In April a viral video showed 50-year-old Melanie Gilmore reunited with her birth mother, 76-year-old Zella Jackson Price. The video, featured by nearly every news organization, showed an emotional reunion between Gilmore, who is deaf, and Price who believed her child had died immediately after birth. But now it looks as though the story isn’t as sweet as initially reported.
The suspicions arose from the story of Zella Jackson Price, who was 26 in 1965 when she gave birth at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. Hours later, she was told that her daughter had died, but she never saw a body or a death certificate.
No one is sure who was responsible, but Price’s daughter ended up in foster care, only to resurface almost 50 years later. Melanie Gilmore, who now lives in Eugene, Ore., has said that her foster parents always told her she was given up by her birth mother.
Price is now asking the city of St. Louis and the state to open an investigation. In a letter to Missouri governor Jay Nixon, Price’s attorney said he suspects a “hospital coordinated a scheme ‘to steal newborns of color for marketing in private adoption transactions.’”
After Price’s reunion video went viral, a number of other St. Louis women came forward with similar stories. The women - all black, poor and young - recounted nurses at Homer G. Phillips Hospital telling them their child had died, yet never receiving birth or death certificates. The AP notes that this was a violation of “normal protocol.”
Price’s lawyer indicated that he will file a lawsuit on behalf of the women. The women are not seeking money, but rather state-issued birth and death certificates.