From a report by the CDC in 1961 which is pretty close to the middle of the Baby Scoop Era, I found this data on illegitimate births…(note I have not indented just italicized the text, and have chosen to exclude paragraphs and some non-white birth statistics, as the vast majority of babies surrendered for adoption during the BSE were white)
Illegitimate births were first reported for the birth registration area of the United States in 1917. In that year 20 out of every thousand babies born alive were born out of wedlock. There has been a more or less consistent increase in reported and estimated illegitimate births since that time. The illegitimacy ratios (the number of illegitimate live births per 1,000 total live births) for the years 1930 to 1960 were: 35 for 1930; 38 for 1940; 40 for 1950; and 53 for 1960.
An estimated 240,200 babies were born out of wedlock in 1961. This was an increase of 15,900 or 7 percent over 1960, and represented an increase of 150,700 babies or 168 percent over 1940, the last prewar year, In the 10 year period 1942-51, which includes the World War II period, 1,225,300 illegitimate births occurred; and in the more recent period 1952-61, the number rose to an estimated 1,960,000, an increase of about 60 percent, Ten years ago, 39 babies out of every thousand born were illegitimate; in 1961 this number had climbed to 56 babies per thousand.
The growth in illegitimate births has been substantial for both white and nonwhite mothers since 1940 (table 1-V). Illegitimate births to white mothers increased from 40,300 in that year to a record 91,100 in 1961, White illegitimate births rose during World War 11, then declined following 1946. Since 1952 the number has steadily increased, the growth in the past 10 years being 68 percent.
The proportion of white mothers has increased slightly since a relatively low point in 1956 when they produced 35 percent of all estimated illegitimate births, By 1961 this proportion had increased to 38 percent.
The proportion of young mothers having illegitimate children continues to be significant, with almost three-quarters of the number of mothers being under 25 years of age. The teenage proportion was the highest in terms of 5-year age of mother groups. Over 98,000 illegitimate babies were born to mothers under 20 years of age; this figure represented 41 percent of all the estimated illegitimate births in 1961.
Whatever the actual number of white babies were surrendered for adoption in 1961 from the 91,100 born, at least tens of thousands of mothers left the hospital that year with empty arms. Tens of thousands just in 1961. They returned home and were told never to talk about it, pretend it never happened. Go home, get married and have more babies. Even if you want to argue that some weren’t maternal and did not want to be mothers, I doubt you can argue that even they did not have their own level of grief to live with, or try to say they were in the majority. Some of those mothers who surrendered their babies would have turned to alcohol or prescription drugs to dull their grief, some would have had emotional breakdowns – all would have had to deal with the pain for the rest of their lives. Stop and think about how many silent tears have been shed over the years by mothers who surrendered just in 1961? Now consider how many when you add all the years of just my era? Now add those since then. It is overwhelming to even consider.
That is why I cannot be happy that domestic infant adoption still happens today, even with the huge decrease in numbers that the adoption industry whines about and strategize ways to increase the number. Regardless of the joy it brings to the new parents, for each adoption there is also the opposite of joy, and that is loss for the other parents. A life-long loss.
As an adoptee, I see both sides and yet just like I cannot justify someones gain over another’s loss in any facet of life, I can’t justify it in adoption either. I doubt the industries statements about how different it is for mothers today – loss is loss. I doubt the words of [adoptive] parents that their child’s *birth* mother feels no loss because she has told you she is happy with her choice, because those two statements do not have to go hand in hand – you can believe you made the right choice and still grieve that loss for life.
When I see the tactics used today by those in the industry, less harsh but not less manipulative - it hurts me to my very core. I don’t see how anyone can say it is right. How many more years before we as a society says no more of the practices used today? And if you don’t know what I am talking about here read this post from Musings of the Lame and then go check out the agency you used, or are using, but approach it from a *birth* parent perspective, do some real critical analysis of their methods based on a scared girl in crisis mode and tell me it is fair play.
The above is why I dislike the phrase “just adopt” because if they do another mother has lost her child. That’s why it angers me when I see people fundraising, using pass-along cards, advertising for *birth* mothers, calling christians to adopt, petitioning for extending the adoption tax credit, any number of things of that nature. It hurts and angers me because my mother is one of those mothers who lost her child for life – and life can be a long, long time to shed your tears in silence.
Far too many believe adoptees should be pro-domestic-infant-adoption everything since we are adopted. Being pro-domestic-infant-adoption to me, also means approving of the harm done, the loss, and the methods used to get the adoption to happen. Just won’t happen. I will be for adoption when it truly is the best option for the child. I don’t approve of its use to find healthy newborn babies for couples wanting to be parents, because I believe family preservation should be the first choice whenever possible, and adoption the last choice.