On Tuesday, Laura Bassett of Huffington Post brought attention to Florida’s 2001 “Scarlet Letter” adoption law. According to Bassett, the controversial law required single mothers who did not know the identity of the fathers of their children “to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption.” The law reportedly passed with “overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate.”
In 2002, The Gainesville Sun reported on the new adoption law:
Under a relatively new provision, Florida requires mothers wanting to put a baby up for adoption to publish a newspaper ad identifying herself and her sexual partners in the year prior to her child’s birth. It even applies to rape victims or minors.
The mother has to publicize her sex partners only if she can’t find the biological father and get him to sign a waiver before the adoption.
The measure was contained in a 104-page bill passed by the Legislature in 2001. The law, which had Gov. Jeb Bush’s tacit endorsement, took effect last October. The legislation was controversial, but the provision on publicizing a woman’s sexual history was not a focal point of the debate.
And it wasn’t a one-time ad — it had to run once a week for a month, at the expense of either the mother or the people who wanted to adopt the baby…
Basset noted that the law was repealed in 2003 “after it was successfully challenged in court.”
I bring this story up because one presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, and a potential presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, are both linked to this “Scarlet Letter” legislation.
Bassett said that Bush had argued in his 1995 book Profiles in Character that public shaming could be “an effective way to regulate the ‘irresponsible behavior’ of unwed mothers, misbehaving teenagers and welfare recipients.” Bassett said that in a book chapter titled “The Restoration of Shame,” the former governor of Florida “made the case that restoring the art of public humiliation could help prevent pregnancies ‘out of wedlock.’”
From Bush’s book:
One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.
Basset said that Bush pointed to “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character is forced to wear a large red ‘A’ for ‘adulterer’ on her clothes to punish her for having an extramarital affair that produced a child, as an early model for his worldview.” Bush wrote, “Infamous shotgun weddings and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter are reminders that public condemnation of irresponsible sexual behavior has strong historical roots.”
When he was governor of Florida in 2001, Basset said, Bush had the opportunity to test his theory on public shaming when he declined to veto the very controversial “Scarlet Letter” bill.
In another HuffPo article on the subject of the “Scarlet Letter” law, Bassett named the current members of Congress who had helped to sign the legislation into law when they were Florida legislators.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R) was among the Florida state legislators who voted for the so-called “Scarlet Letter” law in 2001 that required single mothers to publish their sexual histories in the newspaper in order to place their babies up for adoption.
Five U.S. congressmen — Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R), Lois Frankel (D), Jeff Miller (R), Gus Bilirakis (R) and Dennis Ross (R) — were state legislators at the time and voted for the controversial bill.
Bassett said the fact that Rubio had “supported the bill could inoculate Bush from criticism that he allowed it to go into effect if Bush decides to throw his hat in the ring.”
I think neither Rubio nor Bush should be “inoculated” from criticism about their involvement in the passage of Florida’s 2001 “Scarlet Letter” law. What do you think?
Jeb Bush In 1995: Unwed Mothers Should Be Publicly Shamed (Huffington Post)
Marco Rubio And Five Members Of Congress Voted For Florida’s ‘Scarlet Letter’ Adoption Bill (Huffington Post)
Jeb Bush is a compassionless conservative: His “Scarlet Letter” law was even worse than it sounds (Salon)
Jeb Bush And Florida’s ‘Scarlet Letter Law,’ Explained (NPR)
State rethinks adoption law (The Gainesville Sun)
What century is this so-called man living in? A prime example of the American Taliban!
And these are the guys who want to limit the availability of contraceptives and abortion and public assistance and medical care. [smh] In these days when a rapist can claim paternal rights, including custody and visitation, what’s a woman supposed to do?
In doing some family history I found some interesting excerpts on the topic:
Jael Packard – born about 1647 in Hingham, MA; died March 15, 1725 in MA; married on November 15, 1672 in Taunton MA to John Smith, son of Henry Smith and Elizabeth. Jael was fined £10 for fornication in the court cases that she brought against Thomas Jones and Nicholas White for having commited “uncleaness” with her.
John Bailey – born November 5, 1673 in Scituate, Plymouth MA, son of John Bailey and Sarah White. He died June, 1752 in Hanover MA, age 78. John married Abigail Clap, daughter of Deacon Samuel Clap and Hannah Gill on February 19, 1700. Abigail was born October 1679 in Scituate. She died March 2, 1753 in Hanover, MA. In September 1700, after their first child was born in June, John and Abigail were charged with “fornication with each other while single persons”.
Hannah Button – born May 11, 1652 in Haverhill, Essex, MA; before the court in 1671 for fornication;
Martha Mead – born November 8, 1632; married John Richardson; charged with “fornication outside of wedlock” and ordered to stand trial by the magistrates of New Haven, CT. She became pregnant while she was engaged to John Richardson, though he was not the father of the baby. Martha and John married in 1653 and left CT for Roxbury MA to avoid a possible scandal. The baby was born and died a month later, so they returned to Stamford, CT. The secret leaked out a few months later, and the charges were filed. Martha, who suffered from epilepsy, said she was unconscious and taken advantage of, and did not know who her assailant was. Many of the townspeople testified on her behalf, nevertheless, she was found guilty by the unsympathetic New Haven Court. The Court stated that the sexual act surely would have involved pleasure by its participants, and sentenced Martha to a severe public flogging and a fine. The flogging was suspended because she was pregnant again, this time by her husband John Richardson. Her fine was 10£. John Richardson and Martha’s father, William Mead, paid the fine on installments, which included two “milch cows”. Soon after her conviction, Martha and John, to avoid further reprisal, moved to nearby Westchester County NY.
So not only was there shame, there were also criminal charges.
If there is to be ‘shaming’ it should be equal opportunity. Guys too. But no, “conquests” are something to be proud of.
This is idle speculation, but I wonder how many of those voting for such legislation would be willing to take a polygraph that their own sexual history is as pure as the driven snow?
Never mind. I already know the answer to that.
“The Court stated that the sexual act surely would have involved pleasure by its participants, and sentenced Martha to a severe public flogging and a fine. The flogging was suspended because she was pregnant again, this time by her husband John Richardson.”
Some days I should get up really early. I was all set to write something satirical and hilarious that involved flogging – but, too late.
Well, with a seemingly endless cast or Republican presidential candidates I am sure there will be other opportunities – soon, real soon.
Pingback: Picture of the Day for May 12, 2015: Regarding the GOP’s War on Women | Flowers For Socrates
Inoculated? Oh, I don’t think so. All these years spent catering to the crazies in the Republican Party can’t be inoculated out of existence.
Imbeciles inviting inoculation will not withstand investigation or interrogation as the inspection of their imperforated exploits disproves innocuous intentions.
It was a bad – very bad! – way of going about it but the underlying sentiment is 100% valid. These people should be ashamed of their behavior and society should shame them.
Of course, the above is a ethical and philosophical point. In practice, it can’t stand up with the intersectionality between shaming those who produce bastards and the ongoing attempts to reduce access to contraceptives.
And therein, for me, lies the rub.
is it to shame or to give the father a chance to take part in the adoption? I would be a little hesitant to adopt if I knew their was a parent who might make a claim on the child.
no holed exploits? what is a no holed exploit? is that a really bad round of golf or no luck at the bar on Saturday night?
“These people should be ashamed of their behavior and society should shame them.”
Why would you say that? Are you talking about people having sex outside of marriage, or about woman getting pregnant outside of marriage?
“These people should be ashamed of their behavior and society should shame them…shaming those who produce bastards.”
What should society do with the bastards who shame others for their behavior?
Maybe we should start publicly shaming the banksters on Wall Street who helped to tank our economy.
Consider the 17th century case of Jael Packard who was fined £10 for fornication in the court cases that she brought against Thomas Jones and Nicholas White for having commited “uncleaness” with her. Jael named her first child Nicholas Jones (first name of one and last name of the other). She was fined, the men were not.
So fornication outside of marriage is ok unless you get caught. Getting caught usually means you’re pregnant. No pregnancy, no crime. That’s why guys walk. If he walked out on her he’s already demonstrated a lack of responsibility so why should he be given rights to the child?
“If he walked out on her he’s already demonstrated a lack of responsibility so why should he be given rights to the child?”
That’s an excellent point, often overlooked. Fatherhood is much more than the dribbling of some sperm, it is about taking full responsibility for a child.
The other point overlooked is that these haters of women have worked to make abortion hard to get and distasteful, yet they are very willing to shame women who have followed their mis-guided counsel and given birth. THe abortion issue has always been about the hatred of and control of women.
Even the most centrist of these conservative candidates is a loon. Bad for them, good for us.
Annie, How is it “good for us”? Them vs Us. How is that helpful? Not all Conservatives or Republicans are as weird as those running. It would be more helpful if we all looked for and encouraged true moderate conservatives.
Moderate conservatives…Bettykath, does such a creature exist? I suppose they must exist, but their voices are drowned out. It would be great if the moderate conservatives spoke louder with more conviction.
It’s good for us, liberals and Democrats because it prevents them from inhabiting the White House, mostly.
Bob K. wins the Internets for the best one-line comeback of the day.
Elaine, you can’t shame psychopaths. They are incapable of feeling shame.
You like me! You really like me!
I suck, actually.