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Friday, February 21, 2003

Harold Bloomfield, M.D. is a psychiatrist, a Yale-trained psychotherapist and an author who has written twenty-seven books on recovery from depression, resolving the past and other self-help topics. He has co-authored a book with John "Men are from Mars" Gray. Several of his books were bestsellers.

In 2000, during a publicity tour for that year's release, "Making Peace with Your Past", Dr. Bloomfield was asked by an interviewer for WebMD, "What advice can you give to a young woman who has recently had an abortion and is trying to move on?"

He said:

"That's a great thing to respond to. First of all, take some time to do your mourning and grieving. I remember myself, I was in a relationship in my twenties and we decided to have an abortion and I went with her, and the whole thing, and nine months later, unexpectedly, I went into a depression, and I didn't know why. It turned out this would have been roughly the time the child would have been born. So it's very important to give yourself the mission to, after an abortion, you're feeling a bit in shock, you can't believe it happened, and then after the shock, you have to go through healing, deal with feelings of anger, hurt, relief, even those you're ashamed of, and finally, moving towards reconciliation, and towards being able to reconcile yourself for having that abortion. It's good to talk to other women who've had an abortion, and it's very helpful in achieving peace."

That's a mouthful. He is using very vivid and loaded words to describe his feelings of thirty years earlier: shock, hurt, anger. I also notice that right after he refers to "relief" as a feeling that he had, he mentions feelings "that you're ashamed of". Does this mean he suffered shame because of his feelings of relief?

I always wonder what a man means when he says, "We decided to have an abortion". Does that mean that he said, "It is your decision. It is your body. I have no say in this." That is often experienced by the woman not as liberating but as abandoning. I wonder how much he did or said to his girlfriend to offer support to her should she choose to carry the baby to term. It's sad when a man says "I went with her" as if this is proof of his great degree of supportiveness. What a mensch.

Back to the interview:

"Also, you can visualize that soul that was about to come into your life, and say to that soul, "I'm sorry this wasn't the right time, or the right circumstance, but there'll be a later time where you can come into my life, if that's our destiny, and I look forward to that."

Knowing the intensity of the pain that followed in the aftermath of my abortion, I truly don't begrudge anyone anything they can say to themselves to feel better.

However, I do want to point out that there is no basis in any established worldview, scientific or religious, for the combination of ideas that Harold Bloomfield has, namely: When someone is pregnant, it is a real baby with a real soul, but it is okay to end its life, the soul will go on, and it makes perfect sense to say to that child, "I'm sorry this wasn't the right time, or the right circumstance, but there'll be a later time where you can come into my life, if that's our destiny, and I look forward to that."

The scientific worldview that would have been inculcated into Harold Bloomfield during his many years of education doesn't brook this talk about souls that go on after termination but which can come back later "if that's our destiny."

The Catholic Church has said, through Pope John Paul II in a letter that he wrote to post-abortive women, that "you will come to understand that nothing has been definitively lost."

This holds out the hope that mothers and fathers who have lost children to abortion may one day be re-united with those children. However, in so doing, the Pope and the Church recognize the dignity and reality of the soul of that child. For them, if that child has that dignity and irreplaceability, it also follows (for this and other reasons) that it is gravely wrong to terminate their earthly existence.

Harold Bloomfield doesn't profess the views of any of the traditional religions, and he is a highly educated man with a lengthy scientific background. Yet he appears to have been torn up enough about this abortion to have needed to seek comfort by creating a New Age-y set of beliefs around it. This suggests to me that he really needed a lot of comfort.

Back to the interview:

"Also, taking a look at, was there someone who let you down with regard to the circumstances that led down to your abortion. Was there someone that didn't wear a condom, or was there a family that said, "If you have a child, we'll throw you out," or was there your own fears that certainly every women has a right to being the master of her own body and life, and if you chose and needed to have that abortion, you need to forgive yourself."

I do not understand what he means when he says "or was there your own fears that certainly every women has a right to being the master of her own body and life" because, actually, it is incoherent. That happens sometimes in interviews. However, it might indicate, if it indicates anything, that Harold Bloomfield had some issues around how every woman's right to be the master of her own body played into the loss of his child to abortion.

Back to the interview:

"It means that you recognize that you may have had some doubts, feelings of guilt, but where you are now choosing to give yourself the peace of forgiveness. Forgiveness means that you let go of the anger you're harboring towards yourself. Gandhi said that "forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." So instead of resisting forgiveness, it's good to perhaps, on one side of the page, say "I forgive myself", and "yeah right"... and "I forgive myself"... "you don't deserve it"... "I forgive myself"... "not after the way I had this abortion"... Then "I forgive myself"... " I feel so ashamed'... " I forgive myself".... " I can't let myself off so easily"... "I forgive myself"... and then you start to perhaps say "I really want to".... "I forgive myself"... " I wish I could let go of my anger"... And finally, " I forgive myself, and I know that this soul forgives me as well." So you cultivate compassion, which we all need."

Again, a very strong set of emotions is expressed, and the impression is given that it takes a fair amount of work to get to a place of peace...anger at self, lack of forgiveness, shame, not deserving anything, not deserving to feel better after choosing an abortion.

Indeed, the emotions expressed by Bloomfield in this interview are very consistent with those I hear from post-abortive individuals in support groups.

It would have been a blessing if Bloomfield had used his preeminence to draw attention to the intensity of the grief reaction that can follow abortion, perhaps educating young men and women who were experiencing crisis pregnancies about other options than abortion.

In promoting "Making Peace with Your Past," Bloomfield wrote that:

"The past lives on in everything we think, feel, say, and do. Without a doubt, many of the here-and-now conflicts people have with their spouses, lovers, bosses, or children are, in part, reenactments of incidents that happened earlier in their lives. The past does not just sit there like an obedient child, waiting to be called upon when we want to remember things. It is a full participant in our lives. A painful past can haunt us, stirring up rage, regret, sorrow, shame, and other bitter feelings."

In January 2002, Bloomfield, 57, surrendered his medical license when several female clients alleged that he had drugged their drinks and then sexually fondled them. He pled guilty to two felony counts. The full story from the San Diego Tribune is reprinted on the Amazon page for "Making Peace with Your Past".

I have no idea whether Harold Bloomfield continues to be hurt by his abortion. I do think that the set of beliefs he adopted to comfort himself are not very sturdy beliefs.

Choosing an abortion often happens when the person has been damaged earlier in life, by any of a number of things. Those earlier injuries can make the world feel unsafe, and can make us feel that our position in it is fragile--so that our personality, dreams and hopes will be extinguished if a child comes into the world.

So the turmoil Bloomfield experienced that led to the latest sad chapter in his life may well be the unhealed residue of those earlier injuries. I pray for him, for grace, for insight, for wisdom, for recovery, and the peace that surpasseth all understanding.

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