Abortion Grief Australia’s Julie Cook says that the comments of Professor Fiona Stanley miss the mark.
By Robert Hiini
Research finding a 40 fold annual increase in drug-affected babies being born to Australian women between 1980 and 2005, elicited “the predictable response” from child health expert Fiona Stanley, says Julie Cook, National Director of the Abortion Grief Australia (AGA).
Professor Stanley, Director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, was reported widely in national media last week as urging health professionals to do more to prevent unplanned pregnancies in drug-addicted women and improving antenatal care for those who go on to have a baby.
The 2003 Australian of the Year was commenting on the results of a study she co-authored showing that 900 WA children in the same period were born with neo-natal withdrawal syndrome – the result of prenatal drug exposure -manifesting in symptoms such as tremors, seizures, irritability and respiratory distress.
AGA’s Julie Cook says that Professor Stanley overlooks ‘abortion trauma’ as one of the underlying causes in the escalation of substance abuse in pregnant women and adds support to what she says is “the unspoken practice of stopping “defective” women from having “defective” babies, among significant health and welfare providers.”
“Despite growing evidence of abortion being linked to substance abuse and other mental health issues, the medical community and the main-stream media, continue to ignore the needs of those traumatised by abortion,” Ms Cook said.
Referring to Fiona Stanley’s call for “delaying conception in these women,” Ms Cook said that possible manifestations of abortion trauma – such as the abuse of drugs – were being used to promote the practice of abortion, creating a cycle of destruction that would make the problem even worse.
While the causes and existence of abortion trauma remain hotly contested at the academic and clinical level, Ms Cook points to 24 international studies including results recently published in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry in December 2008.
The Australian study showed that women who had undergone abortions were 3.6 times more likely to abuse hard drugs, twice as likely to be binge drinkers and nearly twice as likely to suffer depression compared with women who had miscarried who were 2.6 times more likely to abuse hard drugs.
Ms Cook says that abortion trauma may also result in destructive behaviours such as self-medicating and the conception of ‘atonement’ babies who may or may not be latterly aborted.
She says the need for the training of health professionals in this area is paramount and that the Church should address the issue as a medical issue and not a political one.
“Those acting out their pain in this manner can only expect harsh judgement and not the professional help they need because psychologists along with doctors and other counselling professions have not been trained in identification, early intervention or the treatment of abortion trauma.”
“The Catholic Church needs to start addressing abortion trauma as a serious mental health issue, not as a pro-life issue.”
“The Pro-life community does not have the expertise, the resources or the mental health focus to deal with the magnitude of the problem,” Ms Cook said, adding that Catholic health and welfare institutions were better placed to address abortion trauma but were handicapped by a reliance on mainstream information sources for their knowledge of the subject.
Abortion Grief Australia, which she directs, has been training health professionals across the nation at public and private hospitals, community health and welfare centres intensively for the past 2 years but its ability to do so is continually under stress with the organisation reliant on private donations.
“We are a tax deductible charity but struggle to attract donations because people don’t understand the significance of our work and we are desperately short of funds,” Ms Cook said.
Meanwhile, the number of abortions taking place in WA has increased slightly according to WA Health Department figures despite the wide availability of contraceptives and abortifacients such as the “morning after” pill.
Family Planning WA’s clinical services manager Deborah Wright was reported in the West Australian on April 25 as saying a recent increase in the number of abortions being performed in WA – from 8328 in 2006 to 8424 in 2007 – showed that ‘women were accessing services rather than having unwanted children.’
She said that more pro-contraception sex education was required as well as even greater access to contraceptives.
The Health Department’s figures also revealed that 45 abortions were performed in 2007 on fetuses of 20 weeks gestation or greater.
Abortion Grief Australia can be contacted on 9313 1784 or at email@example.com.