Sunday, July 31, 2005

One, Two, Three Strikes - You're Out!

A very kind reader left me the text of a letter written by Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, which included the following statement (scroll to the comment section under my recent article about abortion and maternal bonding to read the entire text – well worth it).

“As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people.”

I had to stop and think: who are the specific people I want to reach? As I write these things, I tend to imagine the reader to whom I’m speaking, and I imagine the arguments this reader would make against what I propose. Lately, this voice has been asking me, “So what? So what if I (or my patient) might develop post-traumatic stress disorder? It is a necessary price for me/my patient to pay for relief from an unwanted/difficult pregnancy. It is only a chance, anyway.”

So what, indeed? So kindling, that’s what. Kindling.

If you’ve been reading these articles, you will remember Dr. Scaer and his work, “The Body Bears the Burden.” Dr. Scaer is a neurologist and psychiatrist whose research into PTSD as autonomic nervous system dysfunction arose from treating thousands of patients for “whiplash syndrome.” This is a somato-emotional disorder not unlike fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, RSD, etc., all of which likely stem from chronic stress (PTSD is a severe form of chronic stress). Other well-known stress-related illnesses are diabetes, heart disease, diseases of the immune system (such as lupus), and even some cancers.

He puzzled as to why so many of his patients had developed permanent injuries to the brain and spine even after low-speed motor vehicle accidents. A reasonable doctor (such a rarity), he decided against the irrational belief that his patients were involved in a mass conspiracy against the insurance and medical communities, and determined that since we could so easily identify a pattern in these syndromes, there must be something the medical community is missing. He is right on target, and he is supported in this by NIMH, who has encouraged medical practitioners to look for histories of trauma and emotional loss in their patients to determine if their chronic conditions stem from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Scaer started taking psychological profiles of his whiplash syndrome patients and found a commonality: multiple traumas, including the one that brought them to his office for treatment. Most of his patients with whiplash syndrome, fibromyalgia, and their kin had experienced some form of childhood abuse. So Dr. Scaer postulates that post-traumatic stress disorder stems from undissipated nervous energy created under life-threatening situations in which we “freeze.” Freezing is an automatic response to a threat when we are helpless to flee or to fight. Children are too weak and too small to do either effectively, so it is likely that freezing is the best survival technique. Mimicking death, and refusing to fight, children under attack in primitive cultures are more likely to survive (if attacked by other people, they may be taken hostage instead of being killed; if attacked by animals, perhaps playing possum will make the predator unwilling to kill and eat the prey). So children who suffer trauma are particularly susceptible to developing post-traumatic stress disorder. For the very same biological reasons, women are more susceptible than men are.

Research into just how prevalent childhood abuse is varies. The most destructive form of childhood abuse is sexual abuse, and Dr. Scaer records that “…the baseline incidence of childhood sexual abuse in women has been estimated at anywhere from 12 to 64 percent of the general female population in various studies. The average probably falls somewhere around 30%,” (page 75). Considering how under-reported childhood sexual abuse is, 30% may yet be too low. One-third of us will hear “Strike One!” in childhood, when we are most helpless. We will not all develop PTSD – at least, not yet. It is the “not yet” that brings us back to kindling, and the reason why we should not go out of our way to inflict damage on ourselves by submitting to abortions, and why the medical community should wake up and stop recommending it.

“The physiological model of kindling was developed in rats by applying a repetitive electrical stimulus to an area of the brain with specific frequency and intensity. Although each stimulus was insufficient to trigger a convulsion, if the stimuli were applied with a critical frequency, they would summate and trigger a seizure. In addition, if kindled seizures were induced in newborn rats with many repetitions, the rats would exhibit the tendency for spontaneous seizures that thereafter would be self-perpetuating, and would occur without any stimulus. In other words, these rats developed a relatively permanent change in the excitability of neuronal networks within the kindled part of their brain. The brain region most susceptible to kindling is the amygdala,” (Scaer, page 44).

The amygdala, as we’ve already discussed, is that center of the brain responsible for memory as it pertains to arousal (times of stress or trauma are states of arousal). It is where sensory input (smells, tastes, sounds, and other environmental cues that we perceive with our senses) is assessed for emotional content and meaning. It is where we learn most effectively, through fear conditioning – remembering to climb a tree when we see the tiger, as I related in previous examples.

Strike one: as many as thirty percent of women have suffered traumatic childhood sexual abuse. This leads to early and often promiscuous sexual behavior, as women learn young to relate to the world as sexual beings. They use their sexuality to gain love, affection, and favor. They fail to understand and define themselves apart from their sexuality. As Jane Fonda says, they “shine,” and become prey for sexual predators and others with ill intent who recognize their weakness. She even noted the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse among the girls who attended a camp for troubled teens that she established at one time in her career. Jane, like all of us, isn’t all bad. She is, like me, dissociated from her own emotions.

It is difficult, at best, to reestablish the connection when conscious memory is repressed, but emotional memory stemming from the uncontrollable action of the amygdala in our brains runs wild. We are left holding a bag of emotions that stem from some thought we have pushed away. Often then, because we refuse to look at painful past events, we will search our present lives for a reason for these negative emotions like fear and anger. How many times have you heard someone say, “It only bothers me when I think about it?” as they tell you they are fine, really – just fine. It takes a lot of energy to push those thoughts away, and unresolved, the emotions linger. These who protest being “just fine” are usually not fine at all from the outside looking in. Our anger is visible in our body language, facial expressions, and in how easily we seem to over-react emotionally. We aren’t really over-reacting, though. We just can’t tell you what we are angry about, because the emotions come from an area of the brain that does not include declarative memory. We become so skilled at pushing away the thoughts, there are many times we aren’t consciously aware that they were there to trigger the emotional response. But they arise with every stimulus to our senses that is assessed by the amygdala, which never forgets.

But I have digressed, and we are still at bat here. Strike two? Take your abused girl into young womanhood, and with her easy sexuality, she is likely to get pregnant before the time is “right.” Victims of sexual abuse have learned that our bodies are not our own, and that our own feelings have no validity or power. We become one of the estimated eighty percent of women who abort who would have chosen birth if help and support were provided, because we need that support more than others. We cannot stand alone in a world so dangerous because we have been crippled in our ability to think for ourselves. We were mastered as children, and learned helplessness very early. We submit to abortions in order to fulfill the needs of others.

Have you ever heard the saying, “one man’s choice can become another man’s duty?” I do not recall who said it, but I will give credit to EWTN, because that’s where I first heard it. It was explained in the context of euthanasia. I will explain it in terms of abortion, so let’s change the gender: “one woman’s choice can become another woman’s duty.” An unwanted pregnancy is a burden on the mother, the father of the child, their families, society – take your pick. “You’re too young to have a baby.” “You need to finish your education.” “We can’t afford another child right now.” “I won’t support you financially if you have a baby I don’t want.” "You already have more children than you can afford, so you are a burden on the state." “I won’t raise your child for you.” “It is your pregnancy that is making you sick, so if you want to be well, you must terminate your pregnancy (and my liability as your doctor, thanks).”

If abortion is legal and readily available, then abortion becomes the recommended solution to the problem. “Women do it every day. So can you.” Just as someone who is terminally ill may feel compelled to select suicide as an option instead of holding on to dear life in hope of survival, the woman who is pregnant with an unwanted child succumbs to the temptation to terminate the pregnancy even against her own desires and wishes. Her choice has become a duty, to protect others from the consequences of her condition.

If so far we have managed to come through sexual abuse and abortion with no symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, good for us. Let’s don’t get happy, though, because this fire still smolders because of kindling. Strike three? Take your pick there. We live in a dangerous world, where our bodies are hurled through space at higher speeds than at any time in history. Coming to a violent stop, even at speeds as low as ten miles per hour, as Dr. Scaer found, can be the last straw that sets post-traumatic stress disorder ablaze. One look at our auto insurance rates should tell us how likely we are to be involved in even a minor traffic accident, and that is just one example of trauma that many of us will experience as part of normal life. Most of those who suffer from full-blown symptoms of PTSD have more than one traumatic event in their histories. It is the cumulative effect of undissipated nervous system energy that summates. Each successive trauma makes us more likely to develop PTSD, and there are so many events that can be defined as traumatic.

Trauma as I have used it here has nothing to do with guilt, regret, relief, happiness, or any other emotion we feel about the traumatic event after the fact. Trauma as it is used here is the equivalent of driving our skulls against a brick wall, psychically and/or physically. If an avid skydiver survives a skydiving accident, she may suffer from PTSD as a result, even though the trauma occurred while she was doing something she enjoys, and may yet enjoy again. What she cannot help or forget is the trauma that resulted from her brush with death, and the helplessness she probably experienced at seeing the ground rushing toward her in the moments before the back-up parachute unfurled.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) defines trauma as a person having “…experienced, witnessed, [or been] confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others….the person’s responses involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.” Some examples include, but are not limited to, military combat, violent personal assault, kidnapping, terrorist attack, natural or man-made disasters, motor vehicle accidents, life threatening illness, and surgery.

Dr. Scaer elaborates:

“Actually viewing these types of traumatic events or seeing a dead body may be traumatic. Learning about these types of events occurring to a family member or close personal friend also may be defined as trauma. When the trauma is inflicted by another person, is especially intense, or the traumatized person is extremely close to the trauma, the severity of traumatization may be especially profound.

Being kidnapped, mugged, raped, involved in warfare, or in a severe MVA are life-threatening experiences, and therefore potentially traumatic. Photographs of survivors of tornadoes, floods, or other natural disasters clearly reflect the shock, grief, and suffering associated with shocking and life-threatening natural events. Witnessing a graphically violent event could be perceived as shocking and traumatizing, especially if the event had personal meaning or involved another human being…. Even learning secondhand about a severe traumatic event involving a loved one generally is a source of shock to a person,” (pages 1-2).

The last straw could be anything. There are already so many variables beyond our control, and so many dangers to avoid. When we walk into the abortion clinic, we may as well ask the doctor to use his vile instruments to suck out some of our brains as well as our babies. Or give us a clean and quiet room, a loaded .44, and time to blow our brains completely out. There is no difference. When we seek out abortion, we are seeking out that which will harm us, permanently. We may experience problems immediately, as I did, or like so many women as Dr. Theresa Burke says in her book, “Forbidden Grief,” our post-abortion traumatic stress syndrome may show up (or intensify, since the symptoms range from mild to disabling) at a later time, after another significant and usually traumatic event in our lives: another pregnancy and childbirth (as explained in the maternal bonding segment); the death of a loved one; divorce; or yet another abortion.

There are people who want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade based on new and still-developing medical evidence that abortion is more harmful to women than unwanted pregnancy. In addition, I also want to go to the source: if there were no doctors providing or recommending abortions out of real concern for womens’ health, we could put a dent in this problem. But only when the financial liability for abortion’s harm exceeds the potential liability caused by a difficult pregnancy will physicians stop using it as a medical necessity to protect themselves against litigation. And to go to the true source, I hope and pray that women will refuse to put this gun to their heads, as well, but that won’t happen until we demand better health care and honesty from the medical community about the true nature of this bullet to the brain.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Yet Another Role for Jane Fonda

I took a break recently to do a little thinking and a little reading, so now it’s book report time! Today’s subject: “My Life, So Far,” by Jane Fonda.

Before I go into my opinions and my review of the new role Jane is playing, I should say that prior to reading her autobiography, I knew little about her. I was a bit too young to understand the war in Vietnam as it happened, or the protest movement in which she became so deeply enmeshed. And I was certainly too young to see the Barbarella-Jane when she first came out. I’ve seen bits and pieces of it on cable TV, and it is most likely what turned me off from most Jane Fonda films, so I haven’t seen much of her work.

I saw and liked both “Agnes of God,” and “On Golden Pond,” mainly because of the strength of the casts in these films. I’ll give Jane her props, though, for these roles. Her performances were very good in my opinion.

Another reason Jane has rarely crossed my mind is that I have little to no interest in what celebrities have to say off-screen. Sure, they have as much right to free expression as I do. However, they are paid to pretend to be what they are not, so why do they think they are believable in the first place? Frankly, if I need information about Ritalin, I won’t ask Tom Cruise or Kelly Preston. I will ask someone who was formally educated. Just because a celebrity can play a doctor on TV doesn’t mean he or she could have handled medical school. I’ll stick with the professionals, thanks, even though too many of them lack credibility these days.

Some actors are so good they can even fool themselves, and after reading her account of her life, I would guess Jane rightfully earned her Oscars and could have received some for her performances in real life (which she admits freely, in so many words). But in this, what she calls her Third Act, I don’t think she’s giving us quite the Oscar-caliber performance of which she reminds us often she is capable. Acting is so much more difficult in print.

You might ask, if I’m so above the Hollywood opinion, why did I throw good money down on a celebrity autobiography? I’ll tell you. I had seen Jane making the rounds on the talk show circuit, and something about her demeanor caught my attention, and then I stopped to listen. What I heard intrigued me. I’ve been on a spiritual journey myself in the last few years, and I am no longer who I once was. I am interested in how other people experience change in their lives, and she seemed to be someone who at least felt changed. She said in her interviews that she had converted to Christianity, and then my interest peaked further when she said she was working with adolescents on reproductive issues in her now-home state of Georgia. I had no idea where Jane stood on abortion before or after her conversion. I didn’t check out the foundation she established until I had finished the last page of her book, and I didn’t read anyone else’s opinions, either. I wanted an open mind, and I wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

On camera, Jane plays the gracefully-aging, well-adjusting, saved, maturing, wisdom-seeking woman one would hope to be by her age of sixty-seven. As I said, though, acting doesn’t translate well to the page. She comes so very close to the truth, and I think has some keen insights into the behavior of women who have been sexually abused (as she believes she may have been, and as her mother was). Like me, Jane has some lost memories.

I thought perhaps I would find abortion in Jane’s life. Statistically speaking, I had a good chance of it, and I wondered if that’s what I had “recognized” in her when I watched her TV interviews. She discloses that her mother was the kind of woman other women could go to when they were pregnant and needed help, clearly meaning her mother knew the right doctors for the job. And in researching her role for her third act, it appears Jane is using her mother as a role model. Jane Fonda, peace activist, environmentalist, feminist and now self-proclaimed born-again Christian is in the abortion business. Check out, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention to find links to Planned Parenthood and their like.

Jane also makes it clear in her book that she shares her mother’s scorn for people who have more children than they can afford to raise. Her mother’s insecurities stemmed from time spent in poverty, and are therefore understandable. To hear these ideas from a woman like Jane Fonda, who never knew hunger or want of the basic necessities of life makes me ill. She looks down from her great height of material plenty and derides the poor, whose joys stem not from material goods, which they lack, but from each other. She would deny them the fulfillment of children because they are financially deficient, and perhaps take up too many of her resources, I suppose. She doesn’t really explain it well, or provide alternative solutions to killing off the humans who would like to inhabit this planet. We forget that we are a natural part of this world, not an infestation.

If I sound as if Jane failed to impress or inspire me with her introspective, it’s because she did. Miserably. While her writing style is readable, her material often drags. Instead of introspection there are too many times when it’s purely narcissism. Her account of working with Katherine Hepburn is a great example of Jane projecting, mirroring herself in others. In Jane’s version, Ms. Hepburn’s obvious jabs at Jane’s ego are turned around and become a self-esteem issue for Ms. Hepburn.

Jane ranges wildly from keen insight into the “shine” of sexuality exuded by women who were sexually abused as children to events that are obviously still shrouded in mystery for her. She reports that her second marriage began to slide downhill rapidly after her then-husband viewed a screening of “Coming Home,” which contains a sexually explicit scene. From what Jane describes of his response, I hear a man who isn’t sure who he’s sleeping with at home. She acts well, and apparently often. Jane is still unaware herself that she is playing a role, so perhaps she simply needs more time to think about it. She does consider herself a work in progress, which is good advice for everyone, me especially.

I wanted to entitle this review, “Jane, you ignorant ----,” but I guess it isn’t polite (old-time SNL fans like myself can fill in the blank easily enough). But Jane, one cannot be a pro-abortion Christian. There is no such thing. Abortion is simply not allowed under Christian precepts, in any denomination that relies on the New Testament Scriptures. I wonder if Jane is a “John 3:16 Christian,” and if so, it is sad. There is a wealth of information in the Scriptures, including the Gospel of women: The Gospel According to St. Luke. Jane conveniently forgets how Luke describes the meeting between Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and her cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Both women were pregnant. The second-trimester child in Elizabeth’s womb recognized the first-trimester Jesus, and leapt with recognition. The ancient word used for the unborn infants is the same word they used for born babies. The children in these wombs are filled with the Holy Spirit, but Jane, the self-described Christian, would have condoned the abortion of these. Jane, there’s no Christianity without Christ, and He was once an unborn child filled with the grace of God from the moment of His conception.

Another reason Jane’s book disappoints is that even though I slogged and dragged myself through the quagmire of her political views about war here, and war there (hear she’s hitting the “war” path again), and her great love for and knowledge about the plight of veterans, I got no where. She speaks about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as if she has studied it, and I would have expected her to know something about it, as deeply as she says she involves herself in Veterans Affairs. Jane says that our military trained our soldiers to dissociate from killing, to make them more efficient killers, and that this set them up to develop PTSD more readily. She’s heard right. There are studies that indicate this is the key reason why there seem to be so many more PTSD victims as a result of more recent military actions.

But in the present world, Jane, you ignorant…..she is teaching adolescents girls to dissociate themselves from their unborn children, to make them into more efficient killers and setting them up to develop PTSD. She wants a Good Brownie Badge for this, too. She understands that the male-dominated society required women to change themselves to suit the male workplace, instead of the workplace being changed to accommodate the special needs of women. But she fails to catch on that abortion holds women in slavery to men. A recent op-ed by John Lankeit in my Diocesan paper (The Catholic Sun, July 21, 2005) said it best:

“…in a world without contraception, pregnancy-proof sexual intercourse is not a given. In such a world, a man has to consider carefully how his actions will affect not only himself, but the woman. Here’s a real person - a real woman - with feelings and needs, dreams for success and love, and the potential to bring human life into the world. He has to stop and think, ‘If I got her pregnant, is she the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with – and vice versa?’ Suddenly, she is more than just a potential ‘fling without consequences’ as she is unfortunately reduced to in a contraceptive culture. Frankly, I can’t think of a single technological advance that is more abusive to women than artificial contraceptives. Women have been duped by a promise of sexual freedom. But in place of liberation there’s been a huge increase in divorce, in domestic abuse, and in single mothers raising children.” And abortion, I will add. All women are reduced to Barbarellas, and another good sign that Jane’s not nailing this performance is that she thinks Barbarella, as a film, was making a relevant social statement in support of women. And she says she’s actually seen it.

“Jane, you…” Oh, never mind. I’m not sure Jane will ever grasp it, but she comes so close that I have hope. How close? Eight pages, most of them photos (for a woman who dislikes her own image, she sure shares a lot of photos with her readers). On page 183, she writes that she never considered abortion an option to “back out” of a difficult pregnancy, but she was glad she had the choice offered to her. On page 191, she has this to say about the same pregnancy: “I am carrying life – what does this mean for me?” Life that she was glad she had the choice to end early on. I wonder, bruised and complaining as she is about her deeply troubled parents and unhappy childhood, if she ever gave any consideration to the effect these words will have on her son? He lives only by his mother’s choice, and she is glad of the power.

To top off her hypocrisy and my well of disenchantment, Jane tries very hard to make the reader bleed for the children who are and were killed by combat, something about which we should all grieve. And she sees what perpetrating horrors does to the perpetrator, as she laments, “What are we doing to our young men?” after recalling an incident in which a brutally broken soldier tried to confess having killed an infant in Vietnam. Jane, what are you doing to our young women (and men) down in there Georgia? Millions of us cannot even admit to the infanticide we’ve committed, as blocked and sputtering as the young soldier who tried to reach out to you.

I let Jane’s book gather dust with the last two chapters unread for at least a week, dreading even the small effort needed to finish it. After her charming accounts about population control (Hollywood-style eugenics), and the obnoxious image of Ted Turner (who she reveals was described as a male chauvinist pig) speaking in support of pitting women against their children, I was sick of the sound of her voice. I feel very sorry for Jane Fonda. She lost her mother young; was probably sexually abused in childhood; had an emotionally absent father; engaged in demeaning sexual activity and lost her identity for every man to whom she was committed – and as she gets closer to the day when she will meet the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, she is still mired in denial of that truth.

She is assuming a role that I think is based in part on what she sees as her mother’s good qualities. She is attempting to reconcile with her deceased mother, something with which I deeply empathize. She associates feminism with contraception and access to abortion, an all-too-common mistake. She claims to tackle every new project by attaining an inexhaustible supply of knowledge about the subject at hand, so she can “make it better.” I understand that, too. But she has neglected a wealth of data and personal testimony warning about the harm abortion causes, including depression, suicide, substance abuse, and PTSD. She likes statistics, but she seems ignorant of the 100,000 women who will be in post-abortion healing this year, and since 50% of us won’t admit we’ve ever had an abortion, these are the tip of the iceberg.

But with Jane, the hardest thing for me to understand is how ill prepared she is for this, her final role, as she calls it, especially after being forced to read in detail how well she prepared for just about every other role she has played. How does she manage to ignore the fact that her mother’s philosophies about sexuality and abortion never led her to where Jane says she wants to go? Jane’s tortured mother slit her own throat in despair, leaving her children vulnerable and alone. Don’t raise the curtain on your third act just yet, Jane. You have a lot more work to do.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Abortion and Maternal Bonding

In the last two segments, I have been describing the effects of trauma on the autonomic nervous system that lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have also discussed at length why abortion is always and intrinsically traumatic, well demonstrated by traumatized abortion clinic workers whose dreams are haunted:

“In my nightmares, I would deliver a healthy newborn baby. And I would take that healthy newborn baby, and I would hold it up. And I would face a jury of faceless people and ask them to tell me what to do with this baby. They were to go thumbs up or thumbs down, and if they made a thumbs down indication, then I was to drop the baby into a bucket of water which was present. I never did reach the point of dropping the baby into the bucket, because I'd always wake up at that point.”

~ Former abortion doctor, McArthur Hill

"She drew me aside and talked in a decidedly agitated manner of the increasingly frequent nightmares her husband [an abortion provider] had been having. He had confessed to her that the dreams were filled with blood and children, and that he had latterly become obsessed with the notion that some terrible justice would soon be inflicted upon his own children in payment for what he was doing."

~ Bernard Nathanson, Abortion Clinic Pioneer

I promised earlier to discuss the effect of abortion on maternal bonding in this third segment of a series on abortion and trauma. It may seem unrelated at first, but for one very technical and to me, puzzling line in The Body Bears the Burden, by Dr. Robert Scaer, referring to the neurological dysfunction of post-traumatic stress disorder: “The anterior cingulate serves an inhibitory gating function on fear conditioning by the amygdala, and also plays a role in generation of maternal behavior and social bonding,” (Scaer, p. 65, emphasis mine). I’m not a neurologist, or any other –ologist for that matter, so I have had to research and puzzle this out. I will do my best to describe my understanding of it.

The amygdala is a region of the brain that processes sensory input from the body: smell, taste, vision, hearing, and vestibular sensation (the position of the body as it relates to the environment). With this input, “…the amygdala evaluates the emotional meaning of the incoming information, and integrates the memory image of the event with the emotional experience,” (Scaer, p. 36). The sights, sounds, smells, and other sensory input we receive during times of trauma can become highly-charged cues for the emotions that accompany a life-threatening situation, such as fear or anger. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk has published a paper on the internet at, entitled “The Body Keeps the Score.” In his example of this physiological phenomenon, which is psychologically expressed as conditioned learning, “a rape victim may respond to conditioned stimuli, such as the approach by an unknown man, as if she were about to be raped again, and experience panic.” He goes on to say that “there are persistent and profound alterations in stress hormones secretion and memory processing in people with PTSD.” One of these hormones is oxytocin, which will be discussed again.

I briefly mentioned in the first segment on PTSD the fact that there is memory in our “primal” brain. We have two basic kinds of memory – declarative, or explicit, and non-declarative. Declarative memory comes from the higher brain functions, is conscious, intentional, and the type of memory we use to acquire information and formal education. It develops after an event complete with all of our perceptions, relevant past events, emotions, and well-developed impressions. It is the story we would tell to others. Non-declarative memory, on the other hand, also called implicit memory, cannot be expressed in words, but it is hard-coded. The body remembers what the mind cannot express. Dr. Scaer describes declarative memory as “knowing that,” and non-declarative memory as “knowing how,” because it is responsible for storing acquired skills, conditioned responses, and emotional associations. “All of the motor skills that we learn and never forget, such as musical, artistic, and athletic talents are stored in procedural memory,” a part of non-declarative memory. “Procedural memories are readily acquired without intention, and retained forever without awareness, especially if they are linked to a coincident emotional event. They are acquired and stored without the necessary involvement of conscious memory centers serving declarative memory,” (Scaer, p. 37, emphasis mine). The body does not need the conscious mind in order to remember.

The amygdala processes the emotions surrounding trauma and builds those memories. It also facilitates the state of arousal required of us in a life-threatening situation. The anterior cingulate, which Dr. Scaer describes as exerting a “braking action” on the activation of the amygdala “therefore provid[ing] a gating mechanism on the development of fear conditioning in traumatic stress,” (p. 110), is a region of the brain associated with “higher level input.” It is also where we develop social behaviors like the maternal bond and a sense of self.

In PTSD patients, PET scans show the failure of the anterior cingulate to activate. Since the anterior cingulate acts to inhibit the amygdala, we can conclude that its malfunction results in the PTSD patient being more likely to reach a heightened state of fear and arousal, and we see this confirmed in the research. Dr. van der Kolk cites the work of Grinker and Spiegel who “…noted the similarity between many of these symptoms [of autonomic nervous system arousal] and those of diseases of the extrapyramidal motor system…Contemporary research on the biology of PTSD…confirms that there are persistent and profound alterations in stress hormones secretion and memory processing in people with PTSD.” One of these hormones is, again, oxytocin.

According to Andrea Robertson, in her article entitled “The Pain of Labour: A Feminist Issue,” at, “oxytocin is the central hormone in all aspects of reproductive behaviour. In each area of reproduction (sexual intercourse, labour and birth, lactation) it works in the same way and is affected by the same inhibiting factors.” Ms. Robertson explains all of oxytocin’s actions in her article, and they include the initiation of care-taking behaviors in both men and women, and an increase in maternal nurturing behaviors.

Oxytocin is a stress hormone, also released in response to the pain of labor, acting accordingly in the anterior cingulate of the brain to facilitate maternal bonding. The research tells us that chronic and persistent stress inhibits the release of stress-responsive neurohormones like oxytocin. Those who suffer from PTSD are suffering from chronic and persistent stress, and they do not secrete the proper levels of stress hormones. As stated above, there are PET scans that show the anterior cingulate fails to act in those with PTSD, visibly demonstrating insufficient levels of oxytocin, the hormone required to activate the region of the brain responsible for maternal bonding. [Author's Note, 9/27/2005: Further research has led me to conclude that it is not the amount of oxytocin that is significant, but rather where in the brain it is utilized. In rats, the presence of adrenal steroids released in response to fear and anxiety makes oxytocin bind to its receptors (go to work) more readily, but mainly in the amygdala. If the anterior cingulate is not utilizing the oxytocin due to PTSD, the amygdala apparently is. Oxytocin is an endorphin, which has the same qualities in the brain as do opiates. We have all heard of "adrenalin junkies," but what they may actually be addicted to is not adrenalin, but the oxytocin and other neuropeptides that are released simultaneously. This opiod action on the amygdala also explains the roots of trauma reenactment, which can then be seen as unconscious self-rewarding behavior that is as difficult to control as opiate addiction.]

But what exactly is the relationship between maternal bonding and stress hormones? Pain. Pain is normally a warning sign. Something is wrong. Chronic pain like that manifested in fibromyalgia and its cousins is a malfunction of this normal neurological response, and we feel pain in the absence of painful stimuli. There is a time, though, when acute pain is normal, and not a warning that something is wrong. When a pregnant woman goes into labor, pain, a natural part of childbirth, tells her that something important is imminent.

Ms. Robertson says “the primary need for pain in labour centres around the need for a woman to know that the birth has started so she can retire to a safe place…[which is] crucial to the well being of both mother and baby, since both are immobilised and vulnerable during the event and immediately afterwards.” But pain is usually a warning sign, and it is unpleasant. We would not reproduce more than once if pain was all there was. The memory of it would cause normal women to shy away from repeating the experience, except for one thing: the unpleasant emotions surrounding pain are processed by the amygdala as described above. But in normal labor, the anterior cingulate is inhibiting the action of the amygdala, because it is being stimulated and activated by oxytocin. Oxytocin is released in response to the pain of labour. It stimulates contractions, reduces the risk of hemorrhage after birth, and increases maternal nurturing behaviors. No oxytocin in the anterior cingulate – no blocking the fearful memories being formed in the amygdala of our brains without our will or conscious thought – no bonding with the child, a warm experience that protects both mother and infant from the trauma of birth.

How does any of this relate to abortion? According to Dr. Philip Ney, a clinical professor at the University of British Columbia,, “…statistically speaking women who have had abortions are less likely to bond to their children.”
In 2002 the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry reported that “the children of women who have had abortions have less supportive home environments and more behavioral problems than the children of women without a history of abortion. This finding supports the view that abortion may negatively affect bonding with subsequent children, disturb mothering skills, and otherwise impact a woman’s psychological stability.” The Elliott Institute reports further that “abortion is linked with increased violent behavior, alcohol and drug abuse, replacement pregnancies, depression, and poor maternal bonding with later children. These factors are closely associated with child abuse and would appear to confirm a link between unresolved post-abortion trauma and subsequent child abuse.” Traumatized women cannot produce enough oxytocin during labor to develop a proper maternal bond, and the results range along the same continuum as do post-traumatic stress symptoms themselves. Some women seem to treat their children as little adults, responsible for fulfilling their adult emotional needs (“Why don’t they understand me?”). This has been called “emotional incest,” and is a sign that something went wrong with the maternal bond that would otherwise stimulate the woman to take the nurturing role. It’s not as obvious as physical abuse, but quite psychologically damaging to the child. The other end of the extreme is child abuse and neglect.

Even if we didn’t now understand the physiology behind the degradation of maternal bonding between aborted mothers and their children, we could see this with common sense. As she prepares for, thinks about, and dreams of the wanted and convenient child, the aborted mother reaches into the box for loving, maternal emotions and finds instead fear, anxiety, panic, anger, and all of the negative sensations surrounding the aborted child. Thanks to the trauma of unwanted pregnancy, and the trauma of abortion, these memories have been thoughtfully stored by the amygdala without her conscious will or awareness, associated to all things “Baby.”