More than 150,000 young women across Australia had their children taken from them at birth without their consent, a new documentary has shown.
An investigation into the practice by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has uncovered how for years young and usually unmarried women were subjected to forced adoptions in Catholic-run hospitals that resulted in them never seeing their child again.
Many interviewees told ABC they had their legs shackled and were drugged during their labour. The majority were prevented from seeing their children being born or even holding them afterwards.
Many of the women said they believed their children had been selected for forced adoption long before their birth and they were warned they could not oppose the decision.
In the aftermath of the shocking investigation the Australian Catholic Church issued a national apology, saying in a statement that its history of forced adoptions was 'deeply regrettable.'
'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,' the apology read. 'For this pain we are genuinely sorry.'
In a report quoted in The Daily Telegraph, Juliette Clough - one of the young woman interviewed by ABC - told the inquiry she was just 16 years when she gave birth to her son in a Catholic hospital in 1970.
'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.'
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Lily Arthur, now a member of the forced adoption support group Origins NSW, was 17 and a ward of the state when she gave birth in 1967. She agreed to give up her child under threat of being imprisoned.
'When we were going to deliver the child we were put in a position where we couldn't see the delivery of the child. After my son was born I was nearly knocked unconscious and transported to a ward without my child.'
Some women reportedly lost more than one child to the program, their children been sent away to families deemed more suitable by the Church.
An Australian federal parliamentary inquiry is currently investigating the forced adoption legacy and has received more than 300 submissions from across the country already.