Call for Catholic abortion trauma agency

20 Feb 2008

By The Record

Abortion Grief Counselling Association national director Julie Cook addresses the Walking With Love symposium last week

By Anthony Barich

Abortion Grief Counselling Association national director Julie Cook has called for an Abortion Trauma Catholic Health Care organisation to help those affected and thereby reduce future abortions.

Ms Cook told the Walking With Love symposium at Floreat Forum on February 16 that the organisation would be a “tangible statement of the Catholic Church’s commitment to the recognition and care of women and men traumatised by abortion”.

The Walking With Love symposium was one of many being held in each State as an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to discuss alternatives and responses to abortion.

Ms Cook said such an Abortion Trauma Catholic Health Care agency would galvanise concern many professionals feel about the psychological safety of abortion.

She said it would promote a social environment that is “willing to listen to and support those suffering because of abortion and those pregnant and in crisis”; and said it is important that the organisation’s name includes the word “Catholic” due to the “profound spiritual wound associated with abortion”.
“The message this implies is that Catholics care and understand,” she said. “Those traumatised by abortion are particularly sensitive to perceptions of judgement and often feel Church-goers, particularly Catholics, will look down on them.
“For their own mental health, they stay away from churches or put on a false front.”
The proposal has the support of the Catholic Doctors’ Association executive committee member Dr Leonard Chan, who agreed with Ms Cook’s statement that many doctors refer for abortions or diagnose post-abortion trauma as something else as they do not have the resources to recognise or address the problem.
“That is something I do find, as even though I am very involved with pro-life initiatives, I find that resources are very limited. In fact, I wouldn’t say I have any resources.”
The CDA would form a major partner of the organisation, which would seek to integrate with the healthcare and welfare communities, Catholic health care institutions, priests and their parishes, Catholic and public education.
The CDA is also seeking to expand its name and portfolio to include nurses and other healthcare workers, which will expand the reach of Ms Cook’s proposed agency.
Ms Cook said the agency would not need many funds to begin with; just a commitment from Catholic and like-minded professionals working together.
The agency would gather first-hand data – initially through AGCA and the pregnancy crisis centres like Pregnancy Assistance – of what women and men are actually experiencing pre-abortion, at the abortion clinics and post-abortion.
It would promote accountability from the healthcare community, which Ms Cook says is largely responsible for the abortion epidemic.
Ms Cook said it will fill a much-needed niche as professional people who are aware of abortion trauma tend to lack confidence in this work due to the healthcare industry’s denial that it exists, and have not had the support structure or peer support.
She said they often lack insights due to their limited exposure to the traumatized and to good research and have not been in the position to explore abortion trauma’s associated political landscape.
The agency’s work would reduce abortions as women and couples who have worked through their trauma by validating the life extinguished will then work to prevent others from having abortions.
Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton supported the idea but said it would be “somewhere down the track” and not logistically possible yet as it would be spearheaded by the AGCA, which is struggling itself.
Ms Cook is unpaid and a mother of seven children and runs the organisation’s crisis line with 12 volunteers. Her only employee, Mary Boston, has two months left before the non-government grant obtained last year that pays her salary runs out.
“If we are able to find more funds and retain Mary, we will be a force to be reckoned with, because Mary is a high-quality manager,” Ms Cook said.
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