Al Jazeera America recently reported a story that the Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, may have lied to dozens of Black mothers in the 1950s and ’60s, telling them their children had died in childbirth and then putting them up for illegal adoption. The scandal was uncovered after Melanie Gilmore, one of the illegally adopted children, was searching for her birth mother with the help of her granddaughter.
In 1965, Zella Jackson Price was told that her premature daughter, Melanie Gilmore, now 50, had died hours after birth. Now fifty years later, Zella, 76, is being reunited with her daughter. Price explained “back then doctors and nurses was (sic) held in such high esteem if they said something … you believed it.”
Brenda Stewart is also looking for answers regarding the birth of her daughter at Homer G. Phillips in 1965, ” I never did get a chance to see her, my parents never did get a chance to see her. I never did get a chance to touch her.” Brenda and other potential victims have currently applied for state records to see if their children are also alive and were trafficked by the state.
There have now been more than 70 women who gave birth at the Homer G. Phillips hospital seeking answers about the status of the children who they previously presumed to be deceased. Price family attorney Albert Watkins stated about the alleged victims, “they were all women who had babies at very young ages — 15, 16, 17, 18, some in their young 20s, there was not one adoption agency in the 1950s and 1960s in the St. Louis area that catered to African-American couples seeking to adopt infants of color.” Watkins alleged that the hospital was stealing and selling these babies.
St. Louis may be held liable if these accusations are correct. Albert Watkins has written to both Mayor Slay and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon calling for them to launch investigations into the hospital and its possible involvement into human trafficking. Mayor Francis Slay released a statement in which he wrote “the alleged events happened a long time ago, when records retention practices were very different. We are working with alleged victims.” The hospital closed its doors in 1979 making it difficult for city officials to locate birth records.