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Dead Baby Exposure
January 29, 2008 permalink
The suit by Denice Poland in Alberta has touched off discussion of the coercion and deception used to separate babies from their mothers. Here is one from the Vancouver Sun.
Adoptees claim they lost their biological parents through underhanded methods
Duncan Thorne, Canwest News Service, Sunday, January 27, 2008
EDMONTON -- An adopted woman's claim that her birth mother was tricked into surrendering her has prompted other adoptees to say they too lost their biological parents through underhanded methods.
In recent days, Canwest News Service has heard from adoptees across Canada who have read about the case of an Alberta woman who alleges in a lawsuit that her birth mother was told she had died at or soon after birth.
The lawsuit, which remains unproven, has become a lightning rod on Internet websites for adoptees and their biological parents. That's partly because the daughter is suing not only the Alberta government, a hospital and doctors but even her adoptive mother.
The adoptive mother says she had no role the decision to put the daughter up for adoption.
The daughter, born in the 1960s, has won a temporary publication ban against being identified.
"I'm supposed to be stillborn, too," says Sheri Sexton in an interview from Ottawa.
Sexton was born in 1968, near the end of what some adoptees now call a "baby-scoop era" when there was immense pressure to put young, single mothers' babies up for adoption.
After the Second World War, society became increasingly sexually liberated but until the 1970s birth outside marriage was taboo and abortion was illegal.
Sexton, put up for adoption immediately after birth in Ottawa, managed to find her birth mother, Darlene Hogan, 14 years ago.
Hogan was 19 when she gave birth to Sexton. She said she was forced to sign papers, while heavily sedated, allowing Sexton to be put up for adoption.
"I was kept in a room all day," Hogan says. "I did nothing but cry. I kept telling the man that I did not want to sign the papers."
A year later, in 1969, she gave birth to a second daughter. She was told the baby was stillborn.
Sexton and Hogan are puzzled that Sexton had been told her birthday was July 16, two days before the real date. Later, Sexton discovered problems with her birth records. A search of hospital files found her listed as "stillborn," the same as her younger sister.
Hogan is now convinced her second daughter lived.
A report on violence against women from the United Nations Economic and Social Council, refers to the case of an unmarried woman who gave birth at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital in 1970. The 2003 report says Tina Kelly was reportedly told by her doctor that the baby boy had died and that she was not allowed to see its body.
Kelly later realized she had never received a copy of the death certificate, the report says. The hospital's records indicated her baby went home with her.
She later reunited with her son.
Kelly allegedly discovered her child had been put up for adoption and that her doctor had accepted a bribe.
Elva Anderson was 19 in 1964 when she gave birth to twin boys in Mississauga, Ont.
She says her doctor told her the boys had died after birth. Once home, she got a call from the hospital that her twins were waiting to be collected.
Anderson says her former partner persuaded her the twins were dead. She now thinks she was duped and that her twins were put up for adoption.
Such allegations are hard to prove, says Michelle Edmunds who runs a website - theadoptionshow.com.
"The thing is that these women were never given a death certificate because there wasn't one," Edmunds said from Toronto. She said it's their word "against an entire system" that doctors told them their children had died.
Edmunds was herself put into foster care in 1964, then 19 months old, because her mother was considered unsuitable. She eventually found her mother, Elsie White, in Edmonton in 1996, a year before White died.
Bryony Lake of Victoria gave up her son to adoption after his birth in 1980. Lake wasn't misled into thinking he had died but, as a single mother, was pressured by her parents to surrender her baby.
In the course of searching for her son, she often heard stories of mothers being falsely told their babies had died.
"It's hard to say any of these are substantiated, other than perhaps Tina Kelly's," Lake acknowledged.
Still, it makes sense some mothers were told their babies had died, given attitudes of the 1960s and earlier, she said. "They may have thought it's the humane thing to do, for the mother, to tell her the baby died, if they figured the mother would not be able to keep the baby.
"They figured that would be less traumatic to a mother than letting her see and nurse her baby. What they didn't realize was it then took away her decision-making ability."
Lisa Pageau speaks for Mouvement Retrouvailles, a Quebec group which helps adoptees and biological parents reunite. She believes false claims of stillbirths were common in her province.
"In those days , they would put mothers to sleep to have their baby and when their mothers were groggy coming out of it, they would show them a very sick baby, a dead baby actually, and say, 'Your baby's dead,' " she says.
"And it wasn't true."
The woman with the lawsuit in Alberta has persuaded city police to investigate her claim of fraudulent adoption.
Police are conducting interviews and reviewing documents.
Mary Lou Reeleder, a Children's Services spokeswoman, said the department sometimes hears anecdotal stories of wrongful adoption but "nothing like that has come to their attention that was any more than, 'I have heard this.' "
Just as now, in the 1960s the courts screened adoptions and had to be satisfied that biological parents consented, Reeleder says.
Marge, an Edmonton adoptee who has long searched for her birth parents, said she fears the lawsuit will discourage the government from increasing access to adoption records.
Source: Vancouver Sun
pointed out by Erika Klein