Book Review: “Giving Sorrow Words” by Melinda Tankard Reist

Review – Dr Jacki Dunning


from Luke’s Journal 2019 | Hot Topics #2 | Vol. 24 No. 1

These are the stories you were never supposed to hear. These are the women kept hidden from view, whose feelings have been invalidated and whose experiences have been belittled. Giving Sorrow Words by Melinda Tankard Reist is an important collation of women’s true stories of grief after their abortion.

The stories in this book were gathered in a response to a small advertisement in a newspaper inviting women to tell the story of their abortion. Two hundred and fifty women responded, taking up the opportunity to open up their grief.

The eighteen stories that appear in the final edition are from women ageing from teenagers to seventy-year-olds, from students to professionals, both unmarried and married, both atheist and religious – demonstrating that the tragedy of abortion is not limited to one particular stereotype.

As well as the stories from forgotten women, Tankard Reist also includes a helpful introduction and afterword which takes an academic look at the phenomenon of post-abortion grief. This research was never presented at university and the common refrain has been that the only emotion women feel after abortion is relief.

This is important information for doctors to have when counselling women who are seeking advice regarding what to do with an unwanted pregnancy. One woman is quoted as saying, “Looking back now, if I had known then what emotional torment I would go through as a result of having the abortion, I would never have gone through with it.”

Common themes in these stories are pressure from family members or partners, insufficient counselling, paternalistic medical professionals and low-standard medical care.

“This is important information for doctors to have when counselling women who are seeking advice regarding what to do with an unwanted pregnancy.”

Whilst abortion has been heralded as a woman’s choice, these stories demonstrate that it was, in fact, the opposite.

Tankard Reist – a politically incorrect feminist – provides a platform for voiceless women to be heard. In doing so, she validates the lives of their unborn children.

This book should be essential reading for all medical professionals. Not only does it debunk the myth that abortion is pro-woman, it will also enable the reader to be more compassionate to those patients who have gone through the trauma of abortion.

Our patients need to know that “there will be losses having a baby, but don’t underestimate the loss of having an abortion”.

Dr Jacki Dunning
Jacki is a paediatric trainee at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney. She is wife to Joseph and mother to Joey (3 years old) and Idelette (11 months). She also serves as the student worker in CMDFA.