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When there was no choice, can you still choose?
Author: Raine    Date: 03/13/2013 13:59:50

Kathleen Hoy Foley was 16, alone and pregnant from a rape in 1964 when she decided to put the baby up for adoption, intending to forever close that chapter of her life.

“The day I walked out of that hospital, it was the day it ended for me,” Foley, now 65, told the Daily News. “I was emancipated. I truly believed I was free.”

She wasn’t.

More than 30 years later, the child defied the odds and found her, shattering the life Foley had created and forcing her to reveal a dark piece of her past that she had wanted to keep hidden from her grown daughters and husband.
Abortion was illegal back then, and rape was something no one discussed. Years later the child now grown wanted to meet her biological mother. She was rejected.
Penn, now age 48, became interested in meeting her birth parents after having her own child in 1996. First she found out that her biological father was dead and then she was rejected by Foley. She admitted to the New York Daily News that her mom’s reaction was like “a knife to my heart.”

“It’s really sad,” Penn added. “It is very hard for somebody in this time to put their brain back in 1964 in that society. I’ve never experienced it. But I would hope that whatever happens in that situation that at this point, I would get myself help and I wouldn’t take it out on the person I gave birth to.”

So here we have a victim of rape who decided to get going with living her life in the best possible way she could considering the times, and an adopted child - now a woman - who wanted to meet her biological mother.
Foley was contacted by the unwanted child she put up for adoption 15 years ago. How Elaine Penn found her birth mom is questionable. Foley claims Penn hired a private investigator and that Catholic Charities unlawfully passed over important information. With a closed adoption the birth certificate is supposed to remain sealed and the birth mom’s name never revealed.

Elaine denies hiring an investigator and says she found leads in public documents. She first made contact with Foley’s lawyer who ended up being her biological mom’s son-in-law.

Even though Penn has reached out to her mom several times over the past 15 years, the two haven’t met in person. Foley, now age 65, doesn’t want to ever meet her daughter and she has become an advocate for women who have given up a child and prefer to remain anonymous.
Where does one's right to privacy end? Ms. Foley was given little or no choice after she was raped. Birth control was not available to women, abortion was not available. She was pregnant and had to decide whether to keep the child or give it up for adoption. Her privacy had been invaded and she was yet again forced to make a decision. This time she chose to not meet her biological daughter.

Almost 50 years later, we can see the progress from women who fought for and got the right to choose when and how they would give birth. We have access to birth control. We speak out in cases of rape and incest. We are less apprehensive to do so as the stigma isn't as severe as it was forty years ago. In 1964, Kathleen Hoy Foley had none of these options. This entire situation is a perfect illustration of how important it is for women to have a choice.

I cannot identify with what it may be like to be an adopted child, but I take issue with Ms.Penn. In her quest to find her 'biological mother', she violated the little choice her mother once had. Meeting and finding the adoptee should have been Kathleen Hoy Foley's choice to make -- choice being something she was denied many years ago. She was raped at the age of 16 and now at the age of 65 she is trying to protect the rights she now has. She is protecting her right -- and the rights of others who were forced to give birth so many years ago: the right to choose privacy. Ms. Foley writes:
Today, these aging women, including frail elderly women, are enduring egregious abuse from State governments that are opening court sealed adoption records and intimidating these women into forfeiting private medical and personal histories to stranger-adoptees.

Adoption agencies are placing aging and elder women at extreme physical and emotional risk by releasing deeply intimate and identifying details to strangers claiming rights as adoptees. (Betrayal by Catholic Charities permanently ended my life--and the lives of my family--as I knew it.)

Adoptees seeking to satisfy their own curiosity, some looking for revenge, are hunting down and ambushing elder women and their families, dismissing as unimportant the damage and destruction they create. (Among many cruelties, the stranger-adoptee in my situation posted my 80 year old mother's name on the internet, along with accusatory sexual insinuations.)

Despite whatever irreversible consequences may occur, society, via the media, insists on romanticizing this trend of pursuing women and forcing public exposure of past traumas.

Socially and politically this sanctioned abuse and punishment of aging and elderly women is disguised as a human rights issue for those who were placed into adoption.

Left without social support and legal options, it is, sadly, up to the woman in hiding to protect herself the best way she can.

“It’s really sad,” Penn added. “It is very hard for somebody in this time to put their brain back in 1964 in that society. I’ve never experienced it. But I would hope that whatever happens in that situation that at this point, I would get myself help and I wouldn’t take it out on the person I gave birth to.”
After all of this, Ms. Penn appears to be rather callous, in my opinion. She has become an adoption rights activist, and her supporters are ostracizing Ms.Foley, saying she's too 'wacky, crazy and hateful'. Ms. Penn is trying to pass laws in NJ forcing adoption records to be opened -- even closed adoptions. Let's take a look at the other side of this again. Ms. Foley has an entry in her blog from 2009:
I never knew I had a choice. Never knew that I did not have to accept being violated by that despicable stigma affixed to me as a teenager. Birth mother—a slur that branded me a slut; a whore. The label that blamed me for getting pregnant from rape. The label that ignored the rapes; turned my torment into a hot and heavy teenage romance with me unable to keep my legs closed.

Getting pregnant was what I deserved for wanton sexual escapades. Just punishment for my sexual lust. I was to confess my sin—I did. Do my penance—I did extra just to make sure. And my sins and my secret shame would be washed away by a confidential adoption. That is what they promised—Catholic Charities; my mother. Do my penance and I would be free. I believed them.

Over thirty years later my confidential records were breached and a stranger—the adoptee—was wreaking havoc in our lives. Which is why Phil was on the phone with our attorney and I was listening to him say what I had never in my entire life heard before. There in our kitchen, that tiny moment in time, me fifty years old, I slowly began to see that I was not required to stigmatize myself any longer; that I did not have to join society and continue to condemn myself with the label Birth Mother; a label so vile, it made me retch.

I looked up at Phil when he sat down at the table across from me.

“Rape is not making love,” I finally managed, giving voice to what I had never been able to speak aloud. “Being forced to breed did not make me a mother. They don’t call girls who had abortions, mothers.”
When there was no choice, Ms. Foley was forced to take the lessor of two evils. When faced with an unwanted confrontation years later, she chooses not to meet the person she gave up for adoption. We have seen a generational shift when it comes to women's rights, but I believe we need to be more sensitive to the generations that came before us. They have a right to their history as well. As we go forward, fighting for equality, we would be wise to pay attention to our history and be sensitive to it -- it involves people who are living and breathing it every day. Some may never have gotten over it -- and they should not be forced to, especially based on other people's expectations. It should be a choice as to how and when - or if ever - we deal with our life events, both the wonderful and the horrible.


86 comments (Latest Comment: 03/14/2013 04:20:46 by livingonli)
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