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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

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