Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.

The tragedy of miscarriage and abortion ‘rights’

Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.
By Rebecca Oas Ph.D.
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July 16, 2012 (Zenit.org) – One of the traditional names given to the Blessed Virgin Mary is “Our Lady of Sorrows,” a title under which the faithful reflect on the sorrowful events of her life, specifically the traditional Seven Sorrows. Each of these focuses on a painful event of separation from her Son Jesus, whether prefigured in the prophecy of Simeon, threatened during the Flight to Egypt, experienced briefly prior to the Finding in the Temple, or finally embraced fully in the events surrounding the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus.

The grief of Mary has been expressed beautifully in art through the centuries, such as Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta, and for many women who have experienced the loss of a child, the sorrows of Our Lady carry a particularly personal significance.

Because of the uniquely strong bond between a mother and a child, added to the sense of untimeliness when a person dies before his or her parents, the effects of maternal bereavement have been a frequent topic of study and concern for psychologists.

A recent study from the University of Notre Dame analyzed a large population of mothers in the United States aged 20 to 50 and found that in the first two years following the death of a child, the mother’s own risk of early death was elevated 133% over those mothers who had not lost a child (1). The authors found that the effects of bereavement were great regardless of the age of the child or the cause of death. While this study did not examine the impact of bereavement on fathers, the authors cited a previous study from Denmark in which the risks were shown to be elevated for mothers compared to fathers (2).

Although both the Danish and American studies took into account socioeconomic factors, education level, and marital status of the bereaved mothers, neither considered the impact of religious faith on their ability to cope with the tragic loss of a child. However, many other reports have cited the positive effects of faith when dealing with stressful situations, including a review article which specifically highlights the importance of religion and spirituality when coping with the death of a child (3). The authors of the review emphasize that the death of a child is an “uncontrollable life event” and outlined some of the specific ways in which religious practices help a bereaved parent cope, such as the surrendering of control of the situation to God, the choice to seek intimacy with others in a religious context and closeness to God, and the search for supernatural meaning in the midst of loss.

While the loss of a child is particularly devastating to the parents, it is a grief shared by the larger community of those who knew the child during his or her life. The loss of an unborn child, in contrast, is a far more private tragedy, especially if the parents had not yet shared the news of the pregnancy. Further complicating matters is the ongoing worldwide debate over abortion rights, which has resulted in fierce semantic and even legal battles over the treatment of the unborn baby as a distinct person.

In recent years, one manifestation of this debate involved the decision whether or not to issue birth certificates for stillborn babies (4). When a miscarriage occurs earlier in a pregnancy, the mother’s grief can be exacerbated both by its private nature and by the absence of the tangible practices associated with the burial of the body of a loved one, surrounded by one’s family and friends. A 2008 literature review on the topic of grief after a miscarriage noted the benefits of “concretizing” the experience through practices such as keeping mementoes and holding a memorial service (5). However, the squeamishness surrounding the abortion debate adds yet another layer of trepidation, not only among well-meaning friends and caregivers, but potentially to the mother herself, as evidenced by the account given by a staunchly feminist author attempting to develop a terminology to describe the grief following miscarriage without undermining her pro-choice efforts:

[A]fter my miscarriages, my confidence in the terms embryo and fetus began to slip away. Somehow these terms were starting to feel too cold, too detached, to name and reference beings about which I had been so excited and hopeful. I began to find the notion that I had lost “babies” oddly comforting, in spite of worries that I was being unwittingly swayed by the “other side” to which my pro-choice politics had been so long positioned. (6)

From a psychological perspective, the intensity and duration of grief following a miscarriage is described as being similar to that which occurs following other significant losses (5). As scientific studies and new medical technologies enable a greater understanding of the process of prenatal development, the relationship between a mother and her unborn child is also a key focus of study, including the search for the most helpful way to deal with the aftermath of a miscarriage. An article written to advise nurses treating women who have suffered miscarriages points out, among other recommendations, that investigating the cause of the miscarriage helps to alleviate potential feelings of guilt in the mother and reassure her that the tragic event was, in fact, beyond her control (7).

But what of those mothers for whom the loss of a child was not an “uncontrollable life event,” but, rather, a matter of her own choosing? A longitudinal study conducted by a Norwegian group assessed the mental health of women following an abortion or miscarriage and at time points up to five years after the event. While the women who had miscarried exhibited greater distress at the ten-day and six-month time points, their subsequent recovery was more pronounced than that of their counterparts who had undergone elective abortions. Furthermore, while the women who had miscarried exhibited feelings of loss and grief, the predominant feelings of those who had aborted were guilt and shame (8).

The loss of a son or daughter, whether unborn, a child, or an adult is a deeply painful event, particularly for the individual’s parents. Surveys and studies of bereaved parents demonstrate that, particularly within the first two years of the loss, an intense grieving process occurs, and this process can be helped by religious faith and practices, as well as participation in a community of fellow believers. When the lost child is unborn, and particularly when the miscarriage occurs early in pregnancy, the grieving process for the mother can be helped by acknowledging the actuality of the loss, and through practices which memorialize the life and individuality of the child. These practices, however, are in stark contrast to the attitudes taken by those who are willing to go to great lengths to strip away all semantic traces of the humanity of unborn children, even as the mounting medical evidence reveals the ultimate futility of such efforts.

Women who miscarry, regardless of their political views, are conscious of a loss, and one worth grieving. By attempting to use language to negate the humanity of the unborn, abortion rights advocates deny not only the basis for grief after a miscarriage, but also the words to express it. This is in direct contrast to study results which demonstrate that treating the loss as more than symbolic is beneficial to the mother’s recovery. Thus, the promotion of access to abortion is not only detrimental to the women who experience guilt and shame after undergoing the procedure, but also results in collateral damage to those whose unborn children were lost through no choice of their own.

The loss of loved ones is a sad but unavoidable fact of our mortality, but as Catholics we not only live in the hope of everlasting life, but we can take comfort in the fact that our Lord Himself grieved the loss of friends and family who died during His time on Earth. As we reflect on the sorrows of Mary and the sufferings of Christ, we can extend sympathy and understanding to all who are bereaved, especially parents who have lost children, regardless of the circumstances of their deaths, and take comfort in the knowledge that, like Our Lady, those who mourn will one day be reunited with their children in the life to come.

Rebecca Oas, Ph.D., is a Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. Dr. Oas is a postdoctoral fellow in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University. She writes for HLI’s Truth and Charity Forum. This article appeared on Zenit.org and is reprinted with permission.

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1] Espinosa, J., Evans, W.N., Maternal bereavement: The heightened mortality of mothers after the death of a child, Economics and Human Biology (2010), doi:10.1016/j.ehb.2012.06.002

2] Li J, Precht DH, Mortensen PB, Olsen J. Mortality in parents after death of a child in Denmark: a nationwide follow-up study. Lancet. 2003 Feb 1;361(9355):363-7.

3] Ungureanu, I,. Sandberg, J.G. ”Broken Together”: Spirituality and Religion as Coping Strategies for Couples Dealing with the Death of a Child: A Literature Review with Clinical Implications. Contemporary Family Therapy (2010) 32:302–319

4] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/22/us/22stillbirth.html

5] Brier, N. Grief Following Miscarriage: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature. Journal of Women’s Health. Volume 17, Number 3, 2008

6] Parsons, K. Feminist reflections on miscarriage, in light of abortion. International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. Spring 2010, Volume 3, Number 1

7] Bacidore, V., Warren, N., Chaput, C., Keough, V.A. A Collaborative Framework for Managing Pregnancy Loss in the Emergency Department. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing. Volume 38, Issue 6, pages 730–738, November/December 2009

8] Broen, A.N., Moum, T., Bødtker, A.S., Ekeberg, O. The course of mental health after miscarriage and induced abortion: a longitudinal, five-year follow-up study. BMC Medicine. 2005 Dec 12;3:18.

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Cardinal Renato Martino
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Church doctrine on marriage ‘cannot change’, but some bishops will try: Cardinal Martino

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By Hilary White

In a lengthy interview in an Italian Catholic paper, a former Vatican ambassador to the UN has said that any change to the Catholic doctrines surrounding marriage and sexuality is impossible. Cardinal Renato Martino has joined an impressive list of high-ranking prelates to say that the Synod cannot alter Catholic doctrine.

The cardinal told La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana there will “certainly” be presentations from bishops at the Synod “that do not correspond with the doctrine of the Church, but in the end, it will not be able but to reaffirm what the Church has always said about the family.”

“The Church cannot change what it has always proclaimed,” said Martino, a veteran of many battles to defend the unborn and the natural family at the international level.

“I believe that the Synod will be an opportunity to throw down the challenge – the Church’s traditional teaching on the family will be made clear,” the cardinal said.

He said he is “tranquil” as to the outcome of the Synod, which normally results in an apostolic exhortation, written in the name of the pope, but expressing the opinion of the assembled bishops.

A meeting of cardinals in February sparked an ongoing uproar throughout the Church when Cardinal Walter Kasper, who had been hand picked by Pope Francis to present the keynote address, suggested a “solution” for Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried, to allow them to return to the reception of Communion without changing their lifestyles.

The Church, however, has always taught, in keeping with the words of Jesus in the Gospel, that marriage is a permanent state that can only be dissolved by the death of one of the spouses. A civilly remarried person is, in the eyes of the Church, in a state of mortal sin as an adulterer, and cannot receive Communion until he has repented and received the sacrament of reconciliation. The suggestion has since been furiously denounced by leading prelates as impossible and a “solution” that would be disastrous for both the Church and for the spiritual state of the Catholics involved.

Martino affirmed that he knows the pope well, saying, “I believe that Francis is a lot like John Paul II, in faithfulness to the Church’s teaching. For Francis, the family is fundamental too. Moreover, a Pope cannot do new things, never before heard of. It is only the style that changes, but the doctrine is what it is and the pope must proclaim it.” 

Catholic teaching and Catholic practice are two different matters, however, and some are expressing concerns that a de facto change could be achieved simply by attrition. Patrick Archbold, a Catholic blogger and columnist for the National Catholic Register, warned that the application of the teaching is likely to be left in the hands of the very bishops and national conferences who have been agitating for change.

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Archbold expressed fears, coming from many quarters, that the Synod could easily be a replay of the debacle over the Church’s teaching on contraception. In 1968, Pope Paul VI clearly laid out the doctrine on birth control in the encyclical Humanae Vitae, but it was ignored and undermined in practice by bishops at the local level for the next five decades, with the pulpits remaining silent as the Sexual Revolution charged forward.

Archbold writes at his blog, Creative Minority Report, “When introducing doctrine-undermining change into the Church, the last thing you want is to be clear that is what you are doing.”

Instead of any explicit departure from the Church’s teaching, he said he expects a document that will “include language about the pastoral care of souls in troubled situations, but it will be generally orthodox.”

“But at some point…they will recommend the Bishops conferences to study and implement pastoral guidelines to help those in this situation.” These are the same bishops conferences, he said, who have made laxity in teaching on sexual morals the norm throughout the Church.

He expects, “No mandate, no direct assertions on what to do, but just a call for Bishop conferences to study the problem and implement pastoral practices in line with the synodal documents. That is when the horse will be permanently out of the barn.”

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Gov report: 1,036 ObamaCare plans illegally fund abortions

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By Dustin Siggins

Co-written by Ben Johnson

An internal government watchdog agency has found that – despite promises from President Obama and legal language in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – some 1,036 ObamaCare insurance plans are illegally paying for elective abortions.

The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies take up a separate, $1 surcharge to cover abortion. However, the majority of the issuers examined by GAO violate the payment structure, and use federal health care subsidies to cover elective abortions.

“Every ObamaCare taxpayer subsidized health insurance plan in New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and Hawaii pays for abortion-on-demand,” said the office of Congressman Chris Smith, R-NJ, the co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

On Monday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that out of 18 insurance issuers it sampled for the report, 15 "indicated that the benefit [of abortion] is not subject to any restrictions, limitations, or exclusions." The issuers provide "nearly one-quarter of [qualified health plans] covering non-excepted abortion services" in 28 states that do not restrict abortion coverage via health insurance plans more than the ACA.

The pro-life movement expressed outrage at the violation of the law.

Mary Harned, staff counsel for Americans United for Life (AUL), said that the ACA's language "is unambiguous – 'separate payments' are required. Yet insurance issuers are not collecting separate payments. In fact, the Obama administration is telling issuers that they do not need to collect two checks. When issuers seek guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), they are told that they can merely itemize the amount of a premium that will be used to pay for abortions."

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) responded to the GAO's revelation by saying it will try to offer clearer explanations of the rules.

But Harned said the government is deliberately allowing states to skirt the law. "GAO uncovered evidence that at least one state department of insurance was unaware that issuers needed to file their plans for segregating the abortion premium from taxpayer funds with the state. At least two issuers indicated that they had not filed segregation plans, and at least one was not aware of any direction by the state to file such a plan.”

Americans should not have to finance abortion unwittingly through their insurance premiums, pro-life leaders said – a fact already codified into law.

“The American people should not be forced to purchase an Obamacare health care plan before they are able to find out what is in it,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Americans should not be forced to play a game of moral Russian roulette when they select a health care plan.”

Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said that “ObamaCare breaks from the long tradition of the Hyde Amendment, which has prevented taxpayer funding of abortion with broad public support, and was not included in the law.”

She added that the disclosure proves that several vulnerable Democratic senators "voted for taxpayer funding of abortion in ObamaCare."

National Right to Life Committee Legislative Director Douglas Johnson agreed, “Those really responsible for this scandal are the lawmakers, such as Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Mark Udall of Colorado, who voted against the pro-life amendment that would have prevented this massive federal funding of abortion-covering plans, as well as those who voted to enact the bill after the amendment was rejected, such as Mark Pryor of Arkansas.”

Dannenfelser, Perkins, and others says that Congress should correct this situation by passing the "No Taxpayer Founding of Abortion Act," introduced by Congressman Smith.

In a series of statements, Republican House leaders condemned the government funding of abortion.

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House Speaker John Boehner said that the Obama administration “repeatedly denied congressional requests for its public release.”

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana said, "Many of us argued at the time ObamaCare passed that it would funnel taxpayer dollars to elective abortions, despite President Obama’s repeated broken promises to the contrary. This independent report validates our claims and proves that yet another ObamaCare promise has been broken.”

He called the news "the most recent in a string of ObamaCare broken promises to the American people."

The Obama administration has side-stepped the issue of which ObamaCare plans fund abortion since the passage of the ACA. Last October, and again in December, then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was grilled by pro-life Congressmen about whether Americans would be able to determine if their insurance plan funds abortion.

“I don’t know," Sebelius answered. "I know exactly the issue you’re talking about. I will check and make sure that is clearly identifiable.”

Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said, “For a president who claims to pursue the most transparent administration, he continues to reject calls to shed light on what exactly is in plans on the health care exchange.”

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Lisa Bourne

Catholic Relief Services: We’re ‘proud’ that we don’t discuss faith

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By Lisa Bourne

While some pro-life activists are criticizing Catholic Relief Services (CRS) after a high-ranking executive said last month that the agency is “proud” they do not discuss faith with the people they serve, CRS itself is defending the statement, saying it was misinterpreted. 

The controversy began when Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ vice-president for government relations and advocacy, told CNN’s Belief Blog, “We assist people of all backgrounds and religions and we do not attempt to engage in discussions of faith."

“We’re proud of that. We like to say that we assist everybody because we’re Catholic, we don’t assist people to become Catholic,” he added in the August 9 piece.

“We assist people of all backgrounds and religions and we do not attempt to engage in discussions of faith."

The statement drew criticism from Catholic pro-life and pro-family groups, who said the comments are another sign that the U.S. Bishops’ foreign relief agency has shed its Catholic identity and effectively operates as a secular NGO.

“How great is it that Catholic Relief Services is serving the poor and marginalized in dangerous areas of the world,” Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews. “Yet how sad that CRS spokespeople again boast that they do not preach the Gospel love of Jesus Christ, as a matter of policy.”

“This is so radically out of line with what Pope Francis has repeatedly said,” Father Boquet added, “and is something that Pope Benedict warned against in both Deus Caritas est and Caritas in Veritate.”

“For CRS to be ‘proud’ of the fact that it doesn't evangelize may help it to get grants from the federal government," said Steven Mosher, president of Population Research Institute. "After all, such activities are specifically forbidden to federal grantees. But it is an abdication of their responsibility as Catholics - really everyone's responsibility as Catholics - to spread the Gospel."

Michael Hichborn, director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project, agreed.

“The bottom line is that there can be no division between charity and the work of evangelism,” he said.  “But CRS just stated that it is ‘proudly’ doing just that.”

Hichborn told LifeSiteNews he believes the statement highlights the fact that for CRS social works supersede evangelization.  

But in reality, he argued, charitable works “are the loving tools by which we evangelize. Any act to divorce evangelization from works of charity neuters the Church and relegates charity to mere philanthropy. Catholic Relief Services, by their own admission, is content to feed bodies and starve souls."

CRS responds to criticisms

Paul Eagle, CRS’ communications director, suggested that O'Keefe's statement was misunderstood, telling LifeSiteNews that their work is a clear example of not proselytizing, but preaching the Gospel through works.

“We are indeed proud that we witness the Church’s mission and the call of the Gospel to care for those in need, regardless of who they are or what they believe, through the work that CRS does every day,” he said. “This is a central part of the Church’s evangelizing mission, but it does not include proselytizing or requiring that people become Catholic to receive our assistance.”

Eagle told LifeSiteNews that CRS follows St. Francis of Assisi, who has been reflected in the leadership of Pope Francis. He pointed to a famous quotation that is often attributed to St. Francis, which goes, "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words."

“Our work is a clear example of not proselytizing, but preaching the Gospel through what we do,” Eagle said.

Eagle directed LifeSiteNews to a CRS web page which states that CRS “rejoices in” the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, and has grown in a deeper understanding of its mission through study and reflection on Benedict’s earlier encyclicals Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salvi

Eagle also pointed to the CRS initiative, “Impact Investing,” saying it contains a response to Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium.

Pro-life critics cite papal support

But Father Boquet said a policy banning discussions of faith or preaching the Gospel is clearly opposed to Catholic teaching on charity.

“This is a radical departure from how the Church has always understood her essential charitable and missionary work,” he said.

He quoted Pope Francis in his first homily as pope: “We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord,” the pope said.

Pope Francis has repeated this theme several times, most recently in June of this year, said Father Boquet. At that time, “he said that the Church cannot just be a ‘well organized NGO,’ or just some institution with people who are ‘fans’ of being Catholic.”

Boquet and the other pro-life critics pointed out that several recent popes have written at length on the need for evangelization to remain at the heart of its charitable work.

“This is a radical departure from how the Church has always understood her essential charitable and missionary work."

In Evangelii Nuntiandi Pope Paul VI wrote that generous Christians are often tempted to reduce the Church’s mission to the realm of the temporal, downgrading it to be man-centered. The Holy Father said in that document that this reduction to a focus on material well-being would mean the Church would lose her fundamental meaning.

Pope Benedict XVI echoed this teaching in Deus Caritas Est, stating, "The entire activity of the Church is an expression of a love that seeks the integral good of man: it seeks his evangelization through Word and Sacrament."

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict cited Pope Paul VI, writing that Christian charity is “part and parcel of evangelization,” because, “Jesus Christ, who loves us, is concerned with the whole person.”

Many CRS employees not Catholic

Mosher also highlighted Pope Benedict’s motu proprio titled ‘On the Service of Charity,’ which he said “is quite clear in that the work of Catholic charities should be grounded in the Mass and the Sacraments, which implies evangelization.”

The CNN Belief Blog article also reported that CRS “doesn't even like” to be labeled missionary because of the word's association with evangelizing, stating:

Though Catholic Relief Services says it is motivated by the Gospel to embody Catholic social and moral teaching, it does not preach to the people it helps.

In fact, you don't even have to be Catholic to work for Catholic Relief Services. Among its 4,500 workers are many Muslims, Hindus and members of other religions, said Bill O’Keefe, the organization’s vice president of advocacy.

Eagle told LifeSiteNews CRS is proud as a Catholic agency that it works collaboratively with all people regardless of faith, which is especially important in communities where the majority of people are not Catholic.

He added that CRS takes steps to ensure Catholic identity in preparing employees for work with CRS, referencing a tutorial, "Protecting Life,” which was reviewed by the USCCB.

At the same time, experience has shown that what CRS cannot account for is the personal opinions of its non-Catholic employees, which, according to Mosher, inevitably affect the way they perform their jobs. A May 2014 LifeSiteNews article reported on public campaign records showing that since 1990 CRS employees have donated tens of thousands of dollars, 98.1 percent of their political donations, to elect pro-abortion politicians to office.

LifeSiteNews has also reported on the fact that numerous CRS employees in key policy positions have in previous jobs advocated for activities that violate Church teaching.

For example, Daphyne Williams, who has worked for CRS since 2008 and helped to develop a controversial policy whereby CRS would provide “complete and accurate” information on condoms, was hired after working at a series of pro-abortion organizations. One, which she listed on her LinkedIn page until LifeSiteNews reported on it in 2012, was called Pro-Choice Resources.

In another more dramatic case, a CRS employee was charged and convicted after deliberately ramming her car into a crowd of pro-life activists at the March for Life.

“As far as the claim that they somehow ‘evangelize’ by not preaching the Gospel, by not hiring Catholics … this simply makes no sense,” Mosher told LifeSiteNews.

“They say that ‘they help people because they're Catholic.’ But CRS employees, including very senior employees, are often - as the organization itself proudly admits - not Catholic at all,” said Mosher. “So it is hard to take this defense seriously.” 

Mosher said that statements indicating CRS is proud that is does not evangelize raise the question of whether CRS's donors are being defrauded by an organization that claims to be "Catholic," but distances itself from the Church in its actual programs and practices.

“If Catholic Relief Services is not going to hire practicing Catholics, work through the local Catholic Church around the world, and preferentially serve Catholic populations,” Mosher said, “then it has no business calling itself ‘Catholic.’ For it is not. It is just another humanitarian NGO which can make no special claim on Catholics.”

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