Hester Prynne Returns to Florida

The New York Times today publishes an astonishing op-ed piece about a new Florida law requiring mothers wishing to put their child up for adoption to disclose the name of the child’s father, or if the fatherhood is questionable, to publish advertisements in newspapers giving the mother’s sexual history and everyone she has slept with. (Shaming Young Mothers) This law requires even young rape victims to publish the ads.

Not since Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter have we seen such a public policy of shame and humiliation. What is the good of these sexual revelations? Do these Republican right-wingers really think that this latter day scarlet letter tactic will prevent people from having sex? How is this different than the degrading treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban? For a mother, the concept of giving up one’s child for adoption is usually wrenching enough; does public humiliation have to go with it? What is the future effect these ads will have on the child when he or she grows up?

The shame is not on the young women who have made a serious and often heartbreaking decision to give up their child. The shame is on the politicians who came up with this grotesque scheme. Shame, shame, shame!

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