The
Catholic Weekly
Online

Sydney
5 December 2004

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Lift secrecy from adoptions: bishop

Lift secrecy from adoptions: bishop

By Sandra Murphy

THE shroud of secrecy and stigma surrounding adoptions urgently needs to be lifted for society to consider it as an alternative to abortion, say Australia’s Catholic bishops.

They have set up a special taskforce and challenged the Federal Government to help reduce Australia’s high abortion rate by providing women with a wider range of options.

Bishop Anthony Fisher said after the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference last week that adoption remains tainted by misinformation and misconceptions.

“ It is the least understood and least attractive pregnancy option for pregnant women.

“ In their minds, adoption still conjures up images of children being stolen away from their mothers straight after the birth, but things have changed for the better since a generation ago,” he told The Catholic Weekly.

Only 73 Australian-born children were adopted last year, down 1315 from more than 20years ago. This marks a dramatic 30-year decline in the number of children being offered for adoption.

Another record low was registered last year in the adoption of only 59 Australian children by a relative or someone who was known to them.

Bishop Fisher said that with greater latitude today in deciding the outcome of her life and the life of her baby, adoption could be a far more attractive option than abortion for a pregnant woman .

“ It is definitely something we need to explore as a viable alternative but, first, the negativity and myths surrounding it must be addressed,” he said.

One of the greatest challenges facing the new taskforce is its bid to create an environment where women will not feel threatened or abandoned while pregnant, the bishop said.

“ We need to establish a culture of support for these women and let them know pregnancy is not the end of the world,” he added.

It was time for Catholic schools and universities to support women who went through with unintended pregnancies and to give them a second chance.

“ We need to talk to the authorities and make sure students will not miss out on an education just because they are going to have a baby,” Bishop Fisher said.

Similar schemes are in place in dioceses overseas, providing women with housing, and cheaper education for their children and subsidised health care.

The bishop said it was time to provide women with more options than just the choice to terminate.

The aim of the taskforce is to assist women who have partners, as well as those struggling on their own.

“ Basically, what we want to be able to say to people is that if the pressure of your circumstances is forcing your hand in the direction of abortion, we want to make sure that you really do have other options,” Bishop Fisher said.

“ This is a response on our part to the recent debate.

“ There is a deep unease among a lot of people about the high abortion rate in this country and a lot of people are asking what can be done about that,” he said.

Women, on average, would prefer to have more options and more time rather than be rushed into making a decision, the bishop said.