Forced Adoption Scandal: Catholics in Australia Apologize to Thousands

Several Catholic entities in Australia have issued apologizes to thousands of women over forced adoption practices.

Apologies were issued by Australia’s Roman Catholic Church as well as Catholic Health Australia, which is the largest non-government provider of health. Other Catholic entities to join the apology were the Sisters of Mercy and the Diocese of Maitland Newcastle.

During the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s a practice that is now being described as a “national disgrace” was responsible for taking children away at birth from unmarried women without their permission, and placing them up for adoption. It is estimated that more than 150,000 young women in Australia were involved in the forced adoption process.

The women involved described being shackled and drugged during labor and prevented from seeing their children after the birth, according to The Telegraph newspaper.

One victim Juliette Clough was 16 when she gave birth to her son in a Catholic hospital in 1970, she recounted the ordeal to Australian news network ABC: “My ankles were strapped to the bed, they were in stirrups and I was gassed, I had plenty of gas and they just snatched away the baby. You weren't allowed to see him or touch him, anything like that, or hold him and it was just like a piece of my soul had died and it's still dead.”

Several women spoke of being threatened with imprisonment if they did not give up their child, while other victims described having pillows held over their face while they gave birth.

Some women claim to have lost more than one child to the forced adoption process.

The Catholic Church has issued a national apology, saying its history of forced adoptions was “deeply regrettable”.

The apology stated, “We acknowledge the pain of separation and loss felt then and felt now by the mothers, fathers, children, families and others involved in the practices of the time. For this pain we are genuinely sorry."

The Chief Executive of Catholic Health Australia, Martin Laverty became aware of the practices after the ABC began its investigation. He stated to the ABC, “The organization is committed to righting the wrongs and wants to develop protocols to assist women affected.”

A federal parliamentary inquiry is currently investigating the allegations and has already received more than 300 submissions from across the country.

The Catholic Church has asked the government to establish “a fund for remedying established wrongs,” and a program to help mothers and children harmed by the forced adoptions.