The “Birthmother” as an Aberration: A Myth Created by the Adoption Industry

– an excerpt from “The Intermediary System is Not the Solution,” a speech given by Margaret McDonald Lawrence to the American Adoption Congress in Washington D.C at the first National AAC Conference on May 4, 1979:

“In order to bring the issues surrounding the intermediary system into clear focus, it is necessary to examine the myths and motives that surround the adoption experience. Outsiders need to realize that social agencies not only control adoption procedures, but also control the information about the institution which is provided to the courts, the legislatures and the public.

“It is the child welfare establishment that has provided the picture of ‘birthmothers’ as indifferent — as mothers who abandon their unwanted children with a wish to remain forever hidden from them. They know that this is seldom true, but it helps to facilitate their work for the public to believe this. Society does not dismiss the importance of the natural family as readily as the social planners, and so it is useful to portray relinquishing parents as different from caring parents.

“The ‘birthmother’ must be different, an aberration; for if it were true that she had the same degree of love for her child as all other mothers, the good of adoption would be overwhelmed by the tragedy of it. Adoptive parents are presumably somewhat relieved of guilt if they can be assured that the [first] parents truly did not want their child; for, under those circumstances, it is possible to feel entitled to claim the child of others. Neither society nor the mother who holds the child in her arms wants to confront the agony of the mother from whose arms that same child was taken.

“But that agony is real, as we have come to learn through our experience with reunions. It is a cruel punishment for relinquishing parents to bear the life-long anguish over the fate of their lost children … If concern for [first] parents is genuine, then a compassionate legislature ought to provide some way that the [first] parent can learn of the fate of their children who were lovingly relinquished to a better life than they could give them. These women, the determination to continue their protection, is really a determination to hold them to a life sentence. People who are parents should be more empathetic.

“Who really believes that a mother does not want to know of her child? ‘ Protection’ is a subterfuge on the part of agencies protecting their power and on the part of adoptive parents who have a real but irrational fear that their child would prefer the [first] parents.”