Black life has seen all kinds of strife in this country. But this story is on another level of horrifying.
The Associated Press reports that a St. Louis hospital may have literally been robbing cradles in the 50s and 60s, according to a group of 18 black mothers. The story arose when one 76-year-old woman, Zella Johnson Price, was reunited with her long lost daughter, 50-year-old Melanie Gilmore in April. In all the years that they had been separated, Price had presumed Gilmore was dead. Price was told by a nurse that her daughter died shortly after birth. However, the elderly Gospel singer was in for a beautiful surprise when Gilmore tracked her biological mother down in commemoration of her foster mother’s birthday. A DNA test confirmed the match.
When an online video of the incident made rounds across the web, Price’s attorney, Albert Watkins, started getting multiple calls from other black women with strikingly similar stories. As many as 18 women have come forward so far with their testimonies, all of them being poor, young mothers between the ages of 15 and 20 at the time that they were giving birth at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in the 50s and 60s.
In a move that goes completely against protocol, each was told by a nurse, as opposed to a doctor, that her babies had died. None of mothers were able to see their deceased children or given death certificates.
Now they’re wondering if their long-lost babies are alive, too.
The hospital in question closed back in 1979 and authorities from the St. Louis Health Department have yet to comment on the case. Watkins is now filing a lawsuit on the mothers’ behalf. When he wrote to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, the attorney argued that these children may have been part of a scheme to create a market with babies of color for private adoptions.
This is beyond nauseating. We hope these mothers get the justice they deserve. We’ll keep you posted as the story develops.