A feature entitled ‘From the Archives’ that appeared in the Irish Times newspaper recently throws an interesting light on society in general in Ireland over sixty years ago, and particularly on the plight of children born to Irish mothers outside wedlock at that time. The piece, an editorial that appeared in the newspaper in 1949, tells us that
‘The lot of the unwanted legitimate child is hard. That of the unwanted illegitimate child is vastly harder. The charge of infanticide is heard with monotonous regularity in our Irish Courts, but often, when a terrified mother shrinks from so dreadful a crime and consents to carry the stigma of her shame, her unwanted child almost has reason to regret that he had not been granted the mercy of a quick death.’ Three possibilities are suggested for the mother – to ‘farm out’ her child to some family that would be willing to raise him (often a miserable existence); to put her child into an institution (again, not always an ideal solution); and, thirdly, to put her child up for adoption. ‘She may be put in touch with some decent, childless and frequently well-to-do family that is anxious to adopt the child and bring him, or her, up as its own.’
The editorial continues with a remarkable comment that is extremely relevant to today’s world, where childless couples are willing to go to any lengths to obtain a child – be it IVF and the financial and physical cost to the woman – or be it going through all the hassle and expense of adopting a child from Russia, Vietnam, China, or wherever, and the sometimes dubious advantage to the child in question.
The editorial says that the possibility of adoption is ‘infinitely the best solution of the three. It is well known that there are many thousands of childless couples in Ireland who would gladly bring up such a child as their own, give him every advantage within their means, endow him with their name and social position, and leave him their money.’
Why do the childless couples of Ireland have to resort to IVF and other AHR (assisted human reproduction) procedures, or why do they have to go abroad to other countries to adopt a child today? If the thousands of Irish babies who are killed by abortion every year were alive today would they not bring happiness to so many childless couples, and at the same time be allowed to live the life that God intended for them.
The editorial ended by commenting on a problem involved with the process of adoption at that time – the fact that there was no possibility of legally adopting a child. A small matter, but one that has been resolved in the intervening years through appropriate legislation.