Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Girls Who Went Away

I've been on a nonfiction kick lately.  I normally read medieval history and a little biography, so this study of unwed teenage mothers who gave up their children for adoption between World War II and the Roe v. Wade case in 1973 is sort of out of character for me; especially since I am quite possibly the least maternal woman on the planet.  You wouldn't think I'd be at all interested in stories like these, but I found the book unexpectedly absorbing.

The author, Ann Fessler, is an adopted child herself, as was her own mother.  The book starts and ends with her own story of finding her birth mother, but the largest part of the book is based on hundreds of oral histories she recorded.  They have a lot in common; a recurring theme is that these girls weren't given a choice.  A lot of them went to homes for unwed mothers where they were treated like dirt, and a lot them believed in their own worthlessness for years afterwards, sometimes all their lives.

When I was looking for a gynecologist after I moved to this town, the first one I called told me up front that she doesn't prescribe birth control pills.  I've been hearing a lot lately about Catholic hospitals refusing to give rape victims emergency contraceptives, and Christian pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for the Pill--sometimes not even giving the woman her prescription back, so she could take it to another pharmacy.  I really don't want to see this society take a giant leap backwards to the conditions described in Fessler's book, but I wonder which way we're going sometimes.

Originally posted at MySpace on 6/16/06

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