Canadian Council of Natural Mothers' Library

Banished Babies

Mike Milotte


In this book, Irish reporter, Mike Milotte, sheds light on the dark secrets of Ireland's post-World War II baby export business that flourished for more than 30 years.

In a country whose people were victimized for centuries by the atrocious laws of Protestant England, it is cruel irony that the government of the Republic of Ireland collaborated with the Catholic Church to subject an unmarried female segment of their population to an equally monstrous fate.

Judged 'as wicked sinners by the Church who ruled its people with an iron fist, most women' pregnant outside marriage were condemned to be incarcerated in religious-run (Sisters of Charity) "orphanages". These unfortunate, vulnerable women had no options other than to turn to institutions such as the infamous Magdalene Homes named after the converted prostitute of the New Testament.

The superabundance of Irish illegitimate babies provided a happy hunting ground for would-be adopters, in particular Americans. With no adoption laws in Ireland and no laws to prohibit the removal of these children from Ireland, combined with no restrictions on their entry to America, Irish babies were in high demand. The possibility of "colour taint" (a child with some Negro blood) in their own country made the bountiful supply of fair-skinned babies even more attractive to Americans with their grand homes and wealth.

A rapid-fire adoption evolved with very little screening of parents other than the requisite proof of their Catholic faith. An adoption law which passed in 1953 did curtail non-nationals from 'adopting Irish children within Ireland' thus alleviating fears that the children of Catholic mothers might fall into the hands of Northern Protestants. However, this new act laid down no conditions to be met before or after 'the compulsory registration of adoption organizations and societies, allowing continued baby trade across the Atlantic.'

Scams in which American couples were not only buying 'babies from "orphanages", but registering the births of these Irish children in their own names were commonplace. By pretending that the child had been born to them, the identities of the natural parents were completely obliterated, guaranteeing complete anonymity. The requirement of an Irish passport was eliminated.

Despite the law breaking and some public condemnation by several Church officials in America, the transatlantic adoption traffic 'continued until the mid 1970s. The predominant view that "any child in Ireland would be better off in the United States' " prevailed.

Blended with this sordid history of how thousands of babies came to be exiled are personal stories of the victimized mothers, now middle-aged women, and frustrated American adult adoptees who have returned to Ireland in search of their roots. Vivid details make this book a very interesting read.

 

Reviewer: Helena Wilson

(1997) Irish Books & Media, Incorporated
ISBN 1-874597-53-7

New Island Books
Dublin, Ireland

 

 

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