In her early days as a physician and psychiatrist, Dr. Eda Joanne Angelo did not think it prudent to make known her strong pro-life views. But that all changed 25 years ago, when she became involved in pro-life hospice and post-abortion healing programs.
For the past 14 years, Angelo has been a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican, where last February she presented a paper on “Post-Abortion Trauma: Treatment and Prevention.”
In August she was one of three recipients of the annual People of Life Awards given by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. The other honorees were Mimi Eckstein, longtime director of the Denver archdiocesan Respect Life Office, and Magaly Llaguno, founder of the Hispanic division of Human Life International.
A graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, Angelo has taught at Harvard and Cornell and is currently an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at her alma mater.
Register correspondent Brian Caulfield spoke with Dr. Angelo.
Tell about your decision to express your pro-life views publicly.
I have always been a pro-life doctor. For many years my work as a psychiatrist was best served by my staying out of the spotlight of pro-life activities. That all changed when, about 25 years ago, I was asked to help found the Good Samaritan Hospice of the Archdiocese of Boston and Project Rachel, a program of the Catholic Church which reaches out to women and men wounded by abortion to offer them sacramental Reconciliation, counseling and support in their healing journey. There was a considerable amount of public speaking involved in launching both of these programs which led to my entering the public debate regarding abortion and physician assisted suicide.
What are some of the challenges pro-life physicians face in our society?
One of the major challenges we face is the difficulty of getting papers and studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals. On an encouraging note, there has been acceptance of some of these papers in the British medical literature recently, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists has recently acknowledged the negative after-effects of abortion for some women.
Also, many prolife medical school applicants have told me that they have a difficult time gaining admission to medical school, and later they also have great difficulty being admitted to residencies in in obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics, where they are most needed. The Catholic Medical Association has recently formed a Catholic Student Medical Association which offers support and mentoring from established physicians. A book recently published by the Worcester Guild of the CMA offers first person accounts of 12 Catholic physicians which has proven to be encouraging to future doctors and others in the health care professions: Heart Sounds: 12 Catholic Doctors, by Steinhagan and Howland.
What was your reaction to being honored by the U.S. bishops with the People of Life Award?
It was a great honor to receive the People of Life Award from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Secretariat. Although it was never my plan to be in the public spotlight, I am happy to serve the Church as she wishes to be served — even if it makes me a bit uncomfortable.
What has been the impact of legal abortion on the medical profession, and other sectors of American society?
Abortion and euthanasia have corrupted our medical system by transforming the healing profession into a death-dealing trade.
Because abortion is legal and so often practiced even up to the time of birth, an entire generation of young people are confused about the value of every human life, and begin to fear their own fate if they themselves are less than perfect.
Some have come to regard themselves as abortion survivors, much like concentration camp survivors, to feel guilty that they have survived while so many of their peers have been destroyed.
The terminally ill, the frail elderly, and the disabled are also threatened by our culture of death. We have wonderful examples of physicians who have given their lives to caring for them and teaching others to treat them with compassion, competence and love: Two prominent examples are the late Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of the modern Hospice movement, and the late Jerome Lejuene, who discovered the genetic cause of Down Syndrome and established an institute in France to care for these children and to fund research to discover how to cure them.
You gave a talk last February in the Vatican on about “post-abortion trauma.” Is this accepted as a medical condition?
Abortion causes a myriad of psychiatric and medical problems for women and also for men and for the siblings of the aborted children, and even their grandparents, as well as the abortion providers. The negative after-effects can include unresolved grief, guilt, depression, substance abuse, failed relationships, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosomatic illness, breast cancer, fertility problems and work-related problems.
There is no single diagnostic category in the medical nomenclature which can be used to diagnose the negative after-effects of abortion. Therefore [in medical literature], I prefer not to use the terms “post-abortion syndrome” or “post-abortion trauma,” neither of which are codable diagnoses for statistical purposes.
How can the wider medical community begin to acknowledge the effects of abortion on women?
I think women themselves will convince the medical community and society that abortion is a terrible thing for women. Some are speaking out like the courageous women who have been helped by Project Rachel, who have written their stories for anonymous publication in a series of articles in the Boston Pilot [recently].
Many others who do not tell their tragic stories publicly, do speak to their friends, to young people, and to those faced with untimely pregnancies to ensure that the tragedy they and their babies have endured will never happen again.
Register correspondent Brian Caulfield writes from Wallingford, Connecticut.