A Facebook message from a long-lost relative exposed a St. Louis baby ring

A Facebook message from last September helped kick off a probe into whether a long-closed St. Louis hospital repeatedly told women their babies had died before selling them or giving them up for adoption. Now, 70 women and counting have sought the help of a local attorney, who has filed a petition for the hospital’s adoption record.

The women’s stories sound remarkably similar. All of them are black women who gave birth between the 1950s and the late 1970s at Homer G. Phillips hospital, which opened in 1937 to serve the city’s Black population. Most of the women were told by nurses that their babies had died, though none were allowed to see their babies nor obtain a death certificate. 

“‘Zella, your baby passed,'” Zella Price tells CBS she remembers doctors saying after she gave birth. The baby was three months premature, “so it was believable and acceptable but at the same time it hurt. It bothered me.” 

Last fall, however, Price’s long-lost granddaughter sent her a Facebook message, suspecting that they were related. As it turned out, a DNA test confirmed that she was right, and the family reunited in April.

Their story inspired numerous other women to question whether the same thing had happened to them. Attorney Albert Watkins said there were no adoption agencies in St. Louis at the time that catered to black families, suggesting that the ring may have been set up to provide other prospective parents with children by preying on young pregnant women. 

Another woman, Brenda Stewart, told Fox News: “They told me I didn’t need a baby. I was too young to have a baby. They told me my parents didn’t need another mouth to feed.” When Stewart’s parents showed up, nurses told them Stewart had signed papers donating the child’s body to science. There is now a hotline for women who believe they may have been victims of the scheme.

H/T CBS News | Photo via sabianmaggy/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Jaya Saxena

Jaya Saxena

Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'