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Hijacking Healing: Pro-Abortion Response to Post Abortion Stress
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Hijacking Healing: Pro-Abortion Response to Post Abortion Stress

Hijacking Healing: Pro-Abortion
Response to Post Abortion Stress
Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy
IN THE EARLY 1980'S pro-life researchers expressed a growing concern
about the psychological sequelae of induced abortion. The issue was also
surfacing in the case studies being published by therapists, psychologists,
and psychiatrists who were seeing an increasing number of women
whose emotional well-being had been compromised by their decision to
The issues raised by these professionals and the similar observations
of countless pro-life volunteers fell on deaf ears as the research
establishment and policy makers continued to hold to the party line
expressed by Rosenberg (1990) in her summary of the research from the
1970s and 1980s:
Women with an unwanted pregnancy who obtain a legal abortion during the first
trimester typically report positive emotional effects. Fewer than 10 percent of
such women have tong term psychiatric or emotional reactions.... Women are
more likely to be depressed before abortion than after abortion. Studies indicate
that most women have a sense of relief after abortion.... Long term follow-up
studies of women who have undergone a therapeutic abortion have revealed
favorable outcomes, positive responses to abortion, and few long-term
psychological sequelae.
Some studies were willing to grant that 10%-15% of women did poorly
following abortion and a few went as far as Sherman to state:
Some of the more recent literature has tended to...stress the benignness of
elective abortion and almost to minimize its effects upon the woman. A change
in bias may have taken place, perhaps to add support to the liberalization of the
abortion law. There seems to be satisfaction in reporting that severe
psychological reactions simply do not occur. Many studies seem to ignore the
significance of the reactions that are reported. Others report “negative”
responses but stress how rapidly they are resolved and that they are not of
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sufficient frequency or intensity to create problems for most women who have
undergone abortions. (Sherman et al., 82)
Now, to admit that women suffer would beg the question of how such a
benign experience could produce such psychic scarring. Any such
admission would challenge the assumptions upon which the acceptance
of abortion was based. That women could be harmed was beyond the
willingness of the pro-choice advocates to admit.
As the years have passed, the published research has been gradually
allowing the absolute number of women who experience negative
reactions to grow. If ten percent of women are recognized as legitimately
having post-abortion problems, there will be a total of 100,000 to
160,000 damaged young women each year. The proportion of repeat
abortion has reached fifty percent. Since each subsequent abortion brings
with it the possibility of increased medical complications and emotional
harm, it means that at the present time there may be as many as
2,500,000 to 4,000,000 North American women whose lives have been
seriously affected by their abortion(s). And these are just the women
whom researchers acknowledge to have experienced problems. Beyond
this group are those who also suffer post-abortion disorders but who are
seldom the focus of academic research. This is often due to the factors of
inadequate study-design or the hesitation of women with psychological
sequelae to participate in follow-up studies. Researchers report that many
women drop out of long-term studies but do not address the fact that
participation may be too painful for this cohort. Seldom is there an
exploration of the implications of this sampling problem.
Funded Post-Abortion Studies. Since post-abortion research is
usually carried out by individuals who support or deliver abortion-related
services, they are often affiliated with institutions that perpetuate the
“abortion as a woman’s right” position. These same institutions have told
abortion patients that the procedure is simple and should carry no lasting
effects. It is little wonder that many women do not volunteer to
participate in follow-up research. Their reasoning is twofold:
(1) Women who continue to suffer psychological stress have not
been healed from the abortion, and so participation in such studies will
dredge up unresolved feelings that they would rather not have surface.
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Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy
Denial and sublimation are often their operative psychological defenses,
and these mechanisms should not be disturbed, unless in the process of
counseling toward healing.
(2) Women who do experience negative reactions often feel that
they are odd. After all, the doctors assured them that there was little risk,
on the assumption that only women with pre-existing psychic disturbance
ever have problems after an abortion. To participate in follow-up research
and to admit suffering is to reveal yourself to be a fundamentally
disturbed person. Regardless of how much emotional pain the person is
experiencing, being perceived as chronically troubled or pathological
would be incompatible with the self-concept of most women.
Meanwhile, as the majority of academic researchers and policy
makers continue to ignore this threat to the mental health of post-abortal
women, the Christian community has been developing counseling and
support programs to help women to cope following their abortions. These
programs address the feelings of guilt, grief, and loss experienced by
women and contextualize these emotions within the Christian approach
to forgiveness.
These programs reflect sound therapeutic principles. They include
group-work and one-to-one work and are solidly rooted in two
philosophical premises: that abortion is the taking of a human life and
that healing of the trauma requires human action and divine intercession
through the grace of God. The first such institutionalized program was a
Catholic Church initiative begun by Vicki Thorn in the diocese of
Milwaukee in 1985. Known as Project Rachel, this ministry to women
has expanded to encompass a large number of the dioceses in North
It is well known that despite the Church’s teaching on abortion a
significant proportion of women who abort self-identify as Catholic. As a
result, they carry not only the psychic scars from the experience but also
the sense of alienation from their church. Those who have some
theological understanding may be aware of their personal
excommunication, while others may have no concept of their specific
theological position but recognize that they have somehow placed
themselves outside the sacramental and community life of the Church. In
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some cases this alienation results in women abandoning the faith and
anathematizing the Church, while in other cases women maintain their
identity as Catholics but carry the double burden of their abortion as well
as their loss of community. As Tamburrino puts it, “some women’s
decisions to have an abortion will be in direct conflict with their religion.
Research has not adequately addressed how women cope with religious
conflict after an abortion...” (Tamburrino et al., 1990).
It is within this context that Project Rachel has reached out to
Catholic women who have had abortions: “Anchored in the Sacrament of
Reconciliation, Project Rachel was designed as a holistic effort that
integrates the spiritual and the psychological.” This healing strategy is
rooted in the community of the Church, is supported by the sacramental
nature of grace, and is conducive to the reintegration of the women into
the life of the Church. It addresses the alienation brought on by abortion
and offers a path to mental and spiritual health. “The message of Project
Rachel has to be welcoming because the woman harbors the belief that
she is unwelcome in this Church because of the strong pro-life teaching”
(Thorn 1994).
Similar forms of outreach have developed in evangelical
communities with outreach initiatives such as Helping Women Recover
from Abortion by Nancy Michels, programs such as Open Arms, and
most recently online support services such as Safe Haven and Healing
Hearts. These programs and online services are biblically based and
approach healing in the same way as Project Rachel, namely, from the
perspective of forgiveness. Theirs is not the sacramental forgiveness of
the Catholic Church, but it involves components of being “willing to
confess to God that I alone am accountable to Him for the loss of my
child” (Michels 1989).
While the supporters of abortion have continued to ignore the
suffering of growing numbers of women, the Christian community has
responded with programs that support the women themselves. So
successful were these ministries that by the late 1980s some researchers
were beginning to awareness of this need.
Tamburrino et al. (1990) studied the role of religion in the lives of
women who were involved in patient-led, non-denominational support
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Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy
groups for women “who identified themselves as experiencing significant
post-abortion dysphoria.” The authors concluded that religion should be
recognized by therapists as part of the healing process. They reported the
“striking finding” that following abortion some 46% of the women in
their sample had changed their religious affiliation and had joined bible-
based evangelical or fundamentalist Protestant denominations and that
many of these women listed “Jesus” under “treatment.” The returned
questionnaires frequently contained added comments such as “Jesus
Christ is the best psychiatrist” or “psychologists couldn’t help–Christ
The outreach programs were working. They were offering support
and healing. They were also re-evangelizing large numbers of women
who previously had not allowed their religious affiliation to affect their
lives and choices. And more disturbingly for the entrenched pro-abortion
establishment, these programs (and the churches with which they were
affiliated) were pro-life. If such pro-life counseling were to become the
norm, then a growing number of post-abortal women would become
convinced that abortion was wrong. Indeed this was happening. Many
post-abortal women found their voices in the pro-life movement and have
become powerful witnesses to the truth. It was time for those committed
to abortion rights to take stock and respond. In 1989 Eleanor Bader
reported on Project Rachel in the journal On the Issues, a publication of
“Choices: Women’s Health Center” in New York:
Discussion among pro-choice activists is urgently needed to forge a strategy to
deal with Project Rachel. One option, of course, is to run our own counseling
programs.... We need to be there, for if we are not, Project Rachel will be the
only place to turn for counseling and assistance. Our job is also to make pastoral
counselors listen to women who are not “victims of abortion,” but molders and
shapers of their own destinies. At the same time, it is essential to break the
misogynist theological stranglehold that keeps women in line by controlling
their sexuality and their options. Not to do this leaves an enormous number of
people vulnerable to the arguments of anti-abortion forces.
This was their call to action: replace the religious counseling with
counseling based on the empowerment of women to make their own
choices. Now, all of a sudden, an “enormous number of people are
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vulnerable.” Since the literature says that few women are suffering after
abortion, we might well ask: who are these people?
Earlier in the article Bader focuses on the “countless women”
receiving service from such programs. It was her contention that the
women involved were experiencing an “emotional fragility” that was
being exploited by pro-life programs that “tell women they should feel
guilty or bad.” No recognition is given to the fact that those women who
sought out such support and healing were doing so precisely because the
abortion itself has induced feelings of “guilt.” But such “natural guilt” is
not permitted in Bader’s call for a new style of healing. Women must be
convinced that the feelings that they harbor are not natural responses to
their abortions but are simply “religious guilt” that is the result of the
external imposition of unreasonable and punitive demands by outmoded
and patriarchal religious systems as expressed by church agents such as
Project Rachel. As Vicki Thorn puts it, “how intriguing that the criticism
is also a confirmation of the need for such outreach” (p.158). But this is
to be outreach with a difference.
In the last few years a concerted effort has been made to develop
post-abortion counseling from the perspective that women must be
helped but at the same time that abortion rights must be safe-guarded. In
order to do this the concepts of healing, guilt forgiveness, and
bereavement (well-known and documented in the literature) must be
reordered and reinterpreted so as not to recognize the humanity of the
unborn nor allow the woman to admit that her decision was intrinsically
wrong. As Ava Torre-Bueno puts it on the cover page of her recent
publication Peace After Abortion, “I believe passionately that I can be
supportive of every woman’s right to make her own pregnancy decisions
and still recognize the fact that her decision may cause her significant
The remainder of this paper will look at the philosophical
underpinnings of this new pro-abortion approach to post-abortion healing
and consider the assumptions and language upon which such programs
are based.
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Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy
The most complete articulation of this new counseling appeared in the
spring of 1997. The Healing Choice:Your Guide to Emotional Recovery
after Abortion by Candace de Puy and Dana Dovitich is a self-help
manual for post-abortal women who “do not always walk away from the
experience unscathed, even though they move forward with their lives....
Many women acknowledge a feeling of relief after their abortion, yet are
understandably upset by facets of the experience that they had never
anticipated....” The authors are practicing therapists who use the stories
of clients to explicate what they call the “unique realm of female
psychology.” It is to the word “choice” that the authors will come back
again and again, consistently reinforcing this as the fundamental precept:
“Emotional restoration after an abortion is a unique challenge because the
emotions a woman experiences are the result of a choice she made.
Paradoxically, her healing journey requires yet another significant
choice–a healing choice” (p. 14).
The book is formatted to provide exercises in healing. The design is
a workbook approach and a woman can complete these exercises in the
privacy of her own home. After all, this was her decision and she is in
control of her life and choices. There is no expectation of group support
nor of one-to-one therapeutic intervention. The book’s exploration of
healing focuses on the impact of the woman’s choice and on how she is
called to “realize how the overall experience may have impacted her life
then and now by recognizing what she has lost and what she has gained”
Philosophically this approach to healing is firmly rooted in the
feminist attempt to move the ethics of abortion out of the realm of rights
and into the realm of relations. Based on Gilligan’s concept of the ethics
of care and Nodding’s interpretation of feminine morality, relationships
become a defining aspect of women’s psychic responses. Such
connectedness is generated in and by the woman when she feels that the
unborn child is able to reciprocate. Without the presence of such a
relationship the woman need feel no responsibility toward that being.
It is important to set out more clearly the assumptions upon which
The Healing Choice is based and to compare these with the philosophical
premises of Project Rachel. In order to accomplish this, four major
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themes will be compared and contrasted: (1) the unborn child, (2)
forgiveness/empowerment, (3) spirituality/religion, and (4) ritual.
Consideration will also be given to the way in which the authors of The
Healing Choice, while accusing Christian counselors of being biased and
judgmental, actually direct the healing process by imposing their beliefs
and values about abortion on the women seeking help.
Project Rachel. In order to achieve healing and peace it is necessary
for the woman to recognize the child as present, the abortion as a death
experience, and her decision as the cause of death. Each woman is
challenged to seek closure to the relationship with the real but aborted
child by “developing a new spiritual relationship through the
Communion of Saints.” The child is seen as an individual human. He/she
had being, was, and is.
The Healing Choice. “For a post-abortion woman, whose loss was
her fetus, this process of reflection occasionally gives rise to dreams of
the ‘fantasy baby,’ a child she did not choose to have...wondering about
the baby she did not have, even to the point of missing the child it would
have become...sorrow over the loss of her ‘first born’ if the pregnancy
was her first conception.”
Here we see the divergence in views around the fundamental nature
of pregnancy. Healing in the Catholic context requires that the child must
be acknowledged to have been, while in the second it is assumed that the
child did not exist. It was the woman’s fetus and she chose to abort it.
What is left is a fantasy, a non-corporeal being summoned up by the
woman’s own images of what her life would have been like. The child
can only exist in the woman’s mind, and she is called on by the authors
to visualize life with this putative child. In this way “the fantasy may help
move her grieving forward as she recalls and reaffirms the reasons why
she chose to end her pregnancy.” There is no death experience, no need
to re-evaluate the choice. There is no recognition of error, but only a re-
affirmation that the abortion was the right thing for her.
This distorted vision of the relationship between the unborn child
and the mother is expanded in an exercise that the authors suggest that
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women undertake as part of the healing process: “If the fantasy baby has
represented the loss of a real baby, it is important to honor the loss of that
relationship. You can do so by writing a letter to the baby, even giving
the baby a name if you desire.” They go on to tell the woman what she
should include in such a letter: “You might tell the baby what the loss has
meant to you and express regrets or guilt you may feel. Remember, you
had reasons for your abortion, and it is important that the baby
understand what those reasons were.”
The Healing Choice turns the child into a text written in the mind of
the woman who controls the story since it is her story. How can a text
understand a woman’s decision to edit its existence? Why should a
woman need understanding from a fantasy?
Project Rachel. Recognizing that abortion is the taking of a human
life also requires an acknowledgment that to do so is sinful. For this
reason the program “clarifies the age-old position of the Church to
denounce the sin but love the sinner.” However, it is necessary for the
woman to recognize her responsibility for her action, see that it was
sinful, and seek repentance.
Forgiveness must occur at several levels–at the sacramental level
through the ministry of the priest, and at the internal psychological level
where the woman must accept the consequences of her action and employ
the sacramental grace from reconciliation to forgive herself and to forgive
those responsible for or involved in her abortion. This multi-level process
of forgiveness is accomplished by the empowerment that comes from the
grace of God. Forgiveness is a first and foremost a faith-driven process.
The Healing Choice. “Forgiving yourself for getting pregnant and
for having an abortion is essential.” In many ways the forgiveness is for
the act of becoming pregnant in the first place, since this meant that the
woman did not exercise proper “reproductive control,” thus letting down
the cause of female autonomy. The authors admit that forgiving oneself is
not always easy and they suggest ways in which a woman can do so.
They go on to lay out cognitive exercises–pen and paper tasks where lists
of reasons are compiled and forgiving statements and letters are written
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from the woman to herself. The following sample letter gives a clear
insight into the thrust of the program:
Dear (insert your name)
You are forgiven for having beaten yourself up for five years since your
abortion. You are also forgiven for having had an abortion because...(keep
writing until you’ve said it all).
With love and understanding,
(insert your name)
Through this approach the woman becomes her own universe and
therefore the only agent of forgiveness that matters in that universe.
While playing lip service to the fact that the religious woman must seek
forgiveness as a way to resolve guilt, it is clear that the authors use this
process as an opportunity for the woman to renounce any orthodox
religious affiliations: “She also, however, runs the risk of reinforcing the
old belief that her personal judgments are inadequate...the authority
figure’s forgiveness may only partially serve her.... It is then an
opportunity for her to look to her own truth and forgive herself.”
Here one sees the feminist interpretation of the role of the priest.
They do not recognize the forgiveness of God in the person of the priest.
He is seen as an authority figure, a representative of a patriarchal and
oppressive religious institution. There is no acknowledgment of the
sacramental nature of forgiveness in the Catholic Church. To explain
actual Catholic teaching does not require faith, but it does necessitate
honesty. But to be honest would undermine the authors’ philosophical
position, for God is only permitted to exist here as a servant to each
person on each person’s own terms.
In The Healing Choice forgiveness is a step in the healing process,
but not an essential one, since healing is really another word for
acceptance and in their world view “acceptance of your abortion doesn’t
require forgiving others” (p. 189).
How different the Christian approach. Project Rachel states clearly:
“She needs to forgive those responsible for and involved in her abortion.
This is an act of the will on her part, done in concert with the grace of
God which empowers her to do this. In forgiving these others she comes
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Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy
to an understanding of self-forgiveness and its possibility” Thorn (1994).
In effect, The Healing Choice is keeping true healing from women
by refusing to recognize that, by nature, humans must live in and for
community. Interaction with others means that we must be willing to
forgive in order to maintain relationships. Without forgiveness inter-
personal affairs become edged with bitterness and cynicism. Neither of
these feelings are conducive to psychological healing. A woman who
cannot forgive others will never truly forgive herself. She may well find a
way of sublimating the hurt through activities of healing, but she can
never confront the truth. The self-help approach of de Puy and Dovitch is
little more than a series of cognitive exercises based on a feminist
worldview. The exercises do not challenge a woman to consider that her
decision-making was flawed and that her abortion was wrong.
Consequently she will never truly face the full impact of what she has
done, and she can therefore continue to be a strong supporter of abortion
rights. By telling her that forgiveness of others is unnecessary, the
authors are helping to hide the truth just as surely as they are when they
attempt to dehumanize the unborn child.
Nowhere is the difference between the two approaches to healing more
dramatic than in the treatment of the concepts of spirituality and religion.
In the classic Christian tradition spirituality is often the expressive form
of a person’s religious beliefs, usually within the context of the doctrines
or dogmas of the church.
In The Healing Choice spirituality is defined as “deep passion for
life, a feeling of wonderment and awe and intangible fascination for the
powers that make the sun rise and the flowers bloom.” Theirs is a
spirituality without the need for a creative and omnipotent God. It is a
spirituality able to accommodate Mother Earth, or the Goddesses of other
religious systems. Ultimately it seeks to have women abandon orthodox
faiths and institutional churches, particularly the Catholic Church. The
authors go to great lengths to show how Catholicism is “patriarchal
religion” and an “oppressive religious force.” It is in this chapter on
spirituality and religion that the agenda of the authors’ is most
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abundantly apparent.
Because women should forgive themselves for any negative feelings
about the abortion, it is necessary that they do not recognize the fetus as a
child, that they do not acknowledge “guilt,” and that they understand that
they do not require intervention by a higher power in their healing
Healthy woman will therefore come to know that the feelings of
unease that they thought were “guilt” were really just outbreaks of
“religious guilt” since “many are wracked with religious guilt....” It is
therefore necessary for each woman “to find self-acceptance within her
present spiritual beliefs or to redefine her beliefs to include the reality of
her actions.” Thus, if she belongs to a religion or denomination that sees
the unborn child as a human being, she must reevaluate her adherence to
that belief system. Constructive religious systems offer community and
support and affirmation of “your genuine values” and, of course, a
woman’s genuine values may not coincide with a religion that requires
her to seek forgiveness outside herself. Rather, her values should be
regarded as the expression of her free floating spirituality. “Her personal
forgiveness might not always fit...within her religious doctrine but it can
induce maturation of her own spirituality.”
Once such maturation occurs, she is then able “to respectfully
deconstruct and reconstruct the specific religious doctrines that conflict
with [her] past abortion.... It can be challenging for a religious woman,
uncomfortable with a past abortion to remain within her church....” She
must “redefine her image of God order to take the power of healing
and self-forgiveness into her own hands.”
It is clear that a major component of this approach is an attack on
orthodox religion and thus an attempt to lure women into a false sense of
spirituality that is rooted in neither doctrine nor faith. In this world,
where no absolutes exist, each woman is not just her own priestess but
her own religion. “Psychological balance does not necessitate abandoning
your religion or abandoning God; it suggests integrating the general
precepts of your religious life with your even more thoroughly explored,
individually experienced spirituality. In this way, you may be able to
meld your spiritual and religious philosophies” (italics added). From this
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Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy
sort of integration the woman will be able write a letter to her God or
“whatever force you have chosen” and explain her reasons for the
abortion, why it was in her and her fetus’s best interests, and then “tell
God what you need from Him or Her.” This is a constructed God–a God
who must set no absolute rules, accept all decisions, expect no
repentance, and serve only as directed by each individual. The
unconditional love of God the creator is replaced by the unconditional
love of God the created.
In Hope Alive: Post Abortion & Abuse Treatment–A Training
Manual for Therapists, Philip Ney (1993) clearly demonstrates the
therapeutic efficacy of patients seeing aborted children as real and of
relinquishing these children by giving them back to God. This is done
three-quarters of the way through an intensive seventeen-day in-patient
treatment program. Dr. Ney says that “it is beautiful to have a simple
service. For this a priest or pastor may be invited.... The service can
include an appropriate reading from Scripture, a time for people to
confess to God their sins of abortion, followed by a which the
person talking to God acknowledges that they are the parents, that they
are responsible for a baby’s death, that they want the baby to know that it
is part of the family, and that now they want God to speak to the spirit of
the child and bring him/her to Himself hoping one day that they will meet
in heaven” (p. 137). “Each patient should also make a public
commitment never to have, condone, or encourage an abortion ever
again.” The rituals include symbolic burial, permission for the woman to
grieve, and exploration of ways in which each person can reestablish a
connection with God. “The simple plan of salvation can be outlined” (p.
Another less clinical but equally spiritual approach has been
developed in the Archdiocese of New York. Known as At Peace with
Your Unborn, it is a healing service for families who have experienced
the death of a child, a loss during pregnancy, or an abortion. The service
has several components: the sharing of a personal story, directed
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meditation that includes naming the child, seeking and receiving
forgiveness of the child, and giving the child to Jesus to take home to
heaven, and lastly the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation.
In Project Rachel bringing closure to the relationship with the
aborted child is essential and includes the elements above, as well as
“having a Mass celebrated for the child and the family.” These services
are an integral part of the fabric of Christian life. As historically
integrated forms of traditional religious expression, they are vested with
spiritual significance and are in no way “form without substance”; rather,
they are instances of “form given substance by faith.”
When the authors of The Healing Choice approach the question of
ritual, it is from a different perspective. The sacrament of reconciliation
and the Buddhist mizugo kuyo (a service for the souls of unborn children)
are mentioned together as “outward expression of heartfelt pain, conflict
or guilt.” But it is clear that these are less crucial in importance to the
woman than “the creation of a personal ritual.” Through this “you can
focus on the unique experience of your abortion and honor specific
aspects of your healing.” The authors go on to list circumstances that call
for the creation of ritual. Along with urging life and death rituals (saying
goodbye to a fetus, apologizing to the fetus), they suggest rituals for
oneself in order to “say thanks for what the abortion allowed” and to
“disempower the inner critic and empower the inner caretaker.”
Since such rituals, by their very individual and non-communal
nature, are form without substance, the authors must assist the readers by
setting out the eight elements that will imbue each personal ceremony
with significance and thus make it seem real and spiritually meaningful.
Looking at these eight elements requires little imagination to find the
source of their inspiration. One need only look to the Catholic Church.
Each element is taken directly from Catholic sacra-ments, symbols, or
How better to undermine the Church than to criticize her teachings
and to trivialize her forms of worship. Or does this speak to the enduring
truth in the traditions and liturgical practices of the Church? (See the
Appendix for a comparison of these feminist rituals in comparison with
the sacraments and sacramentals of the Church.)
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For the authors of The Healing Choice, the symbols of Catholicism
are transformed into elements of neo-pagan ritual. Recognizing the
significance of such symbols to our Judaeo-Christian culture, de Puy and
Dovitch show how these signs can be used to promote their feminist view
of healing. It is a healing that denies error or repentance. It is a healing
that allows the woman to continue to be pro-abortion, for it is a healing
based on the (false but persuasive) notion of acceptance that the authors
tell us, over and over, must come from the woman within: “If she looks
outside of herself for acceptance from an authority figure who will only
help her if she admits she made a ‘mistake’ by terminating a fetus, she
may find a false absolution because it is not her own.”
If this approach to healing expands, we will see the need for the
women who are taken in by these initiatives to be healed from the
healers. A new pro-life debriefing counseling may be on the horizon.
The following comparisons can be made between the original sacraments and
sacramentals of the Church and the surrogates used by the feminist approach to
(1) Special days/times/light/places (The Church’s feast days/All Saints Day/All
Souls Day/pascal candles/Jesus the Light of the World): Their purpose is to
commemorate significant dates, such as the “anniversary of your abortion.”
Women are urged to use candles, which “can be a powerful element in creating
the right ambiance. The actual lighting of candles can also be part of the
ritual....” (p. 199)
(2) Creating a special place (altar cloth/altar/sacristy/altar relics): The place is
to be set with meaningful personal objects that will be part of the ceremony:
“An elaborately embroidered cloth spread upon a table.... Some women like to
call this space their ‘altar’.” (p. 199)
(3) Special clothing (vestments/clothing for baptism, first communion, con-
firmation): “Just as a bride wears a white dress, donning special clothing can
affect your psyche.” (p. 199)
(4) Music (sacred music/bells): It is recognized that music can have meaning
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and can effect the emotions so that it can be “incorporated into ritual.” (p. 200)
(5) Readings and recitations (Liturgy of the Word/Eucharist Prayer/Litanies of
the Saints): These can be from any manner of texts–read aloud or silently–and
can be spontaneous words that “free your feelings and thoughts.” (p. 200)
(6) Special Objects (the crucifix/chalice/holy water/sacramentals): Objects of
the earth or art that have particular significance.
(7) Fragrances and flowers (altar flowers/incense/oil of chrism/May crowning):
“Incense, oils, spices and perfumes contribute to ritual through the power of
their aroma.” (p. 200)
(8) Drinks and Food (Eucharist/bread & wine): “A special drink, such as spring
water, fruit nectar or sweet wine, can amplify or sanctify a ritual.”
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