|Melanie Gilmore and Zella Price|
Gilmore was born prematurely 50 years ago, on November 25, 1965 in St. Louis. The circumstances of her adoption are murky. Price says a nurse told her that her daughter had died but she was not allow to see her daughter's body nor given a death certificate. Gilmore began searching for her natural mother soon after her adoptive mother died when she was 20. She had her original birth certificate with her
mother's name but was told her mother had died. Gilmore's adult children began searching for Price when they were planning their mother's 50th birthday party. They found her
through Facebook living in Springfield Oregon. A DNA test confirmed the match between Gilmore and Price, 76, a popular gospel singer with a following. Mother, daughter, and their families met in April, 2015.
MORE THAN 300 WOMEN COME FORWARD
After Price's story came out, more than 300 other women who gave birth at the
St. Louis U. S. Attorney Richard Callahan investigated the facts surrounding Gilmore's birth and adoption and says the evidence contradicts Price's story. According to Callahan, Gilmore was born at City Hospital No. 1 and abandoned by her mother. Price's attorney, Albert Watkins, says his investigation found discrepancies in the adoption and hospital files; it was possible that Gilmore was born at Phillips and transferred later. Gilmore spent two months in City Hospital and was placed with a family for adoption and then returned because she is deaf. She was taken in by another family and adopted in 1983. We don't know what caused the delay in the adoption.
The Associated Press obtained death certificates for almost two dozen of the babies mothers whose mothers suspect were stolen. The certificates indicate the bodies were sent to medical schools for research. Mothers told the AP that they never gave permission for the bodies to be donated for research, only that they were told everything would be taken care of.
Giving parental rights back to Price would allow Gilmore to be an heir to Price's estate according to Watkins. It also gives him, as Gilmore's attorney, legal access to more details about her birth. But the suit was necessary beyond pragmatic reasons. "This is, on an emotional level, something really important to both of them."
Once finalized, adoptions can be overturned only if there was fraud or duress in obtaining the consents of the birth parents. Actions to overturn an adoption must be brought quickly, often in less than a year.
QUESTIONS RAISED BY REVOKING AN ADOPTION
Revoking an adoption raises questions about the rights of the adoptive parents. Would the natural parents have to re-pay the adoptive parents the costs of raising the child since their obligation to support him would have vanished? What about any inheritances or government benefits the child obtained through the adoptive parents? Would these have to be repaid?
If Gilmore prevails, we anticipate more lawsuits to undo adoptions. Adoptees have commented on FMF that they would like to undo their adoptions. We've heard of adoptees being readopted by their natural parents. Some have re-joined their natural families, disavowing any relationship with their adoptive family. Some have had their names changed legally back to their original name.
We can't predict how Gilmore's lawsuit will play out but we know it will be an uphill battle for Gilmore. We also know that regardless of the outcome, Price and Gilmore are truly mother and daughter--jane.
Oregon aims to revoke adoption after 32 years
Mother reunited with daughter nearly 50 years after being told she died
Oregon woman was not stolen at birth despite mother's claims: US attorney
Returning a Child: It happens More than You Think
Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
"...an intricately-crafted, tender and honest reminder of the damages suffered by parents and children amidst even the best-intentioned of adoption decisions. Hole in my Heart should be required reading for all who are contemplating placing a child or adopting for this precautionary tale offers poignant lessons about the importance of adoption being an option of last resort; the inadequacy of openness and/or reunion as a salve for lifelong adoption losses; and the need for adoptee rights legislation in America."
--Elizabeth Jurenovich, director of Abrazo Adoption Services, San Antonio
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