Helen Pervine was 30, married, pregnant with another man’s child, and low on options.
A white woman working at the Chevy plant in Livonia, Mich., had an affair with a black male coworker that significantly complicated her life.
This was late fall 1966: only months before the Detroit riots, and roughly five years before the Supreme Court gave its historic Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Even illegal and dangerous, abortion was Helen’s first choice, and so she asked her sister for the nearly $200 necessary to pay for the procedure in Flint, at roughly 70 miles away her closest option.
But for reasons that will forever be unknown, Helen, who died in 2003, changed her mind about terminating the pregnancy and instead told her husband about the affair, carried the child to birth, and then gave him up for adoption.
It’s not a coincidence that nearly 47 years later, her son, Kevin D. Hofmann of Toledo, works for the Dave Thomas Foundation and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids as a recruiter to find adoptive homes for foster kids.
And now Hofmann wants to make a short film, Irreversible, about his mother and her decision that literally saved his life.
“If it wasn’t bad enough that she had an affair,” he said, “but then to have an affair with a black man in Detroit in 1966,” with his birth coming only 2½ weeks after the race riots. “All of that combined makes for a crazy story. Just the fact that she had enough courage to say I’m not going to have an abortion but I’m going to have this child, which meant having to come home and tell her white husband what happened.”
With a script nearly finished and a local director signed on, Hofmann said plans are to cast and begin shooting Irreversible late next month. Meanwhile, the film is still in Kickstarter phase, with, at last check, more than $700 raised of the nearly $14,000 necessary. For more information: kck.st/1pxXIU3.
Life has worked out for Hofmann. He was adopted by a white Lutheran minister and his wife, who left the mostly white Dearborn to raise their son in a mostly black Detroit neighborhood, which he wrote about in his 2012 autobiography, Growing Up Black in White. Still, he had questions about his birth mother and family, many of which were answered on Thanksgiving Day, 2009, by his half-sister, and later by his mom’s sister, the one who loaned her the money for the abortion.
Despite initial nerves about contacting his family, Hofmann said he was glad he did it “because it did answer a lot of questions. The great thing was to connect with the family to hear the story of the family and then understand that the right decision was made for me, to be placed up for adoption.”
Hofmann is adamant that his film will not take a pro-life or pro-choice stance, but will be part of a pro-adoption message he hopes to share with churches nationwide.
Not that adoption is easy, either. Hofmann said he learned that his mother never spoke of him after giving him up for adoption.
“Her friend said she really changed after that. She didn’t wear jewelry anymore, she didn‘t wear makeup,” he said. “She saw her physically changed, but didn’t have the heart to bring it up because it caused her so much pain.”
But what if abortion had been legal at that time? Would his mother still have gone through with the adoption?
“It’s a question you’ve got to ask,” he said. “The inconvenience of that probably saved my life, which isn’t a bad thing.”
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.