The emotional scar forced adoption has on women is unimaginable
As someone who has had to fight harder than most to become a parent, I can only imagine the emotional scarring that this archaic practice has left over the years.
It is somewhat timely (and perhaps ironically so) that International Women’s Day this year coincides almost to the day with the one-year anniversary of the first wave of UK-wide lockdown restrictions.
We know that Covid has had a huge impact on us all, but women across the board have been especially badly hit. Whether it’s predominantly female-led industries like hospitality and hair and beauty or the sheer number of pregnant women who have slipped through the net of support packages, this is a virus that has widened the already alarming gender pay gap.
I – like so many others - remember feeling extremely frustrated when lockdown was first announced. As an MP who had only been elected a few months prior, I was disappointed at having to cancel planned visits and public meetings. Throughout though I’ve always recognised just how fortunate I am. I have a relatively stable job, and most importantly a fantastic husband, supportive family and a gorgeous 2-year-old who constantly keeps me on my toes. I’ve always been a very family-oriented person and couldn’t survive without the support of my own Mum and Dad or siblings. That closeness, even with the physical barriers, has only grown throughout this crisis.
For me, one of the only positives of the pandemic has been the opportunity to spend time with my immediate loved ones, but I am acutely aware that not every home environment is a safe one.
We know that Covid has had a huge impact on us all, but women across the board have been especially badly hit
Tragically, domestic abuse cases against women have increased and homicides as a result of abuse have more than doubled since the start of the pandemic. It is only thanks to the work of campaigner Karen Ingala Smith and the Counting Dead Women project that we even have a partial grip on the crisis. On International Women’s Day it seems almost obvious to remind people of the very gendered nature of these crimes, and the Home Office must take the lead if we are to tackle the problem at its root.
Thankfully the discourse on domestic violence is slowly improving and as chair of the APPG on Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse, I’m seeing encouraging levels of engagement from all parties across the political spectrum. Sadly, the same cannot be said for other practices against women that remain a dark cloud on our nations’ proud history, and the government must take rapid action to make things right.
My absolute devotion to my own family is of course not unique, and over the past few years I’ve been utterly shocked and horrified to read about the practice of forced adoptions that was commonplace across the UK in the 1960s. Forced adoption was a brutal practice against young unmarried mothers that took place across the UK until the 1980s because of social disapproval towards pregnancy outside of marriage. It is estimated that around half a million pregnant British women were taken to these institutions which were commonly run by either the Church or the state.
The Movement for An Adoption Apology do some fantastic work, and the three key groups which handled most adoptions at the time - the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army – have all apologised. Leaders in other countries including Australia and Ireland have taken action too, yet the government in Westminster remains silent.
Over the last year I’ve had the honour of sharing my own fertility story and have received incredible support. As someone who has had to fight harder than most to become a parent, I can only imagine the emotional scarring that this archaic practice has left over the years. To all who were impacted, I can only say that I am sorry.
The structures and systems that were put in place to keep us safe have failed a generation and these people deserve better. I urge the government to do the right thing and issue a simple apology.
On International Women’s Day I’ll be thinking about the women who saw their families torn apart. Their stories serve as an important reminder of just how lucky I am for the incredible love and support that my family provide me with every day.
Alex Davies-Jones is the Labour MP for Pontypridd.