|Australia apology over 225,000 drugged, kidnapped babies tainted by offensive language
Australia’s politicians who were apologizing for brutal past practices today, worsened the trauma felt by many unsuspecting mothers whose babies were drugged and kidnapped, when the opposition leader referred to them as ‘birth parents,’ suggesting they were not the real mothers. Offended women showed their displeasure during the live broadcast in parliament today.
In a national apology in Canberra, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the brutal practices in the post-war period, “created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.’’ She apologized for past wrongs.
The decision to offer a formal apology comes after a senate inquiry found as many as 225,000 babies were forcibly removed.
But opposition leader Tony Abbott was condemned for “insensitive language,’’ during a ceremony at which more than 800 people had gathered.
Several women in the audience heckled Abbott, when he said: “We honour the birth parents, including fathers, who have always loved their children.’’
Special Broadcasting Service reported online that while Abbott acknowledged the efforts of adoptive parents, those in the audience continued to shout.
“I hear what you are saying ... I honour the parents, who have always loved their children," he said. "The last thing I would wish to do is cause pain to people who have suffered too much pain already.
"I am happy to retract it," he said.
Abbot spoke after Gillard delivered a national apology to the victims of Australia’s manipulative practices.
“To you, the mothers who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice, we apologize,'' she said, AFP reports.
“We say sorry to you, the mothers who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent.
“You were given false assurances. You were forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal.''
Officially called “forced adoptions,’’ the kidnapping were driven largely by Christian groups in the post-war period. Hundreds of thousands of babies born mostly to unmarried mothers between the 1950s and 1970s were taken away forcefully.
Scores of mothers and children gave evidence at an official inquiry which looked at the forcible removal of infants between 1951 and 1975 in Australia, then a conservative and predominantly Christian nation.
Given the social stigma attached to unmarried females at the time, young women who became pregnant were often sent to stay with relatives or at group houses run by churches or other religious organizations.
Babies were often signed away for adoption before they were born. The inquiry found women were pressured to consent, signatures were sometimes fraudulently obtained, and adoption was presented as inevitable.
Women later struggled to reunite with their children. In many cases adopted babies had their birth certificates issued in their adoptive parents' names, on the grounds that a “clean break’ was best for all parties.
Gillard said today, “no collection of words alone can undo all this damage.
“But by saying sorry we can correct the historical record. We can declare that these mothers did nothing wrong.''
Christine Cole, the head of the Apology Alliance who lost a child, told ABC television the admission was long overdue.
“I had my baby taken from me in 1969, and I think the use of the term forced adoption polarizes the actual phenomena of what was going on,'' she said.
“What was going on was kidnapping children, kidnapping newborn babies from their mothers at the birth, using pillows and sheets to cover their face, drugging them as I was drugged, with drugs like sodium pentothal, chloral hydrate and other mind-altering barbiturates.
“It was cruel, it was punitive and then often the mother was transported like I was away from the hospital so you had no access to your baby.''
As part of the apology, the government earmarked Aus$5 million (US$5.18 million) so mental health professionals can better assist in caring for those affected by forced adoption.
It also committed Aus$1.5 million to allow the National Archives to record people's experiences through a special exhibition.
``That way, this chapter in our nation's history will never again be marginalised or forgotten again,'' said Gillard.
In 2008, former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the ``stolen generations'' of aboriginal children who were removed from their families by the government and Church missions.