Bernadette Goulding, director of Rachel’s Vineyard Ireland, a support group for women who have had abortions, has offered her thoughts to CatholicNews.ie, ahead of this Friday’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Ms Goulding from Cork City said that ‘Grieving the loss of a baby at any stage in life’s journey is a universal experience’.
Ms Goulding said, ‘In the course of the current debate on the Eighth Amendment, we have heard a great deal from lawyers, and obstetricians. However may we suggest that not enough time or space has been afforded to those who exercised their ‘right to choose’ and now deeply regret that “choice”.
‘Over the last fifteen years I have had the privilege of being involved with a movement called Rachel’s Vineyard, and conducted Healing Week-Ends for such women, in several countries. Irrespective of creed or class, women come on these week-ends with a lot of unresolved grief.’
She continued, ‘To appreciate their struggle with grief, bear in mind, that they did not have the opportunity of a funeral, with all of the family and neighbourly support it offers.
‘In addition, there is no grave, no headstone, memoriam card, or photograph of their little one.
‘They all too often grieve alone, for the baby they will never see, hold or feed. Many of these women have told us that prior to the abortion, they were assured that it was just “a clump of cells”.’
Ms Goulding said, ‘Why grieve the loss of “a clump of cells”? Instinctively their motherly intuition knows, what modern science confirms, that they have lost a baby. They may succeed for a time in denying their own true feelings, their gut instinct, but invariably it keeps surfacing until it succeeds in claiming their attention.’
‘The women speak of experiencing uncontrollable weeping, profound remorse and guilt, diminished self-esteem, self-loathing, depression, and self-harming. Many of them will have attempted suicide. They speak of two anniversaries: the due date of their baby and, and her date of death. Seeing a neighbour’s child may remind them, that their child would have been about the same age now. Attending a birthday party or a First Communion, of a niece or nephew, can trigger a tsunami of grief and guilt. It is a silent and forbidden grief, and so she will excuse herself from their company, and grieve alone, because the experts have assured her it was only “a clump of cells”.’
She went on to say, ‘On our week-ends I have had participants from all Christian denominations, non-believers, as well as some from countries with a long history of legalised abortion. Not surprisingly, there is no observable difference in their tears, or the depth of their pain. Grieving the loss of a baby at any stage in life’s journey is a universal experience.’
‘It comes as no surprise to us then to learn that women who had abortions were 30% more likely to experience mental disorder, according to a major study carried out by David Ferguson and others in New Zealand, and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2008.’
‘The suicide rate for women who had abortions was six times higher than for women who had given birth according to a 13-year study published in the European Journal of Public Health in 2005 by Gissler et al.’
Ms Goulding concluded, ‘As a woman who grieves for the baby I aborted, and from all that I have learned from women in several different countries, I cannot stay silent, during this debate. As women deserve better than abortion. Surely as a society, we can do better.
‘Before you cast your vote, pause and think of two lives – the life of the mother, and the life of her baby: two hearts beating; two lives which are precious and deserving of our compassion and protection. Love them both. I encourage you to choose life for them both, and join me in voting No to this proposal to repeal the 8th Amendment to our Constitution.’
Rachel’s Vineyard is a support group for women and men who are grieving the loss of a child through abortion. Founded by Dr Theresa Karminski Burke in 1994, Rachel’s Vineyard now offers more than 1000 retreats each year across 57 countries. For more information, please see www.rachelsvineyard.ie.