Wounds of regret still just as painful

THE issue of forced adoptions has been the focus of a Senate committee for the past 18 months and on Wednesday, the community affairs committee tabled its final report.

I've been reading some of the 418 submissions, mostly from women forced to put their children up for adoption after falling pregnant out of wedlock.

These vignettes of a cruel practice perpetuated through the 1950s-1970s are utterly heart- wrenching.

One woman, pregnant at 18, wrote: "I will feel forever sad and sorry that I didn't have the gumption or strength of character to be able to stand up for myself and my daughter. This is how you felt. You were so bad, so troublesome, so undeserving. What would a frightened, downtrodden and shamed young girl have to offer her child, where would she start? I could not fight my family or the society's values at that time."

Another recalls: "I'd lie in bed every night with my arms wrapped around my baby inside of me knowing that I would never hold him after birth. I'd feel his feet and hands through my own stomach as he moved around, knowing that I wasnt ever going to feel them after he was born."

Lizzy Brew went into a maternity home on April 2, 1975. "Someone marked my child for adoption on April 3, 1975, the very next day. I did not ask to have my child placed for adoption. We were solicited for our babies," she wrote.

From 1951 to 1975, 150,000 babies were put up for adoption in Australia, largely by women and girls who were unwed and single. That works out to be 6250 adoptions each year.

In 2011 there were fewer than 50 adoptions within Australia because it's easier to adopt a child from overseas. That, despite the fact that more Australians than ever are utilising artificial reproductive technologies to conceive.

It beggars the question: where have all the unwanted babies gone? I'll tell you where. One generation ripped babes from the arms of their teen mothers to pass on to respectable families.

This generation is snuffing them out before they become a burden on society. We tolerate 80,000 abortions each year, a figure consistent for a decade, while smoking-related deaths have fallen to 16,000 on the back of unrelenting advertising, tougher laws and unprecedented help for those wanting to quit.

As I read the submissions of mothers forced to put their newborn babies up for adoption, I realised something: they have a haunting similarity to some of the post- abortion testimonials of mothers that I have also come across.

We talk about having a right to choice, but did you know that about 70 per cent of women who had a termination said they felt they had no alternative, no choice. Yet there definitely are choices. They would have continued a difficult or unexpected pregnancy if a significant other had encouraged them (Selena Ewing, Women and Abortion: An Evidence-Based Review, 2005).

Some more facts you might not be familiar with regarding abortion:

•About a third of all Australian women will have an abortion, or one in four pregnancies (Stephanie Croft, Abortion in Australia in the 21st Century, Facts, Current Trends and the Way Ahead, 2006).

•Various studies show about 97 per cent of all abortions are performed for psychosocial reasons, including half of late-term abortions (ibid).

•About 60 per cent (polls range from 60 to 70 per cent) of Australians are generally in favour of abortion. However, this figure decreases as reasons for abortion are qualified. Most Australians believe there are too many abortions, and that women should receive independent counselling (John Fleming and Nicholas Tonti- Filippini, Common Ground, Seeking an Australian Consensus on Abortion and Sex Education, 2007).

I wish to address Tasmania's Health Minister Michelle OByrne over her recent assertions that we need improved access to abortion procedures. Ripe after last year's cuts to family and child health nurses.

How about a pregnancy support centre for every abortion clinic to give women real choice, or do you wish to be a tool of another generation wounded by regret?

To read more of Claire's musings, visit faithlikeamushroom.wordpress.com

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