Philomena Lee Makes Plea for Open Adoption Records on Capitol Hill

Philomena Lee Headshot - P 2014
AP Images

Philomena Lee Headshot - P 2014

The woman who inspired the Oscar-nominated film "Philomena" asked senators to help reunite Irish mothers with their children who were given to American families in forced adoptions.

Irish-born Philomena Lee, whose search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption inspired the Academy Award-nominated film Philomena, went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to press for reforms that would open the records in such cases.

Lee, who is portrayed in the film by Judi Dench who also has been nominated for an Oscar — met with Missouri Democratic senator Claire McCaskill and Connecticut Democratic senator Chris Murphy to discuss the need for easily accessible adoption records. The visit follows the launch in Dublin last week of her Philomena Project, a charity that raises money to reunite Irish mothers with their children who were given to American couples in forced adoptions.

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Lee was living in a convent in Rosecrea, Ireland, when she gave birth as a single mother and was compelled to surrender her son, Anthony, who was adopted and raised by a St. Louis family. He went on to become a successful political advisor and strategist, but died as a young man. Even though mother and son had been actively seeking each other for years, they were kept apart by closed records in both countries.

“I’ve been so moved by the support we’ve gotten, both for telling our story and for bringing attention to this horrible experience that so many of us had,” said Lee. “In recent weeks and months, we’ve received an outpouring of support from across the globe, and now we’re harnessing that support to create positive change for families in Ireland and the United States.… It is my hope that every mother and child who want to be reunited are able to come together once again.”

On Saturday, Lee visited Anthony’s American gravesite for a memorial service and discussed the need for immediate action to open the records that will allow other families to be reunited.