By Donald DeMarco, PhD
Karl Stern’s The Flight from Woman, published in 1965, is not only a masterpiece of intellectual thought but a reliable roadmap to future events. In his chapter on “Womanhood,” this highly accomplished psychiatrist refers to a woman’s deep sense of time. Not infrequently, he notes, a woman who has had an abortion will experience “a serious depression” on the date that her child would have been born. For example, if the abortion took place in the third month of her pregnancy, she suffers a breakdown six months later at the time the baby was due.1
He points out two remarkable elements about this. First, the woman is not necessarily conscious about the correlation of the due date and her depression. Her depression occurs without any conscious awareness of what would have been the time of delivery. Secondly, the woman’s philosophy is not necessarily opposed to abortion. Nonetheless, her “reaction of loss” coincides with the time of the birth, which because of her abortion, did not take place.
Though he is a fervent member of the Church, Stern is not speaking as a Catholic but as a scientist, and he speaks in tandem with what other scientists have observed within the psychiatric profession. From a psychiatric point of view, this is a phenomenon that cannot be denied.
In a recent commentary, Judie Brown, president of American Life League, reported an account from a post-abortive woman named “Carol” that further corroborates what Dr. Stern reported. According to Carol: “Thirty years later, in church, I begged forgiveness for my sin—but did not feel forgiven. The priest I spoke to told me to ask forgiveness of my child. Over and over, I asked my child to forgive me. In a vision, I saw three babies playing in the clouds. One turned to me and said ‘Hi Mommy.’ It was at this moment I knew I had been forgiven.”2
This is a moving testimony that warrants sympathetic understanding. It would be less than human to inform Carol that her experience was fraudulent, as it not only conforms to the experiences of many other women but tells us something important about womanhood itself. As Professor Stern writes, “Woman, in her being, is deeply linked to bios, to nature itself.”3 To deny what a woman experiences after an abortion is to deny the very nature of womanhood itself.
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