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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Iowa GOP rep: ‘Nothing worse’ than homeschoolers telling us how to vote

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By Ben Johnson

ANKENY, IA, May 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a private e-mail exchange with a concerned parent, Republican state legislator Josh Byrnes of Iowa said there is “nothing worse than homeschool parents” making their views known on public school policy.

The statement came as Jeff Moorman took exception to a pending bill allegedly dealing with “bullying,” the “Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015” (HSB 39).

The proposal would allow school districts to monitor students outside of school hours and punish – or contact law enforcement officials and state bureaucratic agencies over – any communication it deems “bullying” – even if that behavior takes place inside a private residence or on social media. Some of these complaints may be filed without first notifying parents.

School administrators could accuse a child of bullying if any comment dealing with “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” – as well as a broad swath of categories encompassing everything from “behavior, friendship or relationship with others” to “political party preference, political belief...or any other distinguishing characteristic” – created a “hostile school environment.”

Parents are concerned this would lead to teachers and public education union employees launching surveillance of students' Facebook or Twitter accounts for stray comments about homosexuality or transgender status.

“This bill infringes on parental rights” and allows teachers to “invade [a] student's rights and privacy,” Moorman, who is part of the educational watchdog group Iowa for Student Achievement, told State Rep. Byrnes, R-Osage. Moorman said the proposal grants school officials “overreaching authority.”

Rep. Byrnes replied by asking, “Which Ankeny school are your kids part of?”

After Moorman answered his question, Byrnes wrote, “That’s good. I was making sure you didn’t h[om]e school.”

“Nothing worse than homeschool parents trying to tell us legislators how to run public schools when they don’t use them themselves,” State Rep. Byrnes wrote.

Moorman provided the e-mails to the blog Caffeinated Thoughts. The full exchange may be read here.

“Nowhere in the language of the bill does it restrict the school’s scope to just students enrolled in their school district,” wrote Shane Vander Hart, who broke the story. “Homeschooling parents have reason to be concerned.”

He also blasted Byrnes' dismissal of homeschoolers' right to have a voice in the legislative process. “Actually, there’s nothing worse than a state legislator demonstrating he lacks the maturity and temperament to serve in his current office,” he added. “It seems that the fact that homeschooling parents are taxpayers and that in itself gives them the right to weigh-in on any bill – education policy or otherwise.”

The state teachers union supports passage. Jean Hessberg, a spokeswoman for the Iowa State Educational Association, said the union would oppose any provision requiring the school district to report anti-gay or transgender “bullying” to the victims' parents, since they may not know their children were having sex with members of the same sex or choosing to identify as members of the opposite sex.

The bill's supporters are a hybrid of Republicans and Democrats. Despite the strong political backing of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, it has failed to pass the state legislature after numerous attempts. 

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Half of Ohio’s abortion clinics closed due to pro-life laws, abortions down 9%: report

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By Dustin Siggins

COLUMBUS, OH, May 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Pro-life laws have dropped the number of abortion facilities in Ohio by nearly 50 percent since 2011, and the number of abortions is down nine percent, the Associated Press reports in a new review. 

Seven out of 16 abortion facilities have closed or stopped providing abortions since 2011. An eighth is embroiled in a legal fight, which makes the nation's seventh-largest state second only to Texas in terms of abortion clinics closed in recent years.

The reduction may be affecting the number of abortions done in Ohio, which have dropped 8.9 percent -- from 25,473 in 2012 to 23,216 in 2013, according to the AP.

Since 2011, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the GOP-controlled legislature have passed a number of pro-life measures. They include, but are not limited to, laws preventing abortion after a baby can survive outside the womb, and requiring women to listen to fetal heartbeats and have ultrasounds prior to an abortion.

Pro-life legislators in Ohio have continued to push pro-life bills, such as one that would ban abortions when heartbeats can be detected, which happens as early as six weeks.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

The executive director of Ohio's NARAL chapter, Kellie Copeland, says women are having to drive further, sometimes out of state, to get an abortion. She told the AP that the lack of clinics often creates circumstances where women can't get abortions because they cannot get an appointment until after the state's legal limit.

Copeland also says that the difference between the number of abortion clinic closures and the drop in abortions shows women in the state want to have abortions, and that "these laws have all been about creating these false hurdles for clinics to have to jump through."

However, the president of Ohio Right to Life says that it's not just pro-life laws that are making a difference.  Women are choosing life, he said, because of the work by pro-life groups to help them and their children. "It's a combination of a lot of things," Mike Gonidakis told the AP, citing access to health care for the poor and counseling at crisis pregnancy centers. "Our society's changing. More and more women are choosing life."

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Walt Heyer

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‘Too many end in suicide’: The dark history of gender ‘reassignment’

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May 4, 2015 (ThePublicDiscourse.com) -- Bruce Jenner and Diane Sawyer could benefit from a history lesson. I know, because I suffered through “sex change” surgery and lived as a woman for eight years. The surgery fixed nothing—it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems.

The beginnings of the transgender movement have gotten lost today in the push for transgender rights, acceptance, and tolerance. If more people were aware of the dark and troubled history of sex-reassignment surgery, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to push people toward it.

The setting for the first transgender surgeries (mostly male-to-female) was in university-based clinics, starting in the 1950s and progressing through the 1960s and the 1970s. When the researchers tallied the results and found no objective proof that it was successful—and, in fact, evidence that it was harmful—the universities stopped offering sex-reassignment surgery.

Since then, private surgeons have stepped in to take their place. Without any scrutiny or accountability for their results, their practices have grown, leaving shame, regret, and suicide in their wake.

The Founding Fathers of the Transgender Movement

The transgender movement began as the brainchild of three men who shared a common bond: all three were pedophilia activists.

The story starts with the infamous Dr. Alfred Kinsey, a biologist and sexologist whose legacy endures today. Kinsey believed that all sex acts were legitimate—including pedophilia, bestiality, sadomasochism, incest, adultery, prostitution, and group sex. He authorized despicable experiments on infants and toddlers to gather information to justify his view that children of any age enjoyed having sex. Kinsey advocated the normalization of pedophilia and lobbied against laws that would protect innocent children and punish sexual predators.

Transsexualism was added to Kinsey’s repertoire when he was presented with the case of an effeminate boy who wanted to become a girl. Kinsey consulted an acquaintance of his, an endocrinologist by the name of Dr. Harry Benjamin. Transvestites, men who dressed as women, were well-known. Kinsey and Benjamin saw this as an opportunity to change a transvestite physically, way beyond dress and make-up. Kinsey and Benjamin became professional collaborators in the first case of what Benjamin would later call “transsexualism.”

Benjamin asked several psychiatric doctors to evaluate the boy for possible surgical procedures to feminize his appearance. They couldn’t come to a consensus on the appropriateness of feminizing surgery. That didn’t stop Benjamin. On his own, he began offering female hormone therapy to the boy. The boy went to Germany for partial surgery, and Benjamin lost all contact with him, making any long-term follow-up impossible.

The Tragic Story of the Reimer Twins

The third co-founder of today’s transgender movement was psychologist Dr. John Money, a dedicated disciple of Kinsey and a member of a transsexual research team headed by Benjamin.

Money’s first transgender case came in 1967 when he was asked by a Canadian couple, the Reimers, to repair a botched circumcision on their two-year-old son, David. Without any medical justification, Money launched into an experiment to make a name for himself and advance his theories about gender, no matter what the consequences to the child. Money told the distraught parents that the best way to assure David’s happiness was to surgically change his genitalia from male to female and raise him as a girl. As many parents do, the Reimers followed their doctor’s orders, and David was replaced with Brenda. Money assured the parents that Brenda would adapt to being a girl and that she would never know the difference. He told them that they should keep it a secret, so they did—at least for a while.

Activist doctors like Dr. Money always look brilliant at first, especially if they control the information that the media report. Money played a skilled game of “catch me if you can,” reporting the success of the boy’s gender change to the medical and scientific community and building his reputation as a leading expert in the emerging field of gender change. It would be decades before the truth was revealed. In reality, David Reimer’s “adaptation” to being a girl was completely different from the glowing reports concocted by Money for journal articles. By age twelve, David was severely depressed and refused to return to see Money. In desperation, his parents broke their secrecy, and told him the truth of the gender reassignment. At age fourteen, David chose to undo the gender change and live as a boy.

In 2000, at the age of thirty-five, David and his twin brother finally exposed the sexual abuse Dr. Money had inflicted on them in the privacy of his office. The boys told how Dr. Money took naked photos of them when they were just seven years old. But pictures were not enough for Money. The pedophilic doctor also forced the boys to engage in incestuous sexual activities with each other.

The consequences of Money’s abuse were tragic for both boys. In 2003, only three years after going public about their tortured past, David’s twin brother, Brian, died from a self-inflicted overdose. A short while later, David also committed suicide. Money had finally been exposed as a fraud, but that didn’t help the grieving parents whose twin boys were now dead.

The exposure of Money’s fraudulent research results and tendencies came too late for people suffering from gender issues, too. Using surgery had become well-established by then, and no one cared that one of its founders was discredited.

Results from Johns Hopkins: Surgery Gives No Relief

Dr. Money became the co-founder of one of the first university-based gender clinics in the United States at Johns Hopkins University, where gender reassignment surgery was performed. After the clinic had been in operation for several years, Dr. Paul McHugh, the director of psychiatry and behavioral science at Hopkins, wanted more than Money’s assurances of success immediately following surgery. McHugh wanted more evidence. Long-term, were patients any better off after surgery?

McHugh assigned the task of evaluating outcomes to Dr. Jon Meyer, the chairman of the Hopkins gender clinic. Meyer selected fifty subjects from those treated at the Hopkins clinic, both those who had undergone gender reassignment surgery and those who had not had surgery. The results of this study completely refuted Money’s claims about the positive outcomes of sex-change surgery. The objective report showed no medical necessity for surgery.

On August 10, 1979, Dr. Meyer announced his results: “To say this type of surgery cures psychiatric disturbance is incorrect. We now have objective evidence that there is no real difference in the transsexual’s adjustments to life in terms of job, educational attainment, marital adjustment and social stability.” He later told The New York Times: “My personal feeling is that the surgery is not a proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder, and it’s clear to me these patients have severe psychological problems that don’t go away following surgery.”

Less than six months later, the Johns Hopkins gender clinic closed. Other university-affiliated gender clinics across the country followed suit, completely ceasing to perform gender reassignment surgery. No success was reported anywhere.

Results from Benjamin’s Colleague: Too Many Suicides

It was not just the Hopkins clinic reporting lack of outcomes from surgery. Around the same time, serious questions about the effectiveness of gender change came from Dr. Harry Benjamin’s partner, endocrinologist Charles Ihlenfeld.

Ihlenfeld worked with Benjamin for six years and administered sex hormones to 500 transsexuals. Ihlenfeld shocked Benjamin by publicly announcing that 80 percent of the people who want to change their gender shouldn’t do it. Ihlenfeld said: “There is too much unhappiness among people who have had the surgery…Too many end in suicide.” Ihlenfeld stopped administering hormones to patients experiencing gender dysphoria and switched specialties from endocrinology to psychiatry so he could offer such patients the kind of help he thought they really needed.

In the wake of the Hopkins study, the closure of the flagship Hopkins clinic, and the warning sounded by Ihlenfeld, advocates of sex change surgery needed a new strategy. Benjamin and Money looked to their friend, Paul Walker, PhD, a homosexual and transgender activist they knew shared their passion to provide hormones and surgery. A committee was formed to draft standards of care for transgenders that furthered their agenda, with Paul Walker at the helm. The committee included a psychiatrist, a pedophilia activist, two plastic surgeons, and a urologist, all of whom would financially benefit from keeping gender reassignment surgery available for anyone who wanted it. The “Harry Benjamin International Standards of Care” were published in 1979 and gave fresh life to gender surgery.

My Experience with Dr. Walker

I myself suffered greatly to come to terms with my gender. In 1981, I sought out Dr. Walker to ask him, the man who wrote the standards of care, for help. Walker said I was suffering from gender dysphoria. A mere two years after both the Hopkins study and the public statements of Ihlenfeld drew attention to the increased suicide risk associated with gender change, Walker, even though he was completely aware of both reports, signed my approval letter for hormones and surgery.

Under his guidance, I underwent gender reassignment surgery and lived for eight years as Laura Jensen, female. Eventually, I gathered the courage to admit that the surgery had fixed nothing—it only masked and exacerbated deeper psychological problems. The deception and lack of transparency I experienced in the 1980s still surround gender change surgery today. For the sake of others who struggle with gender dysphoria, I cannot remain silent.

It is intellectually dishonest to ignore the facts that surgery never has been a medically necessary procedure for treating gender dysphoria and that taking cross-gender hormones can be harmful.  Modern transgender activists, the descendants of Kinsey, Benjamin, and John Money, keep alive the practice of medically unnecessary gender-change surgery by controlling the flow of published information and by squelching research and personal stories that tell of the regret, unhappiness, and suicide experienced by those who undergo such surgery. Negative outcomes are only acknowledged as a way to blame society for its transphobia.

Transgender clients who regret having taken this path are often full of shame and remorse. Those who regret their decision have few places to turn in a world of pro-transgender activism. For me, it took years to muster the courage to stand up and speak out about the regret.

I only wish Dr. Paul Walker had been required to tell me about both reports when I consulted him: the Hopkins study showing surgery did not alleviate severe psychological problems, and Ihlenfeld’s observation of the continuing transgender unhappiness and high incidence of suicide after hormones and surgery. This information might not have stopped me from making that disastrous decision—but at least I would have known the dangers and pain that lay ahead.

Walt Heyer is an author and public speaker with a passion to help others who regret gender change. Through his website, SexChangeRegret.com, and his blog, WaltHeyer.com, Heyer raises public awareness about the incidence of regret and the tragic consequences suffered as a result. Heyer’s story can be read in novel form in Kid Dakota and The Secret at Grandma’s House and in his autobiography, A Transgender’s Faith. Heyer’s other books include Paper Genders and Gender, Lies and SuicideReprinted with permission from The Witherspoon Institute

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