An apology to the victims of forced adoption in Wales has been welcomed by campaigners as pressure builds on the Scottish Government to do the same.
Julie Morgan, the deputy minister for social services in Wales, apologised to the unmarried mothers forced to give up their babies saying their suffering has been “appalling”.
She said: “I would like to convey my deepest sympathy and regret that, due to society failing you, you had to endure such appalling historical practices. For this I am truly sorry.”
The Welsh Assembly member added: “Whilst forced adoption practices predate devolution in Wales, they have a lasting legacy on all those who experienced them – for both the parents and the children. I want to put on record my profound sympathy to all those who have been affected by historic forced adoption.”
Scotland’s leading forced adoption campaigner, Marion McMillan, whose evidence was considered as Australia led the world 10 years ago to make the first official apology, said Nicola Sturgeon had had a decade to say “sorry”, but had failed to do so.
The mother of four, who had her first-born son taken, said: “It is almost 10 years since I first approached Nicola Sturgeon’s government to ask for Scotland to make an apology for one of the world’s worst human rights abuses. And ever since I have had to listen to thousands of warm words but not one apology.
“In that time, hundreds of the 60,000 Scottish women who needed to hear those words have died, and we are no further to seeing it happen than we were on the first day I met with ministers. It’s beyond shameful that, while other countries have done so, and now ministers in Wales have said sorry, all we hear at Holyrood is the sound of a deafening silence.”
McMillan, 74, from Paisley, was just 17 when she begged in vain at a Salvation Army mother and baby home to keep her son. Like thousands of others, she was not given the benefits and support she was entitled to, making it impossible for her to keep her baby, a scandal that remained in the shadows until she began campaigning more than 20 years ago.
In June 2021, Labour MSP Monica Lennon led a parliamentary debate on forced adoption during which MSPs from every party agreed an apology was due. But, since then, McMillan says she has heard “virtually nothing at all” from the government, which has now announced a “scoping exercise” on what support services are available, something that will delay any apology for yet another eight months.
McMillan, who has terminal cancer, said: “By the time we hear sorry from Nicola Sturgeon’s lips, I’ll be lucky to still be alive. There is no excuse and no reason why she cannot say sorry now.”
Lennon said: “There is no reason why our First Minister cannot say sorry to those women, many of whom who have suffered the worst human rights abuse imaginable, having their babies taken, for over 50 years now. It is time now for the First Minister to explain why she hasn’t done so, particularly as Wales has made moves.
“Most of those women have stayed silent because of the dreadful abuse they suffered and, until an apology is delivered, it is likely they will continue to do so.”
The MSP also raised concern there had been silence over the DES drug Stilbestrol, which was given to women to dry up their breast milk. The manufactured oestrogen hormone has since been found to cause deadly cancers in those who took the drug, as well as birth defects of the reproductive organs and gender identity issues in their children and grandchildren.
US campaigner Caitlin McCarthy, whose film Wonder Drug will expose the global drug scandal, addressed the Scottish Parliament more than a year ago, asking it to add its concern to any official apology.
Last week, her Congressman, James McGovern, urged the US Government to act and said: “In 2000, DES was classified as carcinogenic to humans. DES is a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it’s presence can lead to cancer, birth defects and other developmental abnormalities.”
Lennon said: “We have a duty of care toward those who were given this drug and their families. The very least we must do is warn them of the potential dangers to their health, and raise awareness so those affected can get medical advice.”
Scottish Conservative shadow social justice minister Miles Briggs said: “Those who were treated so badly during the forced adoption era don’t just deserve an apology, they deserve the truth and transparency over what was done to them without further delay.”
Children’s Minister Clare Haughey said: “We are continuing to consider how best we can support those who have been affected by this heartbreaking issue. We have agreed funding to support the development of specialist peer groups for those affected. We have commissioned research to look at existing support and how that might be improved.”
The Scottish Government said the most recent advice from Public Health England, now the UK Health Security Agency, is that routine cervical screening is appropriate for those who believe they were exposed to DES in utero.
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