He and his wife adopted child from maternity home. Here are his thoughts on abortion

Photo courtesy of the Missouri Valley Room, Kansas City Public Library

Working the Kansas City Star’s police beat in 1967, I picked up a curious story. A man had carried a 3-year-old child into police headquarters and set the kid on the counter. “Can you please keep an eye on her for a minute?” he said and walked away.

He did not come back. His sister had parked the toddler with him and refused for several weeks to retrieve her. Police charged the uncle with abandoning a child. As my Star story reported, he got off lightly. The girl was returned to her mother.

The next time I saw that story, the newsprint clipping had been pasted into the Hammer file folder left open on a courthouse desk in a Jackson County adoption agency. My wife, Lenore, and I — so far infertile as potential parents — were trying to adopt a baby. We won out, I think, in small part because my Star police beat narrative made us appear sympathetic to children.

Soon we picked up baby Julie, 12 days old, at the Willows Maternity Sanitarium, at 2929 Main St. in Kansas City. The institution, fabled as the “Ritz Carlton” of maternity homes, was founded in 1905 as an expensive refuge for unwed white pregnant girls with well-off parents.

It’s the subject of “Mansion on a Hill: The Story of The Willows Maternity Sanitarium and the Adoption Hub of America,” by KelLee Parr. Families from all over the country sent their daughters for the duration of their pregnancy, put the baby up for adoption, and the young women and families returned home with their secret secure.

Nine months later, with our baby tucked into a car seat, we were out driving when Lenore quietly announced: “I missed a period.” Going in for the final adoption hearing, with Lenore’s pregnancy not yet obvious, we asked our lawyer, Courtney Perkins, whether we should disclose this new fact.

“Oh,” he said with a sigh, “let’s don’t.”

So that’s how we got our first daughter, Julie, with Amy Nan already on the way. The girls grew up in our Shawnee home, where Julie much later introduced us to her birth mother. We enjoyed a warm 35-year friendship with that mother before Lenore died in 2017.

This story may seem to foreshadow praise for that past world wherein abortion was outlawed and maternity homes like the Willows flourished for girls who birthed babies perfect for adoption. But I do not want any new version of that America, wherein the state and the church dictated what happens in women’s wombs, the very private center of their bodies.

By church I mean first the Catholic, which today would outlaw all procedures that abort a zygote (two cells), a blastocyst (16 cells) an embryo or — nine weeks after conception — a fetus. No compromise is allowed, no decision permitted after the second trimester, or even the first. The church finds compromise unnecessary, since it can mobilize the State to enforce its will.

By the state, of course, I mean the Republican Party, fiercely concerned for zygotes and fetuses but much less for children birthed into the world. These Republicans demand full access to virtually all guns, including Adam Lanza’s two pistols and the Bushmaster assault rifle he fired in his Sandy Hook school massacre. Republican gun freedoms awarded Lanza power to slaughter 20 children, six staff members and himself.

These new Republicans, committed to life pre-birth in states like Mississippi and Kansas, lose focus after the baby arrives, refusing to pass a decent minimum wage or expand Medicaid care for working poor families. No doubt granting women control over their own bodies is liberal. But state and church power over those bodies is far from “conservative,” not by the avowed principles of small-government Republicans.

I suggest they instead work as some religions do: through persuasion rather than coercion. Provide information, education, birth control. Provide choice without shame. Treat women decently, as Kansas City’s Willows Maternity Sanitarium often (but not always) did in that long ago when Lenore and I were granted a lovely daughter.

Contact the columnist at hammerc12@gmail.com