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The term 'birth mother' in adoption legislation is 'reductive and hurtful'

Referring to a woman who has given up her child for adoption as a birth mother is ‘reductive an...
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

16.01 29 Sep 2021


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The term 'birth mother' in ado...

The term 'birth mother' in adoption legislation is 'reductive and hurtful'

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

16.01 29 Sep 2021


Share this article


Referring to a woman who has given up her child for adoption as a birth mother is ‘reductive and hurtful,’ according to an adoption campaign group.

The Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman yesterday said the term would be dropped from the upcoming Birth Information and Tracing Bill.

He told the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth yesterday that there were differing viewpoints about the term.

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He said he met with mothers who found the terms hurtful but noted that a recent survey found that a majority of adopted people prefer the term.

He said he is “deeply committed” to finding an alternative that is acceptable to both sides and works legislatively.

The term 'birth mother' in adoption legislation is 'reductive and hurtful'

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

   

On Newstalk Breakfast his morning, Bernie from the Natural Parent's Network of Ireland (NPNI) said she has been campaigning against the term for years.

“It is hurtful because it is reductive,” she said. “It reduces my relationship with my son to the few hours of his birth. That is very, very hurtful of itself.”

She said the term natural parent has been in legislative use since 1952 and the term birth mother was ‘sneaked into the legislation in recent years.’

“There is no other, it is just the obvious term,” she said.

“For years we have run a helpline and we have interacted with adopted people as well as natural parents and found that adopted people don’t want their relationship to their natural family to be reduced to a chromosomal link either.”

Adopted people

She suggested adopted people should have no say in what term is used.

“Really, without being too direct about it, it is no business of adopted people what we are called,” she said.

“It is not my experience that adopted people want to call us birth mothers.

“We have worked very closely with the adoption rights alliance in the last almost 30 years and their membership – they would be seen as being leaders in the field of rights for adopted people – their membership fully supports and recognises that we should be called natural parents.”

"Huge difference"

She said Minister O’Gorman’s announcement yesterday was “like a huge load has been lifted off my back.”

“We have been leading the charge on this for many years and for somebody who doesn’t experience it or understand the hurt it causes, it probably feels like a very small thing,” she said.

“But for the minister to do this has made a huge difference to us.”

She said the term birth mother should be reserved for surrogates who carry babies on behalf of someone else.

You can listen back here:

The term 'birth mother' in adoption legislation is 'reductive and hurtful'

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