MPs call for Government apology to the unmarried mothers forced to give up babies in Fifties, Sixties and Seventies
By Lianne Kollrin
PUBLISHED: 00:50, 24 June 2012 | UPDATED: 00:50, 24 June 2012
MPs are urging the Government to apologise to unmarried mothers who were pressured into giving up their babies for adoption in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.
The stigma attached to having children outside wedlock was so great then that many were even deemed to be unfit mothers.
The Government has also been accused of failing to highlight the welfare and financial help available at the time – even though in the Sixties there were up to 70,000 illegitimate births a year in England.
Instead, single mothers found themselves under pressure from social services, doctors and the Church to give away their babies after being swept off to homes for unmarried mothers.
Lib Dem MP John Leech, who is leading the campaign for a Government apology, said: ‘The level of cruelty that went on then in a so-called civilised society is unforgivable. An apology is the least we can do, given how badly the lives of mothers and their children have been affected.’
So far 43 MPs have backed his call for a Commons debate on the issue and he has organised a meeting with mothers and the children they gave away. Among them will be Phil Frampton, who revisited the former home for unmarried mothers where he was born for the BBC radio programme The Crying Shame.
Mr Frampton, 58, who was brought up in care, said: ‘My mother, like the other pregnant women, was treated as the lowest of human beings. She was forced to repent for her sins in prayer for 30 minutes each day. These women were expected to care for their babies for weeks, sometimes months, and then give them up.’
He added: ‘It’s still a subject which is taboo and remains shrouded in guilt and family secrets. It has been swept under the carpet. This is an opportunity to shake off the shame and blame from these mothers and children and place it where it belongs at the door of the Establishment.’
Earlier this year an Australian Senate inquiry urged the Canberra government to apologise and compensate thousands of unwed mothers who were similarly forced to give up their babies.
Social worker Eveyln Robinson, 62, who was heavily involved in the Australian campaign, is now backing the fight here, drawing on her own experience in Edinburgh in 1970 when she was pressured into giving up her son, Stephen.
She said: ‘I was in a ward with 40 women. All of them apart from me had their baby with them. Nobody believed my child needed me. If I tried to take him home, social services would be alerted. They said as an unmarried mother I’d be putting the child at risk and he would be taken away.’
Mrs Robinson, a mother of four, emigrated to Adelaide and has been reunited with Stephen, 42, who lives in Australia. ‘We have a good relationship,’ she said.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘We have every sympathy for women who, several decades ago, were pressured by prevailing moral and social attitudes of their time into giving up their babies.
‘But society has changed and there are no grounds for offering a Government apology today.’