens of thousands of unmarried mothers “shamed” and “coerced” into having their babies adopted.

But campaigners insist measures discussed in the Parliament on that day have “failed to emerge”.

Movement for an Adoption Apology made a number of recommendations such as councils delivering trauma-informed counselling services; easier birth record access;; reunion services and formal apologies from institutions which administered services that resulted in coerced or forced adoption.

‘There needs to be serious action’

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said the government is currently working towards peer support and mental health services for people affected by historic forced adoption – but that more “serious action” is needed.

She told STV News: “I think there is still a sense of achievement that there was an apology, that Scotland’s role in historic forced adoption was recognised – and it was made clear to the women to the mothers that they were not to blame, it was not their fault.

“But it was always the case that the apology had to be backed up with action.”

She said the government should seek to provide those affected with easier access to birth records and specialist mental health support.

Ms Lennon also pointed to the use of Diethylstilbestrol, a controversial drug administered to pregnant women to dry up breast milk, which has since been linked to cancer.

She added: “It is disappointing that we’ve had the really important apology but not yet the action we really need to see.

“I hope that it is an important issue for the Scottish Government. I’ve not heard Humza Yousaf as first minister speak about this or other ministers.

“It needs to be more than a symbol. There needs to be serious action.

“This affects many people across Scotland yet it’s still a hidden issue. The intergenerational impacts need to be understood.

“Regardless of what has happened in the Scottish Government in the last 12 months, it’s important people affected by historic forced adoption don’t lose out because of that.”

SNP MP Chris Law, who believes he might have been a victim of forced adoption, has called on the UK Government to formally apologise to the people affected by the “appalling” practice.

He told the Commons last May that despite the Welsh and Scottish Governments both issuing formal apologies, Westminster is “always last to the table to accept state responsibility for the most vulnerable members of society”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the adoptees, mothers and families who have endured immense pain and suffering as a result of these unjust practices.

“The Scottish Government is committed to addressing the harms caused, which is why we commissioned an independent report to understand the support needed for people affected by forced adoption. We will formally respond to this report shortly.

“Additionally, we continue to fund the charity Health in Mind, which provides specialist support to mothers and adoptees through peer support groups.”

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