Forced Births in the Bad Old Days

By Mijita @ Daily Kos

Judy was born in 1950 to an Irish Catholic family. When she was 12 her uncle began molesting her.

Like a lot of girls of that time, Judy didn’t understand sex, or what was happening to her. She liked the attention, but felt ashamed and couldn’t talk to her mother. At 13 she started getting sick, not just in the mornings, but all day long. Her mother took her to the doctor, and she learned she was pregnant.

As the doctor and her mom questioned her the truth came out. Judy remembers the doctor being very kind, and as he left he asked the nurse to “talk to her mother.” The nurse told them there was an option to childbirth. Judy’s mother felt that would be the right thing, but wanted to pray about it.

So they went to their parish priest, where her mother tearfully recounted what happened, and warned that if her husband found out, he would kill her brother. She also told the priest about the “other option.”

The priest, who had been kind and comforting, now turned harsh. He warned that abortion was both illegal and a mortal sin. It could not be considered.

And he told Judy that if her father learned of the molestation and hurt or killed her uncle, she would be responsible.

The priest then announced that Judy would be sent to a St. Anne’s, a home for unwed mothers in a city fifty miles away. She would have her baby and give it up for adoption.

Judy was terrified. She didn’t want to have a baby and she didn’t want to be sent away. She cried and begged her mother to let her stay at home. The priest said there was nothing else they could do and that it would be alright.

That night, Judy waited upstairs as her mother told her father the news. He yelled at her mom but never asked how she had gotten pregnant. And in fact, Judy wasn’t entirely sure — her body and sex were outside her understanding.

After the conversation Judy began pleading to see the nurse who had promised to help because she did not want to leave her home. When that failed she threw herself down the stairs, trying to kill herself or the baby. She only broke her arm.

She was sent to St. Anne’s. But because she was suicidal she was not permitted above the ground floor, was not allowed anything long or sharp, and was watched all the time.

But one day she heard some of the girls talking about self-abortion. Desperate, she tried pushing her hand as far inside herself as she could. When she was caught she was made to sleep tied to the bed. And because she was sick, she was kept in bed for most of the last two months.

Giving birth without her mother, in pain and among strangers was agony. She screamed so much that the doctor finally put her under. When she woke up the baby – a boy – was gone. She told the nurses she didn’t want to see him.

After she recovered and went home the pregnancy was never spoken of. And she never felt close to her mother again.

Judy left home the week she graduated from high school, moving as far away from her family as she could get. She never returned and never spoke to them again. She even missed her parents’ funerals.

Her son eventually contacted her through an attorney, but she refused to see him. She didn’t want to tell him he was the product of child rape, incest and forced birth. “Whatever he thinks can’t be as bad at the truth,” she said.

As terrible as the molestation had been, Judy feels that being forced to give birth against her will was far worse. And something, she believes, she will never get over.

She worries about the trend in politics today against contraception and abortion. She does not want other girls to undergo her ordeal.

As Judy told me, “Never, ever again.”

This edited piece was originally posted on Daily Kos and reprinted with permission. Go here to see the full original version.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on March 23, 2012, in feminism, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. thebitchybride

    This is awful.The poor woman. There are some awful things that happen in awful ways all over the world, but I think the worst thing a person can experience is to have the control of their own body taken from them.

  2. Forced birth really hurts women. It’s a terrible experience, and some women can never overcome the hurt that forced birth brings to them. What Judy suffered is so terrible, and she had to carry the scar on her heart through the whole life. She doesn’t do anything wrong, but she has to take the consequence. This is very unfair to Judy. Every woman should have the right to control her own body instead of letting others make decisions for her. The politics that against contraception and abortion is unfair to women. Contraception and abortion can protect women. There is no reason indicates that women should suffer these horrible things. They should have the rights to protect themselves.

  3. When we don’t fight for the right to make decisions for our lives, than someone will make decsion for us!!!!

    Until we understand that men do not really have a woman’s best interest in mind. Women should realize men do not understand women’s problems and should not make laws that affect women lives.
    Men only want to be in charge and will do what it takes to keep in control.
    Women should be charged of laws that effect women, not men.
    We need more women in politics.

    This story is a sad one and as you can see this young women was sent away to keep silent the crime her uncle has done to her.

    Silence is what makes men strong, unaccountable, haters living in your bed.

    Angry Women Unite!

    • I agree there are too many men in State and U.S. legislatures who don’t have women’s interests at heart. And I am angry at them. But there are also misogynistic women who join with those misogynistic men.

      And… there are plenty of feminist men, too!

  4. As I have children, I’m basically against abortion and believe that taking another life is murder. Even though a life is in the womb, the tiny baby develops inside of me. She has fingers, eyes, mouth…everything inside of me. Some research shows that unborn babies also laugh, smile, and cry. Yes, she is a human beings. However, I agree with abortion in some cases. In the case of this article, I believe Judy MUST have had an abortion because aborting is the only choice for her to live a happy life. Also Judy’s son was never loved and welcomed by his mother though he is innocent. but it’s hard to say that Judy’s son should have been killed now. This is a really chiling and horrible incident. I would say that if we see a similar case in the future, the girl must do it. She should not ruin her life. Anyway, why are women always the victims?

    • I don’t like abortion either, and wish no one ever felt the need to get one. But sometimes the emotional violence on a woman forced to give birth seems to be just too much.

      And I also don’t see an embryo or fetus as equal to a person, leaving abortion unequal to murder. If you have to choose between saving thousands of embryos and one child if a fire breaks out, I’m pretty sure anyone would choose to save the the one actual child, as opposed to saving thousands of “people” (embryos).

      Also, if the rape/incest had never occured, her son never would have been born, either.

  5. I think this is just a horrible situation and should never have to happen to anyone. When the mother took her daughter to the doctor, she had pretty much already formulated the opinion that it would be best for her daughter not to have the baby, but she needed to pray about it. I think it is sad that her religion held her back from letting her own child not suffer. I can understand someone’s point of view that life is precious and it can be seen as selfish to abort a pregnancy, but there are so many circumstances that can affect a woman’s choice. Abortion should absolutely always be legal and encouraged in the case of rape. I just cannot understand anyone’s point of view who thinks otherwise.

  6. This story is terrible. Abortion is a personal choice it shouldn’t be up to anyone but those who made the baby. First of all being molested by a family member that you trust has to be a completely life changing experience in its self but then being force to bring a baby term causes resentment. And with this story the child that was made will probably have issues with himself just like all other adopted children but with contacting his birth mother and learning she wants nothing to do with him probably causes him to have bigger issues with himself. So basically this whole situation could have been avoided but instead it caused more and more problems with each person involved. I don’t think the mother should have consulted the church, it was a personal matter others shouldn’t have been incorporated in the decision and the place she was sent was so determined to make her have the baby the extremes they put her through were unethical for a little girl. This is also a good example for the current political stances on Abortion. Even if its made illegal it won’t stop people from trying to abort their babies it just causes a higher number a injuries and death from unsafe methods of abortions.

  7. I am so sorry for what Judy suffered. What a horrible childhood she had. For this forceful description of the way life was in the past for far too many women. I know this was a common thing before abortion was legal in this country. But those days are gone. We must all stand together to defend the rights of all. If you want to see what life without birth control is like for women, there is your most common example. May events like these be consigned to history forever.

  8. I believe that stories like this are the reason why mothers talk about sex at home; well now, I have a cousin who has two small girls. My cousin hasn’t talked about molestation but has talked about if someone touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable to let her know. So if parents would have talk to their children like my cousin does to her girls, things would be different. And although I think that abortion is a terrifying thing it should be the women’s decision to have the child and not have to be forced, that way the women won’t tempt with their life to get rid of the child. Or be tormented with the decision they have made like Judy, who was forced to keep the child only to give him up for adoption, and because she was forced to do something she didn’t want to she lost contact with her family.

  9. It is so horrible to read about what this young girl endured. The fact that so many girls suffer from such abuse is horrible. I’m not too sure where I really stand on the issue with abortion. When I think about the fact that it is take g aomeones life away I come to terms with tJe fact that is unjust. But when stories like this are presented to me abortio , at times, seems like the beat decision. It is not fair that girls are abused and then forces to go through with the resulting pregnancy. They should be able to decide what they want to do. Adopt may seem like the beat choice but that can cause a lot of emotional trauma as well.

  10. This is so terrible I cant even imagine the pain she has to live with for the rest of her life. I consider myself to be Catholic, i was raised that way and believe in the religion, but not fully. I used to think of abortion as a sin but as i became older i have realized that all that matters is what a woman wants to do with her body. i understant that the fetus will become a child but i dont consider it to be a human until it is developed. I think no body else should ever have to decide what a woman should and shouldnt do with her body. Contraceptives are a must and people like Santorum are something we absolutley dont need. In a situation like this woman it was horrible what they made her go through. Now that is a sin to control what a woman wants to do with her body and force her to have a child when she was a child herself. i cant believe it was the law before, they never consdered the mental and physical pain women had to go through. i cant say that i would ever have an abortion but i dont judge women who do because its thier choice and thier choice only. OPPOSINNG TO ABORTION IS OPPOSING TO WOMANS RIGHTS. Judy unfortunatley was a victim of numerous things that cannot be forgotten nor forgiven. Sometimes i question religion itself because i dont see how someone in thier right mind can think controlling someoneelses body is okay. the worst thing in the world is trully not being able to have control over our own bodies. No one ever says anything about mens semen i mean it does create a child should we be against condoms too????? It is a neccesity to have a child it is like water and the seed. they go together so we should only allow men to have sex for a baby because they are unborn children too then! why didnt religion question that?? All of this talk about abortion being immoral and a sin is all to control women and give power to men. The pain and suffering that the woman go through isnt considered when they force them to have a child that they didnt want, like Judys situation.

  11. This is really a sad story. The illegal abortion hurts women. It leads more women to seek for abortion in places with terrible medications. It leads more women to death. It is hard to imagine a 12-year-old girl facing molestation and forced birth. The saddest thing I feel was Judy’s parents’ cold attitude. They did not give any help to this young girl after they knew she was pregnant. Instead, they send her to a St. Anne’s, “a home for unwed mothers”. Her father even didn’t ask who raped her. Judy’s religion was also leading her to a hopeless situation. It limited her behavior and did not allow her to break the rules.

  12. This story serves as a very good example supporting abortion though it may not be righteous at times. It just shows how the ripple effects can go on and on when a woman is denied the right to have an abortion.

    For me, religion is a set of values that we abide by in daily life and a tool to solve problems when we come across any. Sometimes, I just feel that some religious values simply make matters worse. Denying women abortion simply makes them suffer. In Judy’s case, she suffers infinitely.

    On one hand, she is being a ‘devoted’ Catholic for not having an abortion. On the other, after she has given birth to the baby boy, she refuses to even see him and provide any motherly love, which ‘violates’ the principle of ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ Therefore, at times, religion comes as a dilemma to me.

  13. An awful story about an unnecessary practice. It was not this childs choice to be impregnated, she had no control over the situation and yet she is being held accountable by those who failed to protect her. Personally I do see adoption as the best option for an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, however it cannot be forced. There is a limit to what is even safe. Abortion should always be used as the last option available, but it has its place. We are have claimed we are the land of the free and yet we subject a child to a dangerous situation at her age over anothers horrific act.

  14. Marcus Coleman

    Wow. These are the situations where abortion is necessary and its not a suprise that the priest is tripping about it.

  15. This was a horrible and tragic story…Women are always the ones that are to be blamed for everything. Judy didn’t get to have a say in anything. Other people made decisions for her and if they didn’t go agree with the Priest’s orders, they would be stigmatized. I mean, aren’t priest suppose to be good people? Aren’t they suppose to say encouraging words like, “God planned this out for you for the greater good,” sort of thing? I feel bad for both Judy and her son. They both have those life scars that can never be fixed.

    Hopefully Judy would get over her pain and hatred and meet her son…For some reason, I think it might actually help the two if they can looked passed each others mistakes. It might somehow provide some type of closure…

  16. Liliya Baranova

    Wow! That was really hard to read…. I feel so bad for women who’s religion or beliefs puts them in a place of imprisonment…. If I was Judy I would have just killed the uncle… Men like that really should not be on this planet…

  17. This story was very sad. I can’t believe no one ever did anything about the uncle that raped her. Judy’s family was so cruel and unfair to her. She did nothing wrong yet she was forced to suffer a great deal by herself. I really dislike abortion because it really over used and is used as a common birh control, however, I feel that abortions are a personal choice. A woman has every right to do what she wants with her body and no one should be allowed to take her personal choices away from her.

  18. This story is definitely an extreme situation and furthermore a very good reason to keep allowing the use of birth control methods. However very traumatic and detrimental this story is there are many other reasons as well to keep the use of birth control legal. I have a considerable amount of friends that have had a child at a very immature age. And both are currently raising the child on their own. It breaks my heart to see my friends constantly struggle with minimal finances and a very small support system to raise a child to become as good as person as they have the ability to raise. Not to mention because they had these kids so young they don’t have the mental capacity to raise one. No, they were not kids when they had kids but they still had a considerable amount of growing up to do, which in turn their kids are essentially paying for now. Both my friends, and myself still are figuring out who we are as individuals. How can someone who is still somewhat insecure and trying to understand their place in the world expect to raise a stoic human being? A parent needs to feel strong in their own beliefs, self worth, be financially secure and hopefully, but not always, have a husband or wife or partner who can be there to support them and their kid. It’s upsetting to me how many people bring children into the world, not realizing the amount of responsibility it takes. And responsibility is only PART of it! It’s another human you are bringing into the world!!! Don’t get me wrong I love and adore both of my friends and their kids. And both kids have brought me a lot of joy I wouldn’t have experienced and gotten to cherish without them. However I’ll always wonder what each of my girlfriends lives, and their kids lives would have been like if they had waited for the necessary resources before having these children.

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