This time a mother is making a lot of noise. Sadly, it really isn’t a rare situation.
In the Washington Post today is the story of Kathleen Chafin. As a young woman attending St Louis University she conceived a son out of wedlock. It does not appear there was ever any informed consent but rather she was told what would happen, she never agreed to it.
Her parents and the local priest conspired to force her child away from her. She was isolated away with another Catholic family until she went into labor. She was drugged during her delivery, so she has no memory of giving birth. That happened to me too in 1973, when I gave birth to my daughter, but what happened to Kathleen didn’t happen to me because I was married.
She wasn’t even allowed to see her son. The priest took him away and placed him in an adoptive family. He seems to have fared well. But Kathleen did not. Many women were chastised and shunned for having children out of wedlock. Experts estimate that more than 1.5 million unmarried women in the United States were forced to give up their babies for adoption during that period from the end of WWII until Roe v Wade.
It has been estimated that 95 percent of women in Canada who gave birth at maternity homes in the postwar period gave their children up for adoption. And similarly, many women in England and Australia, oh all over the European population it seems.
What makes Kathleen different is – she is making a loud noise. After years of depression and considerable effort to locate her son, they did have a reunion and remain close, visiting one another at least once a year.
Kathleen pushed the Catholic Church to investigate but not content with their findings that the priest acted from a good faith desire to alleviate that pressure (from her parents) by helping her find a good home for her baby, she is suing the church. So far, her case has been dismissed at the County District Court and State Appeals Court level. Not content to be brushed aside, she has taken her case to Federal Court in hopes of advocating for other women who were pressured into giving up their children.