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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Brian Brown

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Supreme Court betrays us with illegitimate marriage ruling

Brian Brown
By Brian Brown

June 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Though expected, today's decision is completely illegitimate. We reject it and so will the American people. It represents nothing but judicial activism, legislating from the bench, with a bare majority of the Justices on the Supreme Court exercising raw political power to impose their own preferences on marriage when they have no constitutional authority to do so. It is a lawless ruling that contravenes the decisions of over 50 million voters and their elected representatives. It is a decision that is reminiscent of other illegitimate Court rulings such as Dred Scott and Roe v Wade and will further plunge the Supreme Court into public disrepute.

Make no mistake about it: The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and countless millions of Americans do not accept this ruling. Instead, we will work at every turn to reverse it.

Urge Congress to pass a marriage protection amendment now. Sign the petition!

The US Supreme Court does not have the authority to redefine something it did not create. Marriage was created long before the United States and our constitution came into existence. Our constitution says nothing about marriage. The majority who issued today's ruling have simply made it up out of thin air with no constitutional authority.

In his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Dr. Martin Luther King discussed the moral importance of disobeying unjust laws, which we submit applies equally to unjust Supreme Court decisions. Dr. King evoked the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that an unjust law or decision is one that is "a human law that is not rooted in eternal law or natural law."

Today's decision of the Supreme Court lacks both constitutional and moral authority. There is no eternal or natural law that allows for marriage to be redefined.

This is not the first time that the Supreme Court has issued an immoral and unjust ruling. In 1857, the Court ruled in the infamous Dred Scott v Sandford case that African Americans could not become citizens of the United States and determined that the government was powerless to reject slavery. In 1927 the Court effectively endorsed eugenics by ruling that people with mental illness and other "defectives" could be sterilized against their will, saying "three generations of imbeciles are enough." And in Roe v Wade, the Court invented a constitutional right to abortion by claiming it was an integral element of the right to privacy. Over 55 million unborn babies have died as a result.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

We urge the American people and future presidents to regard today's decision just as President Abraham Lincoln regarded the Dred Scott ruling when he said in his first inaugural address that "if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made…the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

Today's decision is by no means the final word concerning the definition of marriage; indeed it is only the beginning of the next phase in the struggle. NOM is committed to reversing this ruling over the long term and ameliorating it over the short term. Specifically:

  1. We call on Congress and state governments to move immediately to protect the rights of people who believe in the truth of marriage from being discriminated against by passing the First Amendment Defense Act through Congress, and similar legislation in the various states.
  2. We also call on Congress to advance to the states for consideration a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage in the law as it has existed in reality for the entirety of our nation's existence – the union of one man and one woman.
  3. We call on the American people to make the definition of marriage a pivotal issue in the 2016 presidential contest and to elect a president who will be a true champion for marriage, one who is committed to taking specific steps to restoring true marriage in the law including appointing new justices to the Supreme Court who will have the opportunity to reverse this decision.
  4. NOM will work tirelessly along with allies to help change the culture so that Americans have a better understanding of the importance of marriage to children, families and society as a whole.

While today's decision of the Supreme Court is certainly disappointing, it is not demoralizing to those of us who fervently believe in the truth of marriage and its importance to societal flourishing. Indeed, the decision will be energizing. Just as the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade infused the pro-life movement with new energy and commitment, so too will the decision today reawaken the American people to join the marriage movement.

Our prayer for America is that today's injustice can be corrected quickly, sparing the nation decades of anguish of the kind that has followed the Court's decision in Roe.

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

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Gay ‘marriage’ ruling opens door to polygamy and religious persecution: Dissenting justices

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The Supreme Court's conservative justices lambasted today's majority opinion that the U.S. Constitution grants an inalienable right to same-sex “marriage,” emphasizing the threat the opinion poses to religious liberty, the democratic process, and the institution of marriage even as it is redefined.

In a series of scathing dissents, each of the High Court's four conservative justices took apart Justice Anthony Kennedy's Obergefell v. Hodges decision piece-by-piece.

Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, wrote that “the majority fails to provide even a single sentence explaining” how the 14th Amendment applies to redefining marriage.

“The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent,” he wrote. “There is, after all, no 'Companionship and Understanding' or 'Nobility and Dignity' Clause in the Constitution.”

Instead, the court ignored its own precedent in the 1972 Baker v. Nelson case, which ruled there is no constitutional right to homosexual “marriage.”

Urge Congress to pass a marriage protection amendment now. Sign the petition!

In a separate dissent, Justice Scalia called the decision a “judicial Putsch” that is “lacking even a thin veneer of law.” He described the majority's often flowery language as “the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

Roberts said the opinion took an “unprincipled approach” that he likened to the Dred Scott decision, which ratified slavery on the eve of the Civil War.

While all of the dissenting justices warned that the decision usurped the role of the people in a democratic government, each made his own distinctive critiques, as well.

Justice Roberts warned that today's ruling was not comparable to striking down laws against interracial marriage, because at no time was the ethnicity of the spouses considered a defining factor of marriage itself.

He also warned that by changing the fundamental definition of marriage, the justices had opened the door to redefining other vital components of matrimony. “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” he wrote.

Justice Thomas wrote that the opinion holds “potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.” Recognizing the threat that the government may revoke the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, Thomas added that “the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious property.”

The traditional American view of limited government was another casualty, he wrote. “Our Constitution — like the Declaration of Independence before it — was predicated on a simple truth: One’s liberty, not to mention one’s dignity, was something to be shielded from — not provided by — the state.”

Justice Samuel Alito alone said that marriage existed for the sake of procreation and child-rearing. The majority opinion is based on ideas of romantic love, he wrote. “This understanding of marriage, which focuses almost entirely on the happiness of persons who choose to marry, is shared by many people today, but it is not the traditional one. For millennia, marriage was inextricably linked to the one thing that only an opposite-sex couple can do: procreate.”

All of the justices had a similar concern, though: The decision substitutes the views of five unelected justices for the democratic process, much as Roe v. Wade did for abortion in 1973.

“If a bare majority of justices can invent a new right and impose that right on the rest of the country, the only real limit on what future majorities will be able to do is their own sense of what those with political power and cultural influence are willing to tolerate,” Justice Alito wrote in his dissent.

He concluded, “All Americans, whatever their thinking on that issue, should worry about what the majority’s claim of power portends.”

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Pro-traditional marriage activists march to the Supreme Court at the annual March for Marriage in Washington D.C. on March 26, 2013. American Life League
The Editors

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John-Henry Westen: U.S. Supreme Court rules against God and human nature

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LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen, who also co-founded the international organization Voice of the Family, released the following statement today in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to require states to uphold same-sex "marriage".

Today, the Supreme Court undermined marriage, effectively making it open season on religious liberty in America -- and providing the Court's blessing to a redefinition of marriage that is opposed to the Will of God, basic human nature, and the U.S. Constitution.

With its decision, the Court has found a "civil right" where none exists. Thanks to the Supreme Court's majority, LGBT activists and their allies are now free to continue their state-sanctioned discrimination against social conservatives. In fact, they have been empowered to do so. This is no surprise, however, as such policies have become the norm in the Obama administration and in states across the nation, where state-sanctioned discrimination against religious and social conservatives is fully accepted.

Perhaps the worst consequence of the Court's decision is its promotion of damaging sexual relationships -- which are, like discrimination, now empowered all across America. Contrary to what the Court's liberals and many other judges believe, opposition to redefining marriage is based upon love -- the kind of tough love that requires a parent to tell their child to not play in traffic, or to get good grades.

Urge Congress to pass a marriage protection amendment now. Sign the petition!

Science has proven that sexual relationships between persons of the same-sex, as opposed to the God-ordained man-woman marital relationships, cause terrible harm to those in them. To quote former leading Canadian LGBT activist Gens Hellquist, speaking to government officials a few years after marriage was redefined in Canada:

We have one of the poorest health statuses in this country. Health issues affecting queer Canadians include lower life expectancy than the average Canadian, suicide, higher rates of substance abuse, depression, inadequate access to care and HIV/AIDS.

There are all kinds of health issues that are endemic to our community. We have higher rates of anal cancer in the gay male community, lesbians have higher rates of breast cancer.

Hellquist closed his testimony by saying that he was "tired of watching my community die." In this country, the Centers for Disease Control has shown that while men who have sex with men are perhaps two percent of the U.S. population, they make up nearly two-thirds of all HIV/AIDS victims.

Similarly, social science -- especially the work of Dr. Mark Regnerus and Dr. Paul Sullins -- has shown that children raised by same-sex parents are more emotionally damaged than their counterparts raised in homes led by a mom and a dad.

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