True or False? The Divisive Subject of Abortion Should Never be Addressed at Sunday Worship Services

January 27th, 2016


Black Woman Praying

I was recently at a party where the topic of religion and abortion came up.  A Christian minister overheard the discussion and abruptly interjected:

“Abortion is a private and sensitive issue. Whatever your position on abortion, Sunday services are not the place to talk about the subject. We can’t let politics get in the way of preaching the Gospel.”

Maybe you agree with this minister.

The Shockwaves of Abortion

There have been nearly 60 million abortions since 1973.

Does the silence of the church communicate compassion  to those who experienced an abortion?  Is it sensitive and respectful to avoid addressing this issue with the countless fathers, grandparents, family and friends that are intimately part of many abortion decisions?

Or does this silence reinforce denial and ignore the deep pain and grief of those who desperately need to hear a message of healing and reconciliation?

Leslie suffered for many years with periods of depression, anxiety and nightmares connected to her two abortions at age 16 and 19. Leslie medicated her pain with alcohol, and later when she married, she was involved in a number of shameful and secret extramarital affairs. Later she was given prescription drugs prescribed by her family doctor to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. None of the therapist or medical professionals she went to for help asked if there were any abortions in her history.

But what really hurt and angered Leslie was the failure of her spiritual leaders to recognize this hidden pain:

“If I had heard a compassionate and hope-filled message from my minister talking about how abortion can hurt some women and men and their relationships and families…if I heard after my first abortion that there were healing programs available for people like me…I may have been able to prevent the death of my second child and get the help  I needed much earlier in my life. I may have been able to save my husband and my children from living for years with the symptoms of this wound that was festering in my heart and soul. That pain led me to do things and try to cope in ways that hurt not only me and my relationship with God, but those I loved the most.  

Maybe hearing about women like me would help others understand that – yes an unplanned pregnancy is a life changing event that can be filled with fear and uncertainty – but abortion also changes your life in a powerful way.  For me, it brought years of pain and suffering…it was only later that I learned how the symptoms I suffered were rooted in the deep grief  from those two abortions…a grief I kept buried for many years. 

Good News from Ireland

To be fair, our church leaders struggle with the same thing many of us do in our families, workplaces and churches:

How do we address this sensitive topic in a way that does not hurt or alienate those that have been part of abortion decisions – especially those that have experienced the procedure and lost a child to abortion…yet does not compromise the moral truth that abortion is a grave sin against God and the dignity of the human person?

Is this even possible?

Fr. Pat Scanlan P.P. has been serving in Parish ministry since his ordination in 1977 for the Diocese of Cloyne, Ireland and has been a member of the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat team in Cork since 2003.

The following interview with Fr. Pat is an excerpt from the book Sharing the Heart of Christ:

Fr. Pat, how long have you been involved in post abortion ministry?

Since my ordination to the priesthood in June 1977, I have met with many women and some men who have been wounded by abortion. Almost invariably they were crying out for forgiveness and healing. In my experience the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation marks a decisive step in their journey towards recovery. Yet I have always felt that they needed something more. What that something was, I was not so sure. Yes the sin had been forgiven, but they had a deep need for healing and restoration.

How did you get involved with Rachel’s Vineyard?

In the summer of 2003, I had a phone call from a good friend Bernadette Goulding who shared with me her excitement at having discovered a movement called Rachel’s Vineyard…

Can you share from your experience serving as a member of the Retreat Team?

Being involved in these weekends certainly ranks among the most rewarding experiences of my priesthood….

It is not an exaggeration to say that on each weekend we experience miracles of grace. The participants usually arrive bowed down by too many years of grief and self –loathing. Slowly, gradually as they enter into the process of the weekend they get in touch with, express, release and reconcile deep painful post abortive emotions…As they leave to return home on Sunday afternoon, many of them will have experienced the Mercy of the Lord at a very deep level. A grace that is truly amazing has touched wounded hearts and made of them beloved disciples who will in turn become instruments of his compassion to others…

How has your work in post abortion healing impacted your preaching?

Prior to my involvement in Rachel’s Vineyard I often felt a bit scared at the prospect of preaching the Gospel of Life. I was conscious that in any congregation there may be one or more who had experienced abortion, and I was never sure how to effectively proclaim the truth while at the same time witnessing to compassion.

The truth without compassion is a lethal weapon particularly for wounded souls. Compassion without the truth is a cruel deception.

Now I actually enjoy preaching the Gospel of Life. I know from my experience of Rachel’s Vineyard that the Gospel is truly Good News…I usually tell my congregation that what I want to share is what I have learned from women and men, who have had abortions and how the Good Shepherd is waiting to embrace, heal and forgive them. I share in a gentle compassionate way that abortion wounds the lives of mothers and fathers. I know that if there are women and men present who have had abortion they will identify, and realize that the church wants to help them.

I have had people come to me afterwards to find out more about Rachel’s Vineyard.  For the remainder of the congregation, when I then proceed to present the church’s teaching on the right to life of the unborn it is but an obvious and positive conclusion to be embraced, once they have heard a little about post abortion suffering.

The Harvest is Plentiful!

You can see in Fr. Pat’s feedback the awesome possibilities for ministry and evangelization if we can extend a message or reconciliation and healing in our churches for all those impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion. Sharing the Heart of Christ is a great resource for Priests, Deacons, Counselors and Laity in ministry to those suffering after abortion. The book provides a brief overview of some key issues in ministry to those with abortion loss, but also pastoral concerns and sample homilies to assist in preaching about this topic with truth, sensitivity and mercy.

Here’s what Bishop Robert Vasa had to say about Sharing the Heart of Christ:

Sharing the Heart of Christ provides an assurance of hope for genuine healing and peace for those afflicted with many manifestations of unresolved post-abortive guilt, grief and shame. This work helps us further understand the nature of the abortion trauma, the reason for its persistence and the possibility of healing. It is a book filled with hope. Here we learn how the healing power of God’s grace coupled with sound psychiatric principles can and does, in the midst of a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, produce an abundant harvest of healing and peace. I had the privilege of participating in a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat several years ago. The power of the experience continues to have an impact upon me. May God bless and reward your good work. – Robert F. Vasa, Bishop of Santa Rosa, California

Share this blog with your minister, priest or pastor today…better yet get them a copy of Sharing the Heart of Christ.


I’ve Confessed My Abortion Sin…Why Can’t I Forgive Myself? Fr Ben Cameron Shares a Message of Hope and Healing

January 11th, 2016


Divine Mercy

Have you or someone you care about received the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest or confessed to their minister/pastor the sin of abortion…yet still struggle to forgive themselves? Some will confess multiple times hoping to find freedom from the guilt and pain, anxiety, addictions and other symptoms.

This is a common problem. Many women and men will benefit by a more intensive grieving and processing of their abortion loss in an abortion recovery program, so they can find the deeper emotional and spiritual healing they hunger for.

The grace of confession and the forgiveness of Christ and the Church are certainly a great comfort and healing for countless women and men hurting after abortion. But it is important to keep in mind that abortion can be a very deep and intimate emotional and spiritual wound. Often there is a need to build on the grace of that confession which can serve as a kind of tilling of the soil in one’s hearts and soul. This creates the conditions for additional healing and recovery work that has been a blessing to so many who have made that rewarding journey.

Fr. Ben Cameron, CPM is the Assistant General of the Father’s of Mercy and through his preaching and pastoral ministry reaches out to those suffering after abortion loss. Fr Ben serves as the spiritual director at Relevant Radio and on a recent radio program spoke on this important issue.

Fr Ben shares a beautiful message of healing and holiness and touches on this issue of forgiving oneself and the benefit of an abortion recovery program. Fr. Ben reveals how God wants to reach out in this Jubilee Year of Mercy with his forgiveness to those impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion.   You will also hear in this program a number of callers, women and men who have experienced abortion loss that address some key issues in the healing and recovery journey.

Here’s a link to the program

I invite you to also consider the book Sharing the Heart of Christ which offers an easy to read overview of some key issues in recovery after abortion such as repeat confessions and self forgiveness. The book is an excellent resource with preaching and counseling information and tools to help clergy, ministers, and counselors and lay people to reach out more effectively to the millions of women and men impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion.



The Spiritual Epicenter of Abortion Recovery – Healing in the Churches

January 7th, 2016


Jesus Walks Water

Hard to believe, but with the rapid passing of 2015 we begin year two of our Shockwaves Initiative.

Why is it important that Shockwaves is an ongoing effort and not a one year project?

This Initiative can be best understood as a developing wave of awareness and healing. We know that on open water, it is the consistent power of a driving wind that over time builds large and powerful waves.  The waves we are building in the Shockwaves Initiative are driven by the power of prayer, awareness and healing.

The first year of Shockwaves saw the launch of a successful foundation and we have seen the ripples of awareness and healing begin to reach the many groups impacted by abortion.

If you have partnered with us in the last year and had an opportunity to publicly share about the Shockwaves vision, you likely experienced this common reaction to your presentation:

– I never thought of abortion this way.

– I never realized how far reaching the Shockwaves of abortion are and how they have impacted our families, communities and nation.

– I can now see the widespread need for awareness and healing in our society.

In January we return to the spiritual epicenter where awareness and healing can produce the most powerful fruits – the local churches. It is time to continue our effort with renewed zeal, and help our clergy and ministers, and all church leaders to understand that abortion is more than a contentious and polarizing political issue in our society (as was slavery for many years.)

Every person sitting in their congregation has been touched in some way by abortion loss.

In 2015 Donna Gardner of the Diocese of Palm Beach was invited by a parish pastor to share a message about abortion healing at all the masses offered that weekend. She learned earlier that year about Shockwaves after participating in a webinar on the initiative for counselors and ministry leaders. Given the parish demographics, Donna was inspired to draw from the Shockwaves Initiative and focus in a special way on the experience of abortion loss among grandparents (a special focus in the month of March.)

As she began to share her message with the parishioners, Donna could clearly see that many were deeply moved by the acknowledgement of their grief as grandparents; she could see their eyes filling with tears as they openly expressed their pain.  She wondered if this was a coincidence that so many in the congregation were moved by her message. In the next 3 masses Donna discovered the same widespread level of grief openly expressed by the large numbers of grandparents sitting in the church pews.

A Spiritual Tsunami

Donnas experience reveals there are countless women and men sitting in Sunday services each week who long to hear a message that gently affirms a loss that is already known to their heart and soul – but is often deeply repressed, and rarely acknowledged. They are the parents, grandparents, siblings, pro-life advocates and friends and family members all touched in different ways by abortion loss. The Shockwaves initiative with the blogs, articles, research and especially prayers and preaching aids, can help our spiritual leaders reach out to their congregations with a message of hope and healing.

There is a spiritual tsunami that is just beginning to build. Those of you involved in post abortion healing ministries have seen the spiritual fruits of abortion recovery programs.  If we can pray and work together with Christians of every denomination to share the Shockwaves Vision with their congregations, we will see a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will transform our nation and the world.

Who would have thought that 2000 years ago an instrument of gruesome torture and shame would become an international symbol of God’s passionate love for mankind, and his healing and saving power? God never wills that one of his sons or daughters participate in the death of an unborn child.  But perhaps one day we will look at abortion as the instrument God used to bring about a spiritual revolution that would bring millions of wounded souls to the merciful Heart of Christ.

The Cross Above the Manger: Coping with Grief and Loss Over the Holidays

December 23rd, 2015

Manger 2

Christmas can be a magical time, especially when enjoying the season through the eyes of children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  However alongside the lights and festivities, the joy and wonder of this special time, many can quietly struggle with a sense of grief and loss.

You don’t have to be an Ebenezer Scrooge to recognize that the expectations for an idealized Hallmark Card Christmas by the fireplace fail to match up to the complex realities, the uncertainty and fear that are part of many of our lives.  Death of a friend or family member, loved ones serving in the military, illness and unemployment can cast a long shadow on our holiday celebrations.   Holidays can magnify any painful experiences of family dysfunction in the past and may linger and impact current family celebrations.

Those ministering in the abortion healing ministries know that this time of year, the focus on the Christ Child and the joy of children at Christmas can surface feelings of regret and sadness about a past abortion loss (or losses.)  We remember the son/daughter, grandchild, or a brother or sister who will never share in the wonder of the season.  This repressed and unrecognized grief associated with abortion and other losses can be expressed in substance abuse, depression, melancholy and a hunger to remain distracted and busy amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.  Often there is great fear to face that deeper grief and the often complicated feelings and painful memories that can accompany such losses.

If we can slow down the Holiday rush for a few minutes, we may discover something important in the deeper meaning in this great feast.  As the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus unfolds, before the choir of angels sings to the Shepherds in the fields, we see the first reaction of Mary and Joseph upon learning of their unique vocation and calling from God:

As the Angel Gabriel encounters Mary, he responds to the anxiety in her heart:

“Do not be afraid Mary…”

Joseph is sick at heart and very confused after learning of his beloved fiancé’s unplanned pregnancy; the Angel proclaims:

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife…”

Of course they were both confused and afraid.

We think of the Christmas story in the context of cozy and warm family gatherings, with the smell of cookies baking in the oven.   But in the real Christmas story, the lives of Mary and Joseph are in the process of being turned upside down!  They will face even more fear and uncertainty as their vocations unfold.

Joseph and Mary, and the life of their newborn child will soon be threatened with terror and death from a demonically inspired Herod. They face dangerous travel and exile from their hometowns for years to come.  Joseph and Mary surely were challenged in many ways that the stories do not recount.  Their faith and trust in God were forged in the fires of these trials, testing and temptation that are part of all of our stories.  We can imagine that Joseph had other moments of doubt and confusion and in prayer would remember the Angel’s reassuring message:

“Don’t be afraid Joseph; God is with you, keep moving ahead…trust in Him.”

Fr. Bernhard Speringer shares:

  …the Cross above the Manger is more than a mere decoration…The birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Manger and the Cross, belong together indissolubly. God became man in order to die for us as man. God was born in Bethlehem in order to be able to lay down his life on Golgotha out of love for men!  Thus the Manger and the Cross form a union. Both the Manger and the Cross are for us the revelation of God’s love.

Emmanuel – God with Us

With the help of the Holy Spirit, this feast can be time of abundant grace and new opportunities for spiritual growth, healing and joy – even when the Holiday time is far from ideal.  In fact, just as with the Holy Family, suffering can lead us to a deeper encounter with our Christian vocation:

  • The movie Inside Out very beautifully illustrated how grieving can help us to move beyond the denial manifest in hyperactivity, addiction and numbness. As the story of Riley in the story reveals, healthy expressions of grief can help us treasure what has been lost, more deeply embrace those we love, and empower us with new energy to embrace the future. Make time to be with friends, family or see a priest/minister or counselor who you can share your heart with.
  • If you have a friend or relative who is going through a tough time or had a rough year, make some time to be with them. Acknowledge their loss and invite them to share their heart with you. If a relative is missing a loved one, offer them the greatest gift of sharing their dearest memories and feelings.
  • If you know a friend loved one who was impacted by an abortion and they have shared this with you in the past, share a pamphlet or contact information for an abortion healing program in your area. If they want to share about their experience, receive what they are ready to share from their story, and offer the good news that this is a perfect time in the upcoming New Year to bring this suffering to the Lord, and attend a program for spiritual and emotional healing after abortion.
  • Sometimes it can seem like life is giving you the short end of the bargain. You can struggle with anger at God and others for various trials and challenges. Try to remember that the anger, bitterness or sadness from your life wounds are a potent spiritual reservoir of grace when united with the suffering of Christ. Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice to our Heavenly Father. We can unite our imperfect sacrifice (some of that pain may be the fruit of our own sin or the sin of others) to the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary on the altar at each mass.
  • Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently. Confess from the heart any bitterness, resentment arising from those areas of sin and darkness that are part of your life story and may be especially painful this time of year. There is powerful grace and peace when we open our heart to Christ through the Priest, and with God’s grace move to grieve our losses, let go of what is out of our control, and experience a new freedom and peace. Cry out to God for His mercy and peace. This sacrament is especially fruitful in times of suffering and temptation.
  • Exercise daily if your health allows. It’s the best medicine in the world for anxiety and depression. Just a brisk walk in the woods or by the water can lift your heart from the depths and help you see the sky, sun and the hope of new beginnings.
  • Make a resolution to get involved in service in your local church. Reach out of your own pain, and offer the love of Christ to the homebound, prisoners, the homeless and children in need.

Surviving Family Celebrations

Celebrate and rejoice in and through the pain.  Things were far from perfect for the Holy Family.  It’s ok that your marriage, family and holiday celebrations are far from idyllic.  Lower the heavy expectations you place on your shoulders to provide the perfect holiday.  It’s more important to take more time for mass, adoration, and prayers such as the rosary.

At Holiday gatherings, avoid those conversation topics and encounters that will feed into conflict and stress you out; ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to avoid getting pulled into any toxic dynamics and exchanges and let the peace of the Christ Child reign in your heart.  Give yourself permission, especially if you are struggling with your own grief and loss, to avoid or at least limit certain situations that will drain you emotionally and spiritually.

If you are fortunate to enjoy the company of friends and family in sharing the joy of the season, praise God and treasure this great gift.

If sorrow and pain are part of your journey and at times darken your Holiday celebrations…you have not been abandoned.  You have been called, and Jesus would say, blessed to share in the suffering of the Holy Family:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.  Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   (Matthew 5, 3-10)

Imagine: The Impact on Modern Music If Abortion Was Legal in 1940’s England

December 10th, 2015

Rock and Roll

By Kevin Burke, MSS

Let’s imagine that abortion was legal in March of 1945 in the United Kingdom. A 16yr old girl named Patricia takes the bus to her local Planned Parenthood center for a pregnancy test and discovers she is pregnant. Patricia explains to the counselor that she was impregnated from a torrid affair with Edward, a married soldier who will be ending his time of service in the next few months. Edward will be returning to his wife in Canada prior to the expected due date of the baby. Patricia is afraid, embarrassed, and does not want to parent this child.

If you are in favor of abortion rights, you would likely agree with the Planned Parenthood Counselor that the only rational and compassionate solution to this young woman’s pregnancy would be termination of the fetus.

You just aborted blues/rock guitar virtuoso Eric Clapton.

Let’s imagine another scenario: It’s Wartime Britain in 1940 and German bombs are reigning terror on the civilian population. A young woman named Julia is pregnant by Alfred, a merchant seaman who by nature of his profession will have little time to father his son and support his wife. The pregnant mother is a creative and free-spirited woman unprepared for the responsibilities of motherhood with a partner away at sea. Julia’s sister would very soon have to assume the parenting of any child she birthed as the county social services would consider Julia unfit to provide sufficient care and protection of children.

Now, if this mother were to enter a Planned Parenthood or other abortion provider today, what course of action would the counselor most likely advise? Based on the thousands of testimonies of women after abortion, she would have been strongly counseled to abort.

Julia’s son was born and soon raised by his aunt Mimi after Julia relinquished the child. As a teenager, her son would form a band that would launch a seismic revolution in culture and music in the 1960’s. This boy later wrote a very moving and beautiful song for his mother, Julia:

… Julia, ocean child, calls me
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering
In the sun
Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

If abortion were a common, socially validated and readily available choice for women in 1940, the world would have never heard the innovative and beautiful music of John Lennon and the Beatles. John would have likely perished in his mother’s womb.

The Paradox of Abortion Support in the Creative Arts

Each child lost to abortion reflects the great diversity and endless possibilities of every life that comes into this world. Many of their stories would have featured the combination of triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow that marks many of our lives; simple lives of love, life, routine and family.  Some, like John Lennon and Eric Clapton would impact an entire generation and change the course of culture and music.  Many of these men and women would have shared their own creative gifts as writers, artists, musicians, actors and poets.

As we learn more and more about the complex and dynamic creative process that begins with the conception of each person, we see that God is the consummate creative artists. What amazing diversity, wonder and beauty are reflected in all of nature from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to the genetic complexity of the fertilized zygote.

This creative power is also shared in a special way with those who are born with and develop those gifts we find in the creative arts. The musical artist has the capacity to take the normal experiences of desire and love and touch us deeply with the power of song and lyrics.

Consider Eric Clapton’s aching love song for the lovely Pattie Boyd, Bell Bottom Blues:

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry.
I don’t want to lose this feeling.
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms.

The music of the Beatles and Clapton, the thrill of a theatrical production, and the power of story in song, books and movies brings such richness and joy to life. It holds the power to deeply move and even change us and the world we live in.

Across the Universe

There have been nearly 60 million abortions in the U.S. alone since 1973. Consider for a moment how many amazing artists were lost.

Yet most women and men in entertainment, music, art, and theater embrace what they see as the progressive and compassionate position of supporting and promoting abortion rights.

It is time for the artistic community to rethink the promotion of abortion as a human right and social good.

This world and the entire universe are the great majestic canvas of our Creator. Let’s return the providence over life and death to the One who from nothing, unleashed the multitude of galaxies and stars, the diversity of life on this planet, and his crowning achievement, the human family. While God loves all of his creation, he shared his Divine life with human beings alone; offering us the great gift of sharing in His eternal nature.

This is what draws us to an artist like John Lennon. With all of his success and fame, faults and failings, Lennon had that very special God-given talent to touch our hearts and souls with his words and music:

Across the Universe
By John Lennon
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me…

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe…

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe



25 Years After Two Abortions Woman Finds Healing After Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat

December 2nd, 2015



By Jen ReedThe Catholic Witness

Twenty-five years of utter grief and guilt from two abortions before the age of 16 was more than Becky Biter could stand.

So relentless was her anguish that she planned to take her own life.

“I started searching for a tree to slam my truck into, because I couldn’t take it anymore,” she recalls.

The tears come fast as she recounts the lowest points of her life, with her husband, Shawn, sitting close at her side.

“Abortion changed my life forever. You cannot take death back. I cannot get my children back,” she cried, striking at the heart of the issue. “It brought me to my knees many, many times, and there just wasn’t relief. There was so much pain and weeping; terrible feelings that I couldn’t let go of.”

Becky endured a tough childhood. Her father was an alcoholic and a gambler who often left his family to fend for themselves, leaving her mother very bitter to the point where the atmosphere at home was even more unstable and full of anguish. By the time Becky turned 13, her life turned upside down when her family became homeless. Refuge was finally found in two local motel rooms because her parents separated once again; one parent living upstairs, the other downstairs, and Becky back and forth, being forced to decide on whom she loved more. No longer able to deal with her parents, she left one night and went to live with a childhood friend.

Searching to fill the void for love that she couldn’t find from her family, Becky entered a physical relationship with a boy when she entered high school.

When she became pregnant, the boy told her she had to have an abortion. He dropped her off at a clinic and drove away.

At the time, Becky didn’t know what abortion was, so when the lady at the clinic offered to pay for it with her own money, she accepted. She was 15 years old.

The abortion procedure proved unsuccessful, and Becky had to return to the clinic to endure it again. She was offered no counseling or follow-up. No one asked her about her situation. She was given birth control and sent home.

She continued her relationship with the same boyfriend, and became pregnant a second time, so she walked herself to the clinic once again, had another abortion, and went to her after-school job at the local hospital.

“I never gave it any thought,” she told The Catholic Witness. “To me, it was the obvious answer.”

Life went on. Becky continued with school and worked at the hospital in the evenings, first in the dietary department and then in the pathology department.

On the first day of Becky’s job in the pathology department, a courier showed up, delivering what are known as POCs (products of conception).

“My job was to sort through the fetal remains and pick out certain items necessary to confirm a successful abortion,” Becky recalled, the weight of the memory evident in her sobs. “I cried over those babies. I would hold their tiny hands between my thumb and index finger, and just caress them and weep. My eyes were opened to what I had done; my eyes were opened to the horrors of abortion.”

To escape her past, Becky entered the Air Force after high school. “I just needed to get away. I buried everything in order to even function, and I kept my abortions a secret for 25 years,” she said.

A Safe Place for Healing

Becky and Shawn met during the Gulf War, and they married on Sept. 14, 1991. Yet, even as a wife and mother in a caring and committed family, and a convert to the Church, Becky found herself in the grips of despair, desperate for a lifeline.

“I was begging God to forgive me, but I couldn’t even forgive myself,’ she said.

She found that long-desired mercy and healing during a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend.

The worldwide ministry offers healing for people who have suffered because of abortion – including mothers, fathers and family members of aborted children, as well as people who have been involved in the industry.

The program gives retreat participants an opportunity to examine their experience, identify its impact on their lives, and acknowledge unresolved emotions.

Rachel’s Vineyard retreats are Scripture-based, strictly confidential and non-judgmental.

“The best way I can describe a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is that it’s a safe place,” Becky said. “No one judges you. There is only love, and you get a true understanding of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.”

She admits that she initially fought the idea of attending a retreat when she first learned of the program, for fear of shame and opening up old wounds.

While working at the Priests’ Retirement Residence in Harrisburg, cooking breakfast and doing laundry for the priests there, she was talking with Father Clarence Olszewski about his plans for the weekend. He said he was preparing to minister at a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.

Becky hadn’t known about the program, so she looked it up online, but wasn’t convinced right away to attend. Soon, it surfaced again, this time when she found a Rachel’s Vineyard information card in the ladies’ room at a hospital.

“I realized it could be what I needed, but I didn’t call the number because I was ashamed and I didn’t want Father Olszewski to be there and see me,” she said.

She continued to suppress her emotions, and the Biters struggled in their marriage. Although Shawn was aware of Becky’s abortions, neither recognized that those experiences were the cause of the stress in their relationship.

“We were active in the Church. We taught CCD for 17 years. Becky was baptized into the Church at the time when her infant son was baptized. We sat up front in church, raised our children in the faith,” Shawn said. “We were doing everything right, so why would our lives be such a mess?”

Becky was jealous of Shawn’s friendships, mistrusted him, battled depression, and considered suicide.

“I was thinking, ‘I killed my children. My husband hates me. My kids don’t love me.’ Thoughts like that are poisonous,” Becky said.

A visit with her parish’s pro-life group to pray at the Hillcrest clinic in Harrisburg began to unravel all the bottled up emotions.

“Everything came back to me there outside of Hillcrest,” she said. “The wounds opened up, and I started crying right there.”

“Then at my lowest point, I dropped to my knees and begged Jesus to drown me in the sea of His mercy, and He embraced my soul and pulled me from the pit.”

She confided in a friend, who offered a sympathetic ear and suggested that Becky attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. Before long, she was on the phone with Joy Crimmins, the local Rachel’s Vineyard coordinator in the Diocese of Harrisburg.

On March 28, 2014, Becky and Shawn began their weekend retreat experience together.

“One thing that men need to know is that they need healing, too,” Shawn remarked. “I had no involvement in her abortions; I didn’t even know her then. But right before the retreat, Becky asked me to spiritually adopt those children. And now, because she is my wife and because I’ve adopted the children, I’m invested too. Rachel’s Vineyard is not just for women who have had an abortion. It’s for anyone affected by abortion – husbands, boyfriends, family members.”

“When you arrive for the weekend, everyone is nervous, scared; blank faces with looks of despair. But as you get further along on the weekend, you find that the people there are probably the only people you’ve trusted, even though they’re complete strangers. And then you become very close friends,” he said. “By the end of the weekend, you don’t want it to end; you don’t want to leave the safety of it. It’s a sanctuary of love and protection.”

The Biters, members of Our Lady of the Visitation Parish in Shippensburg, are now team members for Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, helping other women and men to work through their grief and guilt and find healing. They’ve also found genuine love and a renewed marriage.

“The Holy Spirit is at work at a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat,” Becky said.

“I had never felt true joy before in my life,” she remarked. “Yes, when my children were born, I was happy. But I never experienced true joy knowing that God loved me. I couldn’t fully laugh, didn’t want to experience happiness because I hated myself. I built a wall and didn’t want to share good times. But after the retreat, it’s amazing the burden that is lifted.”

Love Conquers Abortion

One in three women will be a victim of abortion by the age of 45 – a staggering statistic that crosses all cultural, economic and religious backgrounds.

You can’t tell who they are just by looking at them. But they’re in our lives – in our families, our workplaces and our churches.

This is why Becky willingly shares her story, and why she offers her time and efforts to bring awareness of Rachel’s Vineyard to women and men leaving the Hillcrest clinic in Harrisburg.

“I don’t want them to have an abortion, and, if they do, I don’t want them to have to carry the burden for 25 years like I did,” Becky said. “We want them to know that God loves them very much and that a healing retreat is available to them, even if they feel that they don’t need it.”

The “prayer warriors” and “alley counselors” at Hillcrest and at Planned Parenthood in York find sanctuary in the “Undefeated Courage” houses near the clinics. The pro-life contingencies who give prayerful witness there made efforts to lease the houses, where silent prayer, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Mass are routine. The houses also offer a safe haven for women and men seeking counsel or resources when they reconsider their decision to abort.

“Some people are receptive to our presence, some lash out at us, some completely ignore us,” Becky said. “We know we’re meeting them at a very difficult time in their lives. Women don’t just wake up one day and want to kill their children…what we know is that abortion is a symptom of other trauma, and when they show up at an abortion clinic, they’re already broken and suffering. We are ‘alley triage,’ and our goal is to connect them to the resources they need in order to choose life. Our intent is to win a woman’s heart and the baby will come along with her.  She is our focus; she is the one in crisis because she is the one who is rejecting the precious gift that God is trying to give her. Women need to know that their child has a destiny and a purpose just like she does. We empower her and lift her up: ‘You are beautiful, you are special, you are loved!’ Seeing the ultrasound image and hearing the heartbeat of her child is essential and heart-changing.

“I know that not everyone is going to be receptive to us, but I want to be a lifeline for those who need it,” Becky continued. “I know that if someone would have intervened or tried to help me when I entered the clinic, I would have broken down and accepted their help. But there was no one there for me.”

The Biters stressed the importance of being acutely aware of the words they use in counseling near clinics, serving at the retreats and talking about abortion.

“We all need to be aware that in speaking against abortion or talking about healing and forgiveness, we need to refrain from judgment, name-calling or harsh words,” Shawn said. “Look around. It’s likely that someone near you has experienced an abortion or knows someone who has – a mother, a daughter, a sister or a friend. Harmful words can do even more damage to them.”

“The prayer warriors at Undefeated Courage are the hands and feet of Christ who reach out in love to those who seek abortion. This is the only way we will change hearts and foster healing,” Becky said. “I’ve walked down that road, I’m still on the journey, and that’s why I want to help others.”

“I want to be for women today the person I wish was present for me when I entered the abortion clinic.

“For Mary Grace and Joseph Michael, my precious babies in heaven, I do this so that others may live. Love conquers abortion,” she said.

(For information on Rachel’s Vineyard, contact Joy Crimmins, director and facilitator for Central Pennsylvania and Maryland, at 717-788-4959 or All inquiries are confidential. You can also find additional information online at or

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness


The Vicarious Trauma of Pro-Life Advocates on the Front Lines

November 9th, 2015



Pro Choice Rage   Pro Life Prayer

by Kevin Burke, MSS

When we hear of vicarious trauma, we often think of first responders; the brave men and women who serve as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and police officers.

There is a growing awareness of the importance of caring for these public servants after their exposure to traumatic events and loss.  This is especially important after repeated exposure to accidents, violence, injury, loss of life, and other tragedy. While a single traumatic event may trigger debilitating symptoms, the Trauma Center of the Justice Resource Institute indicates that the longer the exposure to such events, the higher likelihood they will suffer symptoms of post- traumatic stress.

We know that without education and supportive services first responders can struggle to reach out for help.  Women and especially men can experience a sense of shame when they feel overwhelmed by the pain and loss that are part of their vocations.  They may fear the judgment and condemnation of their colleagues if they share their vulnerability and struggles.   Thankfully, this is beginning to change.

There is another Population of First Responders

These women and men are frequently marginalized, cursed, and ridiculed as they try and protect the innocent and advocate for their lives.  They are ignored or maligned by the media, society and sadly sometimes even by their own faith communities; they are the pro-life advocates on the front lines.

Despite the ongoing contentious debate in our society about abortion, pro-life advocates are quite clear about the foundation of their pro life mission; the male or female baby in a mother’s womb is a unique person with an inherent right to life. There is no distinction for the pro-life advocate between a 12-week-old child dying behind the walls of an abortion business and a 3-year-old child dying in a house fire.  They would see both lives as worthy of a communities care and protection.

With this in mind, consider the experiences of pro-life advocates on the front lines.

  • Donna Gardner is a therapist and ministry coordinator with Catholic Charities, Office of Respect Life, Diocese of Palm Beach, FL. She offers training and counseling to their Pregnancy Care Center staff. Donna shared about the burden of the pregnancy care counselors that work with abortion minded clients:

   “I worked with one counselor who developed an ongoing relationship with a pregnant mother.  They were working together to develop the resources and support so she could parent the child.  The counselor naturally developed a close working relationship with this mother and child.  The mother abruptly stopped coming to appointments.  She later learned the mother aborted her 5 month old girl or boy.  She was emotionally devastated by this loss.”  [1]

  • June Matson has been the director of Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby Colorado for the past 25 years.   Their center has an ultrasound machine. June shared that recently one of her client advisors was able to be present for the first time to witness an ultrasound with a couple coming to their center for support and resources for their baby. Seeing the child and hearing the heartbeat left the volunteer feeling blessed and elated to be part of such a wonderful ministry that provides life-affirming choices for parents.                                                                                                                  Shortly after that peak experience, this same client advisor was assisting another client who chose to abort. She was devastated. June shared that the power of that peak ministry experience in the ultrasound room led to a heightened sensitivity of the volunteer when confronted soon after with the tragic reality that not all choose life for their unborn children.                   
  • June shared another important observation that spoke to the power of the ultrasound experience for a Pregnancy Resource Center. When a client comes in for an ultrasound, all the volunteers present at that time are spiritually and emotionally connected to the clients in the procedure room. Even those women that are folding baby clothes and not in the front line ministry work with clients, are praying intensely for the mother and baby as they go about their tasks.  While they rejoice in their many opportunities to help these parents choose life, when a client later visits the Planned Parenthood next door for a referral to Denver for an abortion, it naturally impacts all those staff and volunteers who provide the Pregnancy Resource Connection services.
  • A Front Line Pro-Life Advocate praying in front of an abortion business approaches a woman with love.   She tries to engage her in a life affirming decision for her unborn baby. The mother goes into the abortion center and comes out with an empty womb. The pro-lifer who has encountered this mother and child is naturally intimately connected to and wounded by this abortion loss.   
  • Women and men pray before abortion centers in all kinds of weather interceding for the conversion of the employees, for the parents and their babies. At times they are cursed at, spit upon, mocked and abused by pro-abortion activists and sometimes an angry parent, grandparent or friend of the pregnant mother.

Institutional Spiritual Neglect

Pro life advocates may suffer from the Institutional Spiritual Neglect of their religious leaders and churches.   They stand for years on the front lines of the abortion battles, praying, counseling, educating, and legislating to try and save unborn lives and protect their parents from abortion complications.

Their spiritual leaders at times respond with a gaping yawn and fail to support and affirm their witness. They sit every Sunday in their church awaiting a word of encouragement and an acknowledgment of their efforts, and usually do not get it. They ask for the involvement of their parish or diocese in pro-life projects, and often receive a “no,” which is lacking any explanation or word of affirmation. Nor do their leaders recognize the deep grief these activists encounter in their pro-life advocacy. They rarely see a minister, priest or Bishop stand alongside of them to pray at the abortion center, advocate for the children and grieve with them. (Thankfully this is not always the case, as there are ministers, clergy and bishops who do stand with pro-lifers, but it is still a very small proportion.)

These spiritual children can feel ostracized, marginalized and unappreciated by their spiritual fathers.  [Keep in mind that those who experience both physical abuse and also emotional neglect say that (while in no way downplaying the pain and humiliation of physical abuse,) severe emotional neglect can be an even more damaging and excruciating type of pain.]

Disenfranchised Grief

Donna Gardner shares an experience that can help us better understand the disenfranchised grief of pro-life advocates[2]:

I recently spoke with an older group of pro-life veterans who spent years in pro life ministry and advocacy.  I asked them to close their eyes and bring to mind one particular situation; think of that one baby lost to abortion that especially touched you deeply.  They all began to tear up and express the grief that has been hidden in their hearts for many years.

As previously noted, the effects of trauma can be cumulative.  After repeated exposure to situations where a pro-life advocate is unable to save an unborn child, while continuing to face the hostility or indifference of the wider community, they can reach a tipping point.   The repressed grief and pain emerge in symptoms that can impact life and relationships.  Keep in mind a single event where one is unable to prevent a tragic death can also lead to some of these feelings and symptoms:

– Anxiety, depression,trouble sleeping, irritability and anger.

– Withdrawing and isolating from others.

– Some may experience a sense of confusion, distance and darkness in their spiritual life and relationship with God.

– Nightmares, flashbacks, or other intrusive thoughts or memories of the event.

– Using substances to avoid feelings, feeling numb, spacing out, or feeling as if things are unreal[3]

Hope and Healing – The Value of Abortion Recovery Programs for Pro-Life Advocates

The good news for pro-life advocates is that we already have in place some very effective programs to respond to this suffering.  Some pregnancy centers and pro- life groups already provide the support and counseling to care for their volunteers and employees.

But there is another very effective resource that can benefit pro-life advocates.  These programs were developed over a number of years to treat the symptoms of trauma and complicated mourning suffered by women and men after participating in the death of their unborn children.  Rachel’s Vineyard and other abortion recovery programs such as Forgiven and Set Free utilize special exercises and scripture mediations to create a safe and effective experience of emotional and spiritual healing.

Donna Gardner had the opportunity to offer training to all the Palm Beach Diocese Pregnancy Care Staff.  She shared the challenges of ministry to those facing unplanned pregnancy and abortion minded clients and provided education on trauma symptoms and recovery.  Donna also shared about her leadership in the Rachel’s Vineyard abortion healing weekends in the diocese.  As a result of this outreach, two pregnancy care counselors ask to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend.

Donna shared that the two pregnancy care staff members who attended their retreat had a very positive and blessed experience.  The other retreat participants, who personally suffered abortion loss, were welcoming of the pregnancy counselors.  One of the participants was an ultra sound technician.  She carried a deep burden of grief for those children who die in abortion procedures and their parents.  Donna shared that the ultra sound tech was renewed and restored by her Rachel’s Vineyard weekend.  The other participant is a counselor with Spanish speaking clients and also had a very positive healing experience on the retreat.

The Value of Grief Work – The Renewal and Empowerment of the Pro Life Vocation

For those pro-life advocates and the staff of Pregnancy Resource Centers who experience symptoms of vicarious trauma from their ministry, abortion recovery programs will bring significant support and relief for their suffering.

But there is a broader vision of the value of this type of grief work for the pro-life movement.  If we can create that that sacred time and sacred space to acknowledge abortion related grief and express that pain, the fruits of that journey can renew and empower the pro-life movement.

There is a healthy and beneficial vulnerability that naturally occurs in a safe and healthy grieving process such as found in Rachel’s Vineyard and other recovery programs.  These programs have the experienced staff and volunteers that create the atmosphere and activities, grounded in the Word of God, to facilitate the grieving process for abortion loss.  As you progress through the program and participate in the activities, the heart and soul open up wide.  God’s grace is able to flow freely and can begin to cleanse the heart of any anger, bitterness, despair, anxiety, and depression that grew from not having the opportunity to acknowledge and share that pain with others.

There is room now in the heart and soul for the Lord to touch you deeply with His love and mercy.  In that vulnerable grieving state, becoming spiritually like little children as Jesus taught, you intimately experience your heavenly Father’s tender love for you as his precious son or daughter.

An important bonus blessing for those pro-life advocates that make this journey of grief; they emerge with an even deeper love for the unborn, their parents and all touched by abortion loss.  It renews their pro-life vocation and empowers them with new vigor and commitment grounded in the love and mercy of God.  They discover a new spiritual energy and gifts for their vocations.

Thinking Out Loud – Next Steps

Post-abortion ministries, Pregnancy Resource Centers, and pro life groups may want to consider offering these healing opportunities with special retreats or groups just for pro-life advocates.

It can be difficult to get people to commit to an entire weekend or an ongoing group program; perhaps a day of spiritual retreat would be a good first step:

–                  Ask a counselor, minister or clergy person to lead a day of prayer and healing.

–                  (With permission of the authors,) adapt some helpful exercises and activities from post-abortion recovery programs.

–                  This will create an opportunity for pro-life advocates to share their grief and entrust these children that have touched their hearts to the Lord.

Another very effective option to consider:

Journaling:  Many find journaling a helpful first-step in processing some difficult memories and feelings:

–                  Take some quiet time in prayer, perhaps in an adoration or community chapel.  Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to light a particular situation or ministry event that is weighing on your heart and soul.

–                  Write down your memories and feelings about that event.  In your journal or in silent prayer, invite the Lord into that area of grief and loss.  Write out a prayer from your heart for that baby and the child’s parents and family.  This may involve a number of ministry situations.

–                  Consider sharing what you wrote with a trusted ministry friend or colleague.   Reading a journal entry out loud can have a surprisingly powerful effect.  If you have a good relationship with your priest or minister request a meeting to share your journal entry and ask them pray to with you.

If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance , self medicating with alcohol or other self destructive behaviors related to traumatic loss, ask your church or pro-life ministry director for a referral to a counselor.  It is important that the counselor respect and support your pro-life vocation.  A caring professional can help you  work through your pain and find healing.

Healing Makes Us Stronger

The suffering that first responders and pro-life advocates experience after traumatic loss is closely connected to the value and dignity of human life.  The painful emotions that accompany exposure to death and traumatic events, and the need to share and grieve these losses, reveal our common humanity.

On a deeper level it reveals the connection we all have as members of God’s family, and as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.

May the Lord bless, protect and heal all those who stand on the front lines to protect the unborn and bring reconciliation and healing to those damaged by the Shockwaves of Abortion.


[1] Thankfully she reached out to Donna for help and she was able to work through her losses and find emotional and spiritual healing.

[2] Disenfranchised grief is a term describing grief that is not acknowledged by society.

[3] Regan, Laura. When Helping Hurts: Trauma’s Effects on First Responders. Good Therapy.Org, February 12th 2015.







A Rising Tide of Grief: The Hidden Abortion Pain of Grandparents

November 4th, 2015


Rising Tide of Grief

Donna Gardner is the Respect Life ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Palm Beach.  Donna and fellow Rachel’s Vineyard leaders from around the world participated in an internet based seminar from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign on the Shockwaves of Abortion. The Shockwaves of Abortion is a year-long initiative with focus each month on the varied population groups impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion; mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings, family and friends, as well as the abortion clinic workers and abortionists themselves.

After the seminar Donna shared the information with her Diocese speaker’s bureau so they could help spread this broader vision of the impact of abortion and the healing resources available in their diocese. In 2015 Donna was invited by a parish pastor to share a message about abortion healing at all the masses offered that weekend. This particular parish has a large population of retired women and men. Given the parish demographics, Donna was inspired to draw from the Shockwaves Initiative focus in the month of March; the experience of abortion loss among grandparents.

As she began to share her message with the parishioners, Donna became aware that many in the congregation where deeply moved by the acknowledgement of their grief as grandparents; she could see their eyes filling with tears as they openly expressed their pain.  She wondered if this was a coincidence that so many in the congregation were moved by her message. In the next 3 masses Donna discovered the same widespread level of grief openly expressed by the large numbers of grandparents sitting in the church pews.

I shared my surprise with her that the parishioners felt comfortable openly sharing their grief. Donna responded:

“The pastor here has worked very hard for years to establish an engaging and positive pro life culture in his parish that includes the healing message of the Church for those wounded by abortion. This is a safe place for the parishioners to acknowledge this loss openly.”

After the services many parishioners stopped to thank Donna for acknowledging their grief and loss. One grandmother shared with deep sadness that she lost her only opportunity to have a grandchild when her daughter aborted and later chose to be surgically sterilized.

As Donna reflected on the numbers impacted in this parish, she spoke to the pastor about having a special Rachel’s Vineyard program, offered in a support group format, just for grandparents of children lost to abortion at his parish. The priest recommended also speaking to the 5 neighboring parishes, with similar demographics about the Shockwaves of Abortion and their impact on grandparents so they could also participate in the program.  In February 2016 Donna and her team began this special  Rachel’s Vineyard group for grandparents.  (Once the program is complete I will interview Donna for part II of this article so she can share her experiences and insights from the group. )

The Shockwaves of Abortion are indeed destructive and far-reaching. But as this loss is brought before the healing power of Christ and his Church in programs like Rachel’s Vineyard, we witness the mighty power of the Holy Spirit bearing the fruit of reconciliation and peace to individuals and families touched by abortion loss. Let’s pray for Donna and her ministry and for the Holy Spirit to continue to bless their inaugural Rachel’s Vineyard group for Grandparents.








The Plannned Parenthood Scandal: Reaching out to those Wounded by Abortion

September 21st, 2015



by Kevin Burke, MSS

As the Planned Parenthood scandal continues to unfold, new videos and news reports graphically reveal the practice of selling aborted baby body parts and the disturbing techniques used to obtain the organs and other parts of the fetus for biomedical research.

Viewing the images of the aftermath of an abortion procedure not only connects a mother or father with the reality of what abortion did to their unborn child, and their role in that child’s death, but it also connects in a powerful way with the wound that is deep inside a mother/fathers heart and soul.

Just as the images of fragmented and broken children are deeply disturbing, inside each women or man who has experienced this loss there is also a divided, fragmented heart and soul of a mother or father who is struggling to face the very painful feelings of aguish, anger and grief that flow from that abortion decision, the procedure and the aftermath.

Making Sense of the Pain

This information is naturally upsetting to anyone who has experienced abortion loss. This would be especially true for women who had more traumatic abortion experiences such as seeing parts of their baby during or after the vacuum type procedures and certainly with mid and later term D&C and Partial Birth abortions.

Anger: The graphic content of the videos and transcripts and the cavalier attitude of the Planned Parenthood physicians will naturally arouse powerful feelings of anger, outrage, disgust in those who have been abused at the hands of Planned Parenthood staff and physicians. It may be difficult to find a healthy outlet for this anger which can be deflected onto family members, friends or colleagues at work.   This anger can also feed a preoccupation with the unfolding scandal and even in extreme cases an obsession with the reports.

Intense Emotions: The emotions can be intense, especially for those who are facing for the first time the reality of what abortion is about. A woman, or possibly a man, may struggle to concentrate at work, have sleep disturbance and nightmares, experience some anxiety and even full blown panic attacks and renewed feelings of sorrow and grief. Please be assured that you are not alone or going crazy. Many women and men discover that these images and the transcripts of the Planned Parenthood staff connect in a powerful way to what is often deeply repressed and painful emotion and memories.

 Finding Healing and Wholeness

If you, or someone you love is hurting and in need of healing here are a few key points to consider:


The intense emotions such as anxiety, depression, a renewed sense of grief and loss, anger/rage that you may be experiencing are a normal human reaction to both the disturbing nature of the scandal and your own painful experience of loss. The powerful and shocking videos and transcripts of those videos can bring a dramatic re-connection to what your own child (or children) experienced during and after the procedure. The videos being released reveal how heartlessly and inhumanely Planned Parenthood attacked your child’s precious body.

Understanding Anger:

You may develop anger and intimacy issues with those closest to you as you struggle to make sense and regulate your powerful emotions. Anger can serve as a shield to the more vulnerable feelings that are trying to surface such as grief and sorrow, guilt and regret.

 Reach out:

If possible, avoid any tendency to isolate, and affirm the natural need to find an outlet for those feelings and memories. Without support and a healing of this loss you can be vulnerable to engage in self destructive ways to repress or cope with this pain such as the abuse of drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or work and other addictions. You can find yourself feeling anxious, having anxiety attacks, insomnia and depression. Again, these are all symptoms that are calling attention to your loss and to reconciliation and healing of your abortion experience.

Reach out to a counselor, minister/clergy, or friend who understands your loss and can help you take the steps to healing and wholeness that you long for. Visit where you can enter your zip code and find abortion healing programs in your community. If you are reaching out to a friend or family member suffering after abortion, make sure to initially receive their pain, listen patiently and then gently open the door to the blessing and hope that a healing program will provide them.

There is hope and healing of the fragmentation and brokenness that abortion inflicted on you and your unborn child (children). In that healing process you will discover that the horror and shock of what happened to you and your baby, will be replaced by a new relationship founded in loving reconciliation and peace with God and your unborn child. That can seem a distant and hard to trust possibility. Be assured that thousands of women and men just like you have found that healing. Take the next step and get the help you need. If you struggle to do it for yourself, do it for those you love; your spouse, family and friends who will be so blessed by your recovery from this loss.


Depending on what is appropriate for your age and health, as you begin to take steps to reclaim healing and wholeness, find an activity that can increase your heart rate and reach a level of exertion that will help your body releases toxins and at the same time release soothing and stress relieving chemicals into your body.   Regular exercise is one of the most effective medications for stress, depression and anxiety.


If you are watching the videos and the news about these events, you are encountering a disturbing level of spiritual darkness. It is natural that this can attack our own spirit and cause some feeling of oppression as we encounter this evil. You may connect in a new way with the reality of what you and your child/children suffered. Let every step in your recovery be immersed in a very simple and heartfelt prayer to God:

Lord I open my mind, my heart and soul to you that has been so deeply wounded by abortion and the loss of my child (children). Lord let me experience, in a new and powerful way, your love and mercy in this time of anxiety and fear as I open up this dark area of my life to your light. Even though I am afraid, help me to trust in your love for me, in your infinite mercy and your love for my child (children.)

Prayerful reading of scripture, church sacraments, prayer with a friend or clergy/minister and spiritual fellowship and support are the medicine that will help to refresh us and lift that oppression and help us to continue the path to healing and wholeness. If you have been distant from God and a faith community since your abortion, you will find that as you recover from your abortion loss through an abortion healing program, this will open the door to healing your relationship with God and to finding a spiritual home where you can find the support and fellowship you need as you recover.


If you find yourself or a friend or colleague spending too much time being exposed to this information, reading and viewing accounts and stories about the scandal – and it is beginning to have a negative emotional, spiritual, relational impact – if you see an increase in alcohol use or other self destructive coping behaviors – you should make a firm decision to avoid any further reports or videos on this scandal until you have the opportunity to attend a healing program.

As you reach out for the help if possible do something fun that exposes you to the joy and beauty of life such as music, theater, sports, visiting some friends or family, a walk by a stream or woods, playing with a grandchild or niece/nephew…whatever can help you (or your friend/colleague etc.) regain some balance and perspective as you continue on the path to recovery and peace.

Kevin Burke is a Co-Founder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries and a Pastoral Associate with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign –

The Impact of Abortion on Military Personnel and Their Families

September 17th, 2015


Military Abortion

By Kevin Burke, MSS

 Jody Duffy RN, is a former Army officer, military spouse of 35 years and wife of  a Major General.   In the following interview Jody shares some important insights from her extensive personal and professional experience helping women and men recovering from abortion loss:

 Can you share some of the unique challenges for families in the military?

Jody:           There are many stressors and challenges faced by military families such as frequent separations, communication difficulties, frequent and long deployments, frequent moves, and long work hours. In times of peace and in times of conflict, for the soldier it is about duty and about the mission.

In many cases duty to the mission overshadows duty to the family.  What happens to deployed soldiers is well documented. What happens to the families left behind is too often overlooked.  Only in recent years have studies begun on the effects of deployments on the military family.   Frequent moves and frequent deployments are a way of life for these families. Military life in itself can be stressful for both soldiers and their families.

How widespread is the experience of unplanned pregnancy and abortion in the military?

The military has a higher pregnancy rate than any other any group in the U.S. Because abortions are procured at local clinics, there is no means to track abortion rates among those pregnant military members.   According to a few military doctors and OB nurses I have spoken to, a large number of female soldiers and dependents go to a military medical facility to validate the pregnancy and never come back. They procure an abortion at a local abortion facility.

How does abortion impact our military personnel?

Jody:   The pain and grief of abortion only adds more stress and conflict to their lives.  Whether it is the female soldier not wanting to sacrifice her military career or feeling pressured to fulfill her duty, or the male soldier feeling fatherhood may stand in the way of his mission, sacrificing our unborn children to abortion is an unfortunate and frequent reality of military life.  Abortion decisions often involve varying degrees of pressure and conflict.  This predisposes them to have more intense post abortion reactions and even trauma.

 Left untreated, how does this post abortion problem manifest in a soldier’s marriage and family life? 

Abortion provokes a major crisis in the lives of a married couple which is frequently followed by the instability of that relationship. Frequently, one or both of the couple have been involved in an abortion before they met their spouse. Many carry this baggage into the marriage causing even further problems in the relationship.

The family is the cornerstone of the church, our nation, and civilization.  Whether National Guard, Reserves, or active duty, our military families are the strength of our soldiers. When unresolved abortion grief leads to strife in our military families, it affects the strength of our soldiers, the strength of our military, and ultimately the strength of our nation.

 We know that abortion can be a contentious issue.  How receptive are military chaplains and others in the armed forces to your outreach in this area?

Jody:  There have been many positive responses by military chaplains to the concept of post abortion healing programs. However, chaplains move as frequently as any other military members do. Programs embraced by one chaplain may not be priority to the next chaplain coming in. However, many members frequently attend services or mass at churches off post. Contact with these pastors has been very positive. Many acknowledge that there are large numbers of military members attending their services and have been very receptive to receiving information about post abortion healing programs.

Yes, the issue of abortion is controversial, however, the issue of healing should not be.

Why is this important concern for our military and civilian political leaders?

 Jody:  Our military leaders should be very concerned about the effects abortion has on their soldiers.  It is tragic that soldiers may choose abortion to try and protect their mission.  Soldiers who bring unresolved abortion grief and even trauma into their mission, are not able to function in the same way they did before the abortion, therefore compromising their capacity to serve safely and effectively.  Unresolved abortion grief can affect a soldier’s morale, performance and effectiveness which in turn may affect the unit’s cohesiveness and mission.

Is there an abortion connection to the high suicide rate among veterans?

Jody:   Eventually, soldiers become Veterans. This unresolved abortion grief follows them into their civilian lives. Suicide rates among young veterans are rising at an alarming rate. Unresolved abortion grief can be a factor in these suicides.

Abortion recovery programs such as Rachel’s Vineyard provide women and men an experience of a safe and very effective grieving process and emotional and spiritual support that are so essential for recovery.  It’s a foundation they can build on as they make the transition to post military life.

It is our duty to reach out and help serve those who have served our nation. Fortunately I have had very positive results at Veterans conferences and on Veterans Facebook groups to which I belong.  But we need to do more to get the word out and connect both our active military and our veterans with resources for abortion recovery.

[Jody served as an Atlanta Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat Leader and as a Military Liaison for the Silent no More Awareness Campaign  Jody is also the Military Outreach Coordinator for Post Abortion Treatment and Healing (PATH) ministry in Atlanta.  She continues to help our nation’s service women and men find the information and resources they need to recover from their abortion loss.  You can reach Jody at]