The Mercury News

Leader apologizes for past practice of forced adoptions

- By Jenny Gross

Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of Scotland's government, apologized this week for the country's practice of forcing tens of thousands of unmarried women to give up their babies for adoption from the 1940s until the 1970s.

Sturgeon said the injustices carried out against these women, who were stigmatize­d because they were young and unmarried, were among the worst in Scotland's history.

“No words could ever make up what has happened to you, but I hope this apology can bring you some measure of solace,” she said, appearing to hold back tears, in a speech at the Scottish Parliament that was one of her final acts as leader. “It is the very least that you deserve, and it is long overdue.”

Sturgeon announced last month that she would step down as Scotland's first minister. Her successor is set to be announced next week. From the 1940s to the '70s, thousands of unmarried, pregnant women in countries including Australia, Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States were sent by their families, social workers, health workers or religious workers to live in religious institutio­ns and give birth in secret.

Mothers were coerced to give up their babies for adoption to families and were frequently lied to about the adoption process. They were often told that they would be selfish to keep their babies and deny them a better life.

“Some women were never even allowed to hold their babies,” Sturgeon said to an audience that included mothers who had been forced to give up their babies. “Most never got the chance to say a proper goodbye.”

One of the people in attendance was Esther Robertson, who in 1961 was one of the children given up under the practice of forced adoption. Robertson said that Sturgeon's apology was a meaningful step toward affirming the injustices that took place.

“It doesn't erase what happened, but it is an acknowledg­ment, and that is important,” said Robertson, who lives in Edinburgh and was in two different institutio­ns known as “mother and baby homes” before she turned 1.

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