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Grieving Over Contraception and Sterilization

Interview With Theresa Burke of Rachel's Vineyard

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pennsylvania, JULY 17, 2006 (Zenit) - Debates over the use of the "morning-after" pill have often focused on the physical health of women.

Less discussed is the mental, emotional and spiritual health of women who use the drug, which can cause early abortions.

One specialist who does deal with the problem is psychologist Theresa Burke, the founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries. She reports that many women suffer pain and regret from use of contraception and sterilization in her book "The Contraception of Grief: The Genesis of Anguish Conceived by Abortifacients and Sterilization" (published by Priests for Life).

Burke shared with us some hidden effects of contraception and sterilization.

Q: What compelled you to write about grief associated with the use of abortifacients and sterilization? When did this trend first come to your attention?

Burke: For the past 20 years, I have been involved in the study and treatment of pregnancy loss and unresolved grief.

I never expected the subject of contraception linked to deep and hidden emotional pain to repeatedly surface during our weekends for healing after abortion.

Indeed, many abortions were associated with a failure in contraception. Any woman who leaves an abortion clinic is released with an arsenal of birth control pills. The behavior that led to the pregnancy is never addressed, but she is armed with the resources to prevent another pregnancy or so she thinks.

Besides these obvious reasons for grief, I was rather astounded that a growing number of women, including non-Catholics, were coming forward to say that they were also experiencing profound feelings of grief and loss because of contraceptive use which resulted in spontaneous abortions.

The subject was also being brought up by those who came to assist on our retreats, and had a moment of powerful spiritual revelation regarding a deep and unnamed grief they held buried within their soul.

I have encountered this unique grief on many different occasions. I'd have to say that among the many hidden sources of shame and grief in the Church today, perhaps none go as unnoticed, unmentioned and ignored as the emotional pain from the use of contraception.

Subsequently, when the realization dawns that a child, or several children, have been lost through various methods of birth control, there can be serious emotional consequences.

Initially, my focus was only abortion, not contraception. However, I saw our role as helping women face and grieve the reality hidden in their hearts. If their soul was in pain, who was I to say that it was not real?

I gave them permission to speak the truth that was hidden and to grieve the pain that was surfacing. I also witnessed the liberation and freedom, the openness to life, the joy and vitality that followed that experience.

Janet Morana, the associate director of Priests for Life, also encouraged me to write about this.

Janet felt that the pain she suffered from contraception was profound and she knew there were many others who also shared in this grief. She felt that few in society recognized or validated this hurt and that like abortion, pregnancy loss from contraception, is also a forbidden grief.

When Rachel's Vineyard became a ministry of Priests for Life, it was one of the first new issues I began to investigate.

Q: Briefly, how do some forms of birth control act as abortifacients? Why do so few people know about these facts?

Burke: Some forms of birth control do more than just prevent pregnancy.

The birth control pill, the IUD, and other hormonal contraceptives such as the morning-after pill -- "emergency contraception" -- Depo-Provera and Norplant can sometimes cause an abortion of human life that has already been conceived.

Dr. Walter L. Larimore and Dr. Joseph B. Stanford point out that the principal mechanism of oral contraceptives is to inhibit ovulation, but this mechanism does not always work.

They state, "When breakthrough ovulation occurs, then secondary mechanisms operate to prevent pregnancy. These secondary mechanisms may occur either before or after fertilization.

"The principles of informed consent suggest that patients who may object to the destruction of their fertilized eggs should be made aware of this information so that they can give fully informed consent for the use of oral contraceptives."

But most people never hear this fact. There is widespread ignorance on this subject and a lot of misinformation.

Although the Church holds the doctrinal truth in all its fullness, clergy rarely preach about it. The majority of Catholic couples practice some form of birth control despite the Church's official ...

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