Updated on: October 2, 2020

The Hicks babies were babies sold to families by Dr. Thomas J. Hicks. It is believed that Hicks would encourage pregnant women who came to him for an abortion to carry their babies to term and then sold the babies to parents who wanted to adopt but couldn’t afford to do so legally. It is not known whether Hicks paid any of the biological mothers for the babies.

How many babies did Thomas Hicks put up for adoption?

Estimates show Hicks sold as many as 200 babies in the span between the 1940s through the mid-1960s.

How Did Hicks’ Black Market Business Work?

Hicks ran the Hicks Community Clinic in McCaysville, Georgia. In addition to providing medical services to residents of the area, he also performed illegal abortions. In some cases, Hicks talked the women who came to him for an abortion to place their babies for adoption. 

However, Hicks was not overseeing legal adoptions, nor was he putting women in touch with legal adoption providers. Instead, he sold the babies for approximately $800 to $1000. In some cases, the biological mothers were told they had undergone an abortion and in other cases, they were told their babies had died.

Many families who bought babies came to the clinic where the women were told to don a medical gown and lay down on a table where Hicks placed the newborn babies into their arms. Others drove up to the door and the baby was handed to them out of a door or window. The majority of families came from outside of the geographical area. 

To prevent questions and keep the transactions safe, Hicks created fake birth certificates and listed the parents who bought the babies as the biological parents.

Hicks’ practice was shut down in 1964 when he was charged with performing illegal abortions. He sold at least one additional baby after he shut down.

How Did We Find Out About the Hicks Babies?

Although Hicks lost his clinic when he was charged with performing illegal abortions, the charges made no mention of the baby-selling.

That story broke years later when a woman named Jane Blasio learned from her father that he and Blasio’s mother had bought her from a clinic in Georgia. Blasio knew she was adopted but assumed it was a legal adoption until her father told her otherwise.

Blasio traveled to McCaysville in 1989 to search for her biological mother. She contacted a Georgia probate attorney after her initial search was unsuccessful. With the judge’s help, Blasio discovered Hicks and his practices of selling babies. Questions arose when the judge was searching historical records that showed an unusual number of women who had traveled from far off to visit Hicks’ clinics during the approximately 15-year timeframe.

She was able to confirm, according to county birth records, that she was likely one of as many as 200 babies were sold between 1950 and 1965. Hicks kept no records of the birth mothers and most disappeared after the birth of their babies.

It wasn’t until 1997 that the story broke nationally. Since then, many of the Hicks Babies have begun their search for their biological families.

Have The Hicks Babies Been Reunited with their Biological Families?

Many have tried to find their biological parents or continue to try to find biological relatives. 

At least one Hicks baby submitted his DNA to Ancestry.com and found a half-sister.

Blasio has also dedicated her life to helping reunite Hicks Babies with their biological families, or at least find out more about their birth stories and roots. She worked with TLC’s Long Lost Family hosts to locate biological family members.

In 2014, 30 suspected Hicks Babies traveled to Tennessee to undergo DNA testing. Blasio has also created a confidential registry to help Hicks Babies find parents and siblings. DNA testing such as this was not available until recently and now, many of the people affected by Hicks are hoping this information will help them find closure.

To date, seven of the mothers have come forward. Fifty babies have been found or came forward after their families told them they were purchased from Hicks. There have been no positive DNA matches between babies and parents thus far from the database, but advocates hope it will eventually happen.

As for Hicks and the information he could provide, he died of leukemia at the age of 83 in 1972. Those who likely knew what was happening, including his nurse, secretary, and lawyer, have also died. The police chief who investigated Hicks’ illegal abortion clinic is also dead.

Aside from families that might eventually tell their adult children, the only hope Hicks Babies have of finding their biological relatives is DNA tracking.

Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.
Resources

Fleming, Kirsten. “‘Black-Market Babies’ Reunited after More than 50 Years.” New York Post, 8 Oct. 2019, nypost.com/2019/10/08/black-market-babies-reunited-after-more-than-50-years/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.

CROSS, JOSH. “‘Black Market Baby’ Meets Biological Father in Gallatin.” The Gallatin News, www.gallatinnews.com/news/black-market-baby-meets-biological-father-in-gallatin/article_1e0f504c-f1a9-11e9-a15c-ab3de3843a2c.html. Accessed 30 Sept. 2020.

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