A Comprehensive PATH to Healing Abortion Loss: An Atlanta Ministry Shares the Benefit of offering both the SaveOne Bible Study and Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats

March 22nd, 2017


In 1987 MaryAnn McNeil and Anita Willoughby saw the need in the Atlanta area for emotional and spiritual healing of those hurting after abortion. They founded PATH (Post Abortion Treatment and Healing)  at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

PATH developed a comprehensive outreach for those wounded by abortion that features bible studies, weekend retreats, counseling and community outreach.

The current director of PATH is Jody Duffy, RN. Jody has served as a volunteer in abortion healing ministry with PATH from 2001 until March 2016 when she took over as Director.

I recently interviewed Jody to learn more about PATH.

Kevin:   PATH has offered support groups and later retreats since they started. Recently you began to use the SaveOne Bible Study program at PATH.  Can you share with us your experience with SaveOne?

Jody: Last April, 2016, I attended a training for the SaveOne Bible study that was being sponsored by psychiatrist Dr. Martha Shuping.   Dr Shuping serves as a PATH advisor and is also trained as a Rachel’s Vineyard facilitator and counselor.  The workshop presenter was SaveOne founder Sheila Harper.

I brought the information back to PATH and began training our Bible study leaders shortly after. Since last April, with over 20 volunteers PATH has completed four SaveOne Bible studies and currently has five running at six different locations in the Atlanta areas.

 Kevin: Jody can you share with us about your experience offering both the Rachel Vineyard weekends and the SaveOne bible study for those hurting after abortion?

Jody: PATH offers 3 Rachel’s Vineyard retreats each year.  Rachel’s Vineyard is like no other experience for a person needing healing from a past abortion experience. However, participants benefit from a continuation of that process of healing. That is why we offer the Bible study format as well to our clients.

Due to time and schedules and even geography, some people are limited to the retreat. That is why we always advocate Companions on the Journey, an online after care program offered by Rachel’s Vineyard.  As with many other Rachel’s Vineyard sites, people come from different parts of the country and would not be able to participate in our local programs.

Kevin: Jody you have shared with me that you see SaveOne and Rachel’s Vineyard working nicely together.

Jody: We recommend and offer both the Weekend Retreat and Bible Study to those that come to us for help.  The two programs really complement one another.

The Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is an intense weekend of sharing, learning, and healing. In itself it is a profound and valuable recovery experience.

However, recovery is a journey and by offering the Bible study, we can walk down that road for 11 weeks and dig deeper. Our clients as well as our leaders are very impressed with the SaveOne Bible study.

SaveOne is tender, experiential, deep, and healing. It really allows participants to look deeper at what really happened and how to trust God to walk that journey with you. The program guides one through some of those emotions which may have been left unchecked and teaches them how to rely on God to help them face their past and walk on the healing journey with them.

So clients can begin with either program initially and then later experience the retreat or support group if they like.

Kevin: PATH offers its services to men as well as women correct?

Jody: Yes, our Rachel’s Vineyard retreats have always been open to both men and women. The SaveOne program has a separate model for men and women and we offer both.

Kevin: It’s great to see in the Catholic Church how many Deacons are getting involved in abortion recovery ministry. You are blessed to have Deacon Mike Mobley serving with PATH.

Jody:  We are truly blessed and Deacon Mike Mobley has worked on our Rachel’s Vineyard team for over 10 years. He has also led Bible studies for men. Sometime he ministers in the group format and other times he meets one on one with the men.  It all depends on the need at the time.

Deacon Mike recently completed our first Men’s SaveOne study. He and the man he worked with were very pleased with the study. Another men’s group just started last week at our Roswell, GA location. Bible study allows time for the men to form a true brotherhood and friendship, just like it does the women.

Kevin: You also minister to married couples right?

Jody: We have had married couples on both the retreat and in the Bible study. However, some prefer to do the retreat and Bible study separately. We are always flexible depending on the situation.

Sometimes participants in our SaveOne support group will later attend the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend with their spouse who may or may not have a past abortion.   They always find a deeper healing of their loss within their marriage.

Spouses who are not the biological parent have the opportunity to not only come and support their partner but also experience the blessing of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat process. On Sunday at the memorial service they can spiritually adopt their spouse’s unborn child or children lost to abortion.  This provides another level of healing for families.

Kevin: What other outreach is PATH involved in?

Jody: Along with providing the Retreats and Bible studies, PATH speaks at parishes, to youth groups, Respect for Life gatherings, the Knights of Columbus, Students for Life groups, and anyone else who will listen to our message about the pain and hurt abortion causes and importance of healing from abortion.


–                  Here’s the Contact info for PATH Atlanta and their website here.

–                  To find out more about the SaveOne program please visit this page on their website  or Phone: (615) 347-8800 – email: info@saveone.org

–                  To learn more about starting a Rachel’s Vineyard program in your area please contact the International Rachel’s Vineyard Office or phone 610 354 0555.



“My Dad Made Me Have the Abortion”: A Desperate Father Wrestles with Pride, Denial and the Love for his Daughter

March 13th, 2017

father daughter

“I was hoping you could help my daughter. She needs counseling…my daughter, Gina, is dating this guy. He’s verbally and physically abusive.”

Mr. Davis sounded desperate. In his voice I could detect anger and hurt but worst of all helplessness.

“I can’t just sit back and watch my daughter ruin her life…I love her so much but I’m losing her.”

I informed Mr. Davis that [as a counselor] I couldn’t break them up but I could help Gina examine her relationship and sort out her feelings about this man.

Then I asked Mr. Davis if anything else had happened between Gina and her boyfriend. The question itself was a threat.

Mr. Davis hesitated. Finally he answered;

“Well, there is something but it should really come from her. I think she should be the one to tell you.”

“Did your daughter have an abortion?” I asked in a matter of fact tone.

The word was said – Abortion.

There was silence, as is almost always the case. I had a telephone listing for Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats (For Post Abortion Healing), yet still people would often struggle to explain why they were calling.

I met his daughter that night. Gina was 19, with long blond hair and sad blue eyes.

“My dad made me have it,” she explained. “He told me I could not live with them if I didn’t. He knew it might make me hate him but he was willing to take that risk. I’d get over it, he said. I was not raised to believe in abortion. In high school I even wrote a paper on it.”

Gina’s story came out in between distressing sobs and gasps for air.

“I came home from college on a Friday to tell them about the pregnancy and what we were planning to do…. My dad hit the roof. Dad took my boyfriend into the kitchen to have a man-to-man talk. They would not let me in. Dad tried to pressure him to convince me that abortion was the best thing.”

With much difficulty, she continued.

“Two days later I was up on a table, my feet in stirrups. I cried the whole way there. My mom took me. I kept telling her I did not want this…They killed my baby.”

After a long tearful pause, Gina continued,

“Just as quickly as it had happened everyone seemed to forget about it. My parents never talked about it. They were furious when they found out that I was still seeing Joe. Things were not so good between Joe and me either. We were always fighting.”

Joe signified Gina’s connection to their aborted baby. Gina feared that giving him up would destroy the only bond remaining to the child she still needed to grieve.

Gina was trapped in a vicious cycle by which she was punishing both herself and her father.

Once Gina was in treatment for the emotional trauma of her abortion, she was able to express these feelings. It was important for both her sake and her family, however, that her parents should also enter into the therapy process with her.

Father Knows Best?

The night before our [family counseling session, Gina’s father] called me.

“My stomach has been upset all week since I heard about this meeting,” he said. “I want to do what is best for Gina.”

Then his tone became more formal and forceful:

“I just want you to know that this is NOT a moral issue to me. Gina had to have that abortion! I still think we made the right decision…”

With renewed determination, I explained,

“Mr. Davis, I know you love your daughter very much. The fact remains that your daughter lost something. What she lost was a child. Gina thinks about it every day. She cries about it every night. The event is far from over for her. You need to hear how the abortion has affected her.”

Mr. Davis did not respond. With conviction, I continued:

“When someone dies, the worst thing another can say is ‘it was for the best, its better this way.’ This does nothing to comfort and console; it only makes the person angry because you are not appreciating their loss or grief. Worse for Gina is that you do not recognize the life that she is missing. Gina misses her baby, a child you have not been able to acknowledge.”

Eventually, Mr. Davis agreed that he would try to listen and that maybe he had something to learn.  I really couldn’t hope for more than that.

When Mr. Davis came in the next morning, he opened with a surprising statement.

“I had no right to make that choice,” he said.

After wrestling with various points in our conversation all night, he admitted that for the first time he realized that abortion was not Gina’s choice.

A Shining Light

The family session began and it was very intense.

Gina expressed her anger, hurt and feelings of rejection. She also shared her grief about the aborted baby.

Suddenly grief came upon Mr. Davis. He stared in disbelief, as if a light had abruptly cast shocking rays into a blackened room.

His voice broke with anguish.

“Oh my baby, my sweet baby, my Gina,” he cried. “I am so sorry. I was so wrong.”

He pressed his face against her cheek and the tears finally came.

His tears mingled with Gina’s as they both wept. Gina put her arms around him. They embraced tightly as her father gently stroked her long hair. All the anger, the bitterness, the pent-up emotions, the grief, gave way. They sobbed in each other’s arms.

Mr. Davis begged for her forgiveness. Between tears and tissues, he told Gina she would have been an incredible mother. In one beautiful moment, her motherhood had been validated and Gina wept with relief.

[Excerpts from Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, By Theresa Burke, Ph.D. with David Reardon.] You can read the complete chapter and purchase Forbidden Grief here.


A Grandmother’s Story of the Traumatic Abortion of Her Grandchild and the Priest Who Helped the Family Heal

March 8th, 2017


I begged my daughter Lisa not to have the abortion.

I called my Parish Priest, Fr. Dominick.  He rushed to the hospital to try and persuade Lisa to change her mind.   Father gave her a rosary blessed by Pope John Paul, and spoke of what a gift this child would be to the family.

Lisa walked away from the priest in tears and went into the procedure room to allow the doctors and nurses to end the life of my grandchild.

I cannot explain the level of grief and anger that flooded my heart and soul. I was filled with rage at the hospital and all involved with the procedure.

But I was most hurt by my daughter going through with the abortion even after I pleaded with her to give life to this child.

Reaching Out from the Pain

My mother and father have always been very close to my children and they were aware of the abortion. They were deeply grieved by the loss of their great-grandchild and heartbroken for Lisa.

When my mother learned of the abortion she prayed immediately and asked her deceased dad to receive the baby since the child died on my grandfather Adam’s birth date.

Shortly after the abortion I went to talk to Fr. Dominick. After I shared my pain, he suggested I consider a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend, a program of emotional and spiritual healing for individuals and families suffering after abortion loss.

The Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat was a powerful experience of healing and went to the heart of my post abortion trauma and grief. The weekend helped me to find peace and closure. I formed a number of close friendships from that weekend and the follow up support group meetings.

During this period I would pray during Eucharistic Adoration and beg Jesus to call my daughter to healing. I could see how she was suffering terribly after the abortion.

She knew of my Rachel’s Vineyard experience and my friends from the retreat. Lisa would react with cynicism and mock my “abortion friends.” But beneath that defensive behavior, she was hurting and in need of healing.

A Miracle Unfolds

Six months after the abortion, my son asked Lisa to be the Godmother of his baby boy. This event triggered a release of her pent up post abortion grief and pain and Lisa suffered a nervous breakdown requiring hospitalization.

She recovered from the breakdown, but remained deeply wounded.

Two years after the abortion she met a man with an abortion in his history. He encouraged her to consider the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend. When Lisa told me she was considering making a retreat, I was overjoyed.

I was blessed to be able to attend the memorial service on Sunday of my daughter’s weekend when participants honor the children with a special ceremony and Mass.

When I opened the memorial service program I looked over the list of names of the babies being entrusted to the Lord.  I knew right away the name Lisa had given my grandchild – Dominick Leonard.

Lisa named the baby after the priest, Fr. Dominick who had been so kind to her and who tried to stop the abortion – and after the abortion continued to reflect the love and mercy of Christ to my daughter. She gave the baby the middle name of Leonard after my dad, who Lisa loves dearly.

This memorial service was deeply painful but it was the suffering of the cross, with the faith and hope of the resurrection. We trust that Dominic is alive with the Lord. We grieved and honored the child together.  This was a time of grace and healing of our relationship which had been so deeply damaged by the abortion.

For the next 6 years I had the privilege of serving in various capacities on the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats offered by the Archdiocese of Newark.  I encourage any grandparent suffering after the loss of a grandchild to abortion to consider if a healing program would help you find peace and bless your family.

– Leann Domico-Vasquez


La Pena Ocultada de los Abuelos Después Del Aborto

March 6th, 2017


Un pastor local le pidió a un terapeuta de Rachel’s Vineyard en la ciudad Palm Beach de la Florida que diera un breve mensaje de esperanza y sanación en las misas del fin de semana. Después de aprender sobre el programa Shockwaves of Abortion, decidió centrarse en el tema de “shockwave” (o onda sísmica) para marzo – “Sanando a los Abuelos”.

La terapeuta compartió un breve mensaje sobre el dolor no reconocido de aquellos que han perdido a sus nietos al aborto. Mientras hablaba notó que muchos en la congregación estaban profundamente conmovidos por el reconocimiento de su dolor como abuelos; Observó los ojos llenándose de lágrimas cuando se les dio permiso para reconocer su pérdida.

Ella se preguntó si esto era una casualidad que tantos en la congregación estaban movidos por su mensaje. En las siguientes 3 misas descubrió el mismo nivel de dolor expresado abiertamente por el gran número de abuelos sentados en los bancos de la iglesia.

El aborto no es sencillamente una decisión privada entre una mujer y su proveedor médico, como la propaganda pro-aborto nos hace creer – es una pérdida en la familia. Dependiendo del papel de un abuelo en el aborto y su nivel de dolor emocional y espiritual, pueden beneficiarse de programas como Rachel’s Vineyard que dan la bienvenida a los abuelos.

El programa Rachel’s Vineyard le ofrece a los abuelos la oportunidad de reconocer su pérdida y desarrollar una relación espiritual con un miembro único de su familia. Los abuelos que asisten el retiro del fin de semana cuentan que la gracia y la bendición de la experiencia les han abierto la puerta a la curación adicional de esta pérdida en sus familias.

[Para encontrar un retiro de Rachel’s Vineyard e información de contacto en un sitio mas cercano, visite nuestra página de recuperación del aborto: ingrese su código postal para encontrar retiros y otros recursos en su área: www.abortionforgiveness.org]


Yesenia Lepe Lost a Sibling to Abortion: “A Cloud of Sadness Loomed over our Family…Rachel’s Vineyard Brought Salvation to Our Home”

March 1st, 2017
Light Shines in Darkness

[The following letter from Yesenia to Theresa Burke, Ph.D., was originally published in the Rachel’s Vineyard newsletter Vine and Branches.]

More than 35 years ago, my parents found themselves newlywed, with a one month old baby, and again with child. Heartbreakingly, they bought into the lie that abortion was an answer to their fears.

Since that moment, they promised to keep that choice a secret. Years passed, and they had three more children (myself included).

Growing up, we were taken for our sacraments, but never fully alive in the faith. We did not even own a Bible.

Fast forward to 2007, my mother came across a bulletin for Rachel’s Vineyard, and our lives changed forever.

Because of my parent’s healing at Rachel’s Vineyard, they were able to come home and open up their hearts to my siblings and I.

The cloud of sadness which had loomed over our family life for so many years finally disappeared…with the power of God’s truth and God’s love.

We came to know Jesus in a profound way through experiencing with my parents His healing power. Today, we live for The Lord, sharing the good news and giving Him praise for all His blessings and graces.

In closing, I just want you to know that my family and I deeply appreciate you and the work the Lord entrusted you with. Rachel’s Vineyard is a treasure for our Church…a gift that transformed our lives.

Please know you, you’re team, and your family are always in our prayers.

God BLESS YOU! Love, Yesenia Lepe


Childhood Abuse Survivor has a Message for Emma Stone and the Hollywood Glitterati: “Planned Parenthood Enslaved Me to a Self Destructive and Soul Crushing Lifestyle – A Pregnancy Care Center Set me Free”

March 1st, 2017

Emma Stone

Celebrities like Emma Stone sported pins at the recent Oscar awards to show their support for Planned Parenthood.

They tell us that Planned Parenthood empowers women with essential reproductive healthcare, especially families in our poorest communities where many of their facilities are located.

Meet Susan

Susan was a client of Planned Parenthood for many years.

She was born with 2 strikes against her.

“My childhood was full of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse by my father, and at a very early age, I went looking for a man’s love thru sex.”

As Susan travelled down the self-destructive road of looking for love in all the wrong places, she was desperate for of the care and acceptance of a father who abused and rejected her.

Susan shares about her first abortion using the RU-486 pills she obtained at Planned Parenthood:

“The abortion was very painful physically and emotionally; the baby looked like a little turtle when it came out. I buried the baby outside because I couldn’t stand to flush it.”

Without healing, women with previous abuse and trauma are more likely to have repeat abortions – close to 50% of all abortions are repeat procedures.

Back Alley Chemical Abortion

Susan returns to Planned Parenthood for her second abortion:

“The second abortion was kind of a “back alley” abortion. I had gone to Planned Parenthood for pills and was turned away because I was a few days past the cutoff for having a medical abortion…one of the employees there agreed to help me anyway, and she offered to meet me in a parking lot where she would give me the pills.  This obviously wasn’t the first time she had done it because she had a system in place.”

Note the expert counseling and medical care offered by Planned Parenthood to this increasingly self-destructive young woman.

Susan was locked into repeat patterns of re-enacting her past trauma.

Planned Parenthood was waiting with chemicals and procedures to keep her enslaved to the behaviors and dysfunctional relationships that can flow from abuse and neglect in childhood and adolescence, and arising from her unhealed abortion losses.

Planned Parenthood Staff: Jaded by Choice

Susan began to realize that the staff at Planned Parenthood really didn’t care about her. They were motivated by greed but on a deeper level, the daily immersion in immorality and death takes a toll on the staff.

Employees at abortion businesses often have their own wounds from abuse and past abortions.  The can suffer from burnout and become callous and even abusive towards their clients.

Susan shares:

“The staff was cold and unsympathetic and the doctors were even worse. It’s like they despise you, but conceal it under the guise that they are ‘helping’. I had never felt cared for or understood at these places.

It was clear to me then that money mattered way more than my health to them, but it didn’t stop my careless behavior towards sex because I had not changed nor had I changed what I thought about myself. In fact, the abortions only led to lower self esteem…I knew what I was doing – and I hated myself for it.”

If you read the testimonies of the thousands of women who are part of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, you will learn that this treatment of women by Planned Parenthood staff is quite common.

Enabled in this self-destructive path by Planned Parenthood, Susan experienced her final and most traumatic abortion:

“The fourth and final abortion was a D&C type at Planned Parenthood. I was too far along for a chemical abortion and so this time I actually had to face the reality. I was placed on a table and stretched and pulled, and suctioned, and it was horrifying and painful.”

A Light Shines in the Darkness

Thankfully Susan’s long nightmare came to and end.

It was not Planned Parenthood with their pin wearing celebrity glitterati that finally stopped Susan’s descent into hell.

It was the services of a Pregnancy Care Center:

Susan shares:

“I became pregnant again in 2008 when I was heavily addicted to Meth – a way to self medicate my pain and depression. I was broke and homeless and ended up at a Pregnancy Care Center.  The director there listened and offered help, but no judgment…She gave me a grocery store gift card, a gas gift card, and free maternity clothes.

She actually cared and told me about classes they have at the center that I can attend to earn items that I would need. I began to hear truths in these classes that I had forgotten (or maybe never learned); that I was valuable, that God loved me in spite of my sin – that I didn’t have to stay the way I was…”

Susan gave birth to a child with special needs that she placed in the loving care of an adoptive family.

Susan found in that Pregnancy Care Center something she never found in all her years of going to Planned Parenthood facilities:

“For the first time in my life, when I was at my absolute worst and most disgusting self, I was able to see God showing His love for me.

He began to heal my heart from the previous abortions and abuse, and I was able to forgive those people (my parents and boyfriends) who had so deeply hurt me, which then allowed me to forgive myself.

I left the drugs and promiscuous lifestyle behind and began the long process of rebuilding and reconciliation.

Planned Parenthood didn’t help me… the abortions didn’t help me.

The LOVE of the staff at that Pregnancy Care Center did more than help me, it led me to real salvation and healing.”










From The Personal Hell of a Late Term Abortion to A Healing Journey of Divine Mercy

February 27th, 2017

A Journey to Healing

By Kevin Burke, LSW

Theresa Bonopartis has published a little gem of a book, A Journey to Healing Through Divine Mercy that will be a perfect companion for your Lenten journey. Like many of the best spiritual writers, her reflections are refreshingly simple, yet profound and rich in practical spiritual wisdom.

The book is broken down into small chapters that focus on many of the common core emotional and spiritual issues in the lives of those with abortion loss. Within each section you discover excellent passages from various saints and holy men and women. Excerpts from Sister Faustina’s Diary are featured in each chapter and nicely compliment the author’s own reflections.

A Light Shines in the Darkness

As I read through Theresa’s book, it struck me that this would have special benefit and blessing for those who suffered traumatic loss and the  painful spiritual darkness that can arise from past abandonment, abuse and neglect.

Perhaps that is because the author has travelled through some very painful and traumatic experiences on the road to Divine Mercy.

Theresa opens the Journal of Healing to share a brief account of her traumatic later term abortion as a teenager.

Theresa’s parents threw her out of the house after they learned of the pregnancy and later she is rejected by the baby’s father who pushes her to abort their child. Homeless, impoverished and vulnerable, she gave in to desperation and fear.

Theresa describes her condition after the procedure:

“I can remember the struggle to be faithful, searching in the dark to find God…I remember having to keep moving in spite of the pain, the darkness, the fear, because there was nothing to lose. There could be no greater hell that the one I had made for myself.”

The Power of Denial

Theresa touches on the issue of denial that is so powerful for those that participate in the death of their unborn children. Denial is often a necessary part of surviving the shock and confusion of the abortion event.

Yet without a deeper reconciliation and healing, over time this denial and repression of the truth numbs and starves us of the love and joy that is essential to a happy and fruitful life.  Theresa writes:

“The agonizing pain did not leave as the years went on, although I must admit I fell into such a deep denial that I was not aware that my lack of joy was a consequence of my abortion. Society did not acknowledge my pain and grief.  So in order to survive, I pressed my feelings into the recesses of my mind and, like everyone else, denied their existence.”

Practical Spiritual Wisdom

Theresa found peace and healing through a personal encounter with the Divine Mercy of God that touched her in a very deep and intimate way. The grace from that blessed event fills the pages of her book and later inspired Theresa to develop her after-abortion healing program Entering Canaan.

A Journey of Healing contains practical spiritual and emotional wisdom that touches on some of the common core issues for those with abortion loss; trust, forgiveness, discouragement and despair, impatience and pride.

Theresa acknowledges her own struggles in these areas as she gently encourages and calls those who are afraid to take those small steps in the healing journey. There are some helpful reflections on the challenges, and opportunities that various Holidays such as Mother’s Day and Christmas can present to those with abortion loss.

One of the valuable themes repeated in this book are that of patience and perseverance in the spiritual life. While a seemingly simple concept, it is in fact the most challenging aspects of the spiritual journey and an obstacle that leads many to stagnation or even regression in their faith life.

Interwoven into A Journey of Healing are Theresa’s experiences of suffering and healing of her abortion loss within the context of her family. This is an important as it touches on the reality that while isolation and shame are common after the procedure, this wound touches many people.  Often other family and friends can play a significant part in the abortion decision and are impacted by the symptoms that are common after the procedure.

A Journey to Healing has some valuable sections on how Divine Mercy touched all those relationships in Theresa’s life bringing new understanding, reconciliation and peace. She rightly stresses that this requires much prayer, patience and trust in God.

While the tone is one of gentle encouragement and the love and mercy of God, you will also find some healthy and more earthy spiritual wisdom:

“When we look at our sinfulness, there is a temptation to get stuck there… ‘I can’t believe I had an abortion’ mode. This…is false pride.  Why should we be so shocked that we can commit such a sin?  Once we turn from the will of God, any sin is possible.”

Amen! This provides a healthier context to look at our sin, no matter how grievous.  It is also a wakeup call that if we remain trapped in our pride, separated from God’s love, mercy and grace – we can all, in different ways, continue to abort God’s will in our lives.

Take the Journey of Healing

A Journey of Healing is certainly appropriate for those with abortion loss that need encouragement to takes steps to a deeper reconciliation and healing in their lives.

But it is also an excellent resource for those who have been through an abortion recovery program and want to continue on the road to deeper conversion, healing and growth in the faith. Consider this a valuable resource for your study/prayer group and an excellent book for spiritual directors to accompany those with abortion loss.

Take time this Lent to read Theresa’s book. You will find in A Journey to Healing a deeper healing of your abortion loss and a blessed encounter with God’s Divine Mercy.

The Deadly Power of Denial: How Roe V Wade Attorney Sarah Weddington’s Abortion Led to the Destruction of 60 Million Pre-Born Children

February 24th, 2017


Weddington McCorvey 2

By Kevin Burke, LSW and Christa Childs

In 1969, a young Texas lawyer, Sarah Weddington approached a desperate and pregnant Norma McCorvey. Norma already had 2 children and a failed marriage, with a family history of abuse and addiction. Norma was unable to get an abortion of her third child due to Texas abortion law.

Over a pizza lunch Norma signed the paperwork making her the plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the infamous abortion suit against the State of Texas – the rest is history. In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and legalized abortion in the United States.

What is less known and understood, is how  Sarah Weddington’s own abortion, years before Roe V Wade, played a central role in opening the door to a decision that led to the death of close to 60 million unborn children.

The Price of Higher Education

In 1967 Sarah and her boyfriend Ron Weddington, both law students at the time, were facing an unplanned pregnancy. They did not want any disruption of their educational goals.

Abortion was illegal in Texas. So in the fall of 1967 Sarah and Ron drove south to Eagle Pass, Texas, crossed the border and entered a small clinic in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras.

In her memoir “A Question of Choice”, Sarah, upon waking after the procedure thought, “I hope I don’t die, and I pray that no one ever finds out about this.” Sarah and Ron married the following year.

For 25 years their abortion remained a dark secret that was not shared with family or friends. Only in the writing of “A Question of Choice” did she finally open up about her own abortion.  Sarah and Ron would later divorce.

Weddington’s autobiography reveals that once the Roe decision went to court, her memory of that time is sketchy. She forgets how and where she first heard about the Supreme Court’s decision. A Question of Choice presents Sarah as a serious woman with workaholic tendencies.

The Deadly Relationship between Abortion Advocacy and Complicated Grief

Abortion is not a normal experience of loss. It is often a closely guarded secret.

Remember Sarah Weddington’s first thoughts immediately after the procedure:

“I pray that no one ever finds out about this.”

This reveals a natural sense of shame and desperation about what just happened – and a need to keep this shameful event a secret. Pro-choice feminist will claim this is because of  abortion stigma directed against those who have the procedure.

But even when abortion is felt to be the “best option or decision” and validated by friends and family, there are often feelings of confusion, shame and guilt when you disrupt the very natural process of  pregnancy.

A woman’s body, when experiencing a healthy pregnancy, is naturally pro-life…and not pro-choice. A woman in reality becomes a mother at the time of conception and her body goes through various changes to welcome and nurture the new life growing within her.

Unplanned or complicated, stress-filled pregnancies can cause some mothers and fathers to reject the truth of their parenthood, and lead them to abortion decisions.

Denial of what was lost, and repression of the painful memories and feelings after the abortion event, can be manifest in a variety of ways.  Those with previous trauma and abuse and other emotional vulnerabilities are more likely to experience post abortion symptoms such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and unhealthy relationships featuring promiscuity that can set in shortly after the procedure.

However among higher functioning and educated women, denial can take a more sophisticated, but deadly form.

The Deadly Denial of the Abortion Rights Activist

Some women deny and repress their natural post-abortion feelings by total immersion in educational and career pursuits.

Others discover a vocation in abortion rights activism.

To those in abortion recovery counseling, it is no surprise that many of the pioneers of reproductive choice, such as Kate Michelman of NARAL and Gloria Steinem, zealously promoted abortion rights after their own procedures.

Those with previous abortion loss, and consumed with the fight to expand and validate abortion rights, are continually repressing any negative feelings and memories of their own abortion experience. This powerful emotional energy is directed into what they and others see as a noble and just cause.  Any feelings of anger and pain from their abortion experience are displaced onto the enemies of choice.

Sadly, the failure of many abortion activists to acknowledge and mourn the death of their unborn children, has led to so much suffering and death.

Pro Choice feminists like Michelman, Steinem and lawyer Sarah Weddington re-enact and re-validate their own unhealed abortion loss by “empowering” other women to make the same “choice” as they did.

Leslie Blackwell of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign shares about her pro-choice activism after an abortion:

“I discovered I was pregnant and I had just landed my dream job as a TV Talk Show Host.  A roommate drove me to an abortion clinic in Greensboro, N.C. After graduation, I threw myself into the new job creating a façade of the perfect young career girl who had it all together … drinking, drugging and sleeping around … self destructing. Trying to validate my choices, I became a strong pro-abortion supporter and at times militant with anyone who didn’t agree with my opinion.”

Aborted Relationships

As Sarah Weddington’s story indicates, partners that have an abortion and stay together experience higher rates of relationship dysfunction and divorce.

Why is that?

A couple shares physical and emotional intimacy, pleasure and joy that naturally leads to the creation of life. The abortion procedure disrupts this very natural process and ends the life of the developing child.  This loss infects those areas of relational intimacy with the painful emotions and memories associated with the procedure and their role in the child’s death.   Couples rarely share their complicated feelings about the abortion experience and the child that died.

Over time this can create challenges in future communication, trust, and sexual satisfaction. Partners, often throw themselves into work (as Weddington did after her abortion,) and are vulnerable to acting out their unrecognized post abortion issues in affairs.   Some will abuse drugs and alcohol and may be be prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication by their physicians. They may appear quite successful – but they remain emotionally and spiritually wounded.

Anniversary Reactions

The body remembers what the mind and heart deny and repress.

Many women and some men experience depression, anxiety and grief on the anniversary of their abortion or on the actual due date of their child.

Norma McCorvey, (the Jane Roe of Roe V Wade) shared in a radio interview  with Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life that her meeting in 1969 with Sarah Weddington, when the lawyer was trying to convince Norma to be a plaintiff, was held on the anniversary of Sarah’s illegal abortion in Mexico.

Weddington may have unconsciously channeled her anniversary reaction after abortion into efforts to validate her own choice, as she met with a pregnant Norma McCorvey and worked to legalize abortion in the courts.

Aborting Jane Roe

Those who deny their own abortion loss are often reactively angry and unforgiving with those that challenge the narrative that abortion is always and everywhere a liberating and empowering experience for women.

From the New York Times:

“Sarah Weddington generously praises the Austin women who first sparked her involvement in Roe, but she is unduly harsh and dismissive toward her former client, Norma McCorvey, with whom she has since had differences.”

Why such animosity toward Jane Roe?

Perhaps because Norma was the voice of her conscience, and the millions of women who have been manipulated and exploited at the time of an unplanned pregnancy.

Norma McCorvey came to later publicly regret her association with Roe V Wade and shared her experience of feeing manipulated and lied to by Weddington at a vulnerable time in her life.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Sarah’s autobiography, 25 years after the loss of her own child to abortion, was perhaps in part related to an unconscious need to share her public abortion testimony, break the power of the secret, and find peace and healing.

Sadly she cannot fully repent, grieve and heal of her own abortion loss as she continues to promote abortion as a necessary solution to an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.

Jesus said it is challenging for the rich and wise of this world to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier “for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.”

Jesus also shared that the poor and meek of this world are blessed.

The periodically homeless single mother who became the Jane Roe of Roe V Wade later repented of her role in that infamous decision. This required great humility and courage.  Norma was received into the Catholic Church in 1998 and died recently on February 18 2017.  Before she died Norma found God’s mercy, forgiveness and peace.

The journey to conversion and repentance, forgiveness and healing will be much more difficult for Sarah Weddington. But not impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

African American Victim of Rape and Molestation Says Abortion is another form of Enslavement for the Black Community

February 14th, 2017


A metallic chain with an explosed link.

Onawu can you share with us some of your family background?

Onawu: My mother and father were migrant farm workers.  I was molested at age four by a neighbor’s son who is in prison to this day for armed robbery and rape.

My father was very abusive to my mother.

My grandmother struggled with mental health issues. My grandfather…was murdered in 1963 by one of his seven daughter’s husband in a very small farming community of Fairmead, CA.

What impact did those early experiences of violence and molestation have on you?

Onawu:   As I reflect back on my life it started out in a pretty violent and twisted environment.   With the challenges I faced in my family, I struggled with a sense of shame, not really understanding this…but also a fear of being rejected.

I felt a deep sense of insecurity.

You have also suffered the violence and trauma of rape.

Yes I was raped in 1972 when I was a senior in high school. He was someone that I used to date. He raped me six months after we broke-up and I became pregnant.

My father wanted me to have an abortion, but I was too far along…My mother convinced me to keep the baby and she would help me to raise him while I went to school. I graduated from high school in June of 1973. I am glad I did not abort.  My son is a wonderful man who is serving in the army. He has done two tours in Iraq.

Your first abortion occurred when you were a college student correct?

Onawu: My first abortion in 1974, I was 20 years old and shortly after the Roe vs. Wade decision…and yes I was attending junior college at the time. I was referred to Planned Parenthood by a friend.  I got involved again a year later with another man who was in the military was the same scenario, resulting in another abortion.

It is amazing how easy it was for me to accept the lies of the pro abortion Planned Parenthood counseling back then. [They convinced me] that I was not carrying a human being. I was able to believe that abortion was the answer because I needed a quick fix…

It was many years later that decided that you needed to reach out for help from your abortion pain. What led you to take that step?

Onawu:  It was sometime after that second abortion I would be driving and cross an overpasses or body of water and [filled with fear] that I would throw an infant over the railings into the water or over into a canyon.

If I was holding a child in my lap I would hold the baby tighter. Sometime I would fight tears.

I was in my fifties when the Lord brought it to my attention that constant fear and anxiety was connected to my abortions.

Can you share about your Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat Experience?

Onawu:   It was an intense three days. Tears began to flow, stony hearts were turned to flesh. We all made it thru…women and men, couples and some grandparents were there as well…lives were being changed.

What are some of the obstacles you see in getting a message of awareness and healing to our African American Christian churches? How can we open doors to healing our families and communities?

Onawu:   Some of our leaders don’t understand the mental anguish of the consequences of abortions for mothers and fathers. Lack of knowledge is damaging, the truth shall make us free.

Some of our politicians and Christian ministers and leaders need healing as well…of their own participation in abortion and by encouraging others to abort.   I believe lack of education and perhaps the ability to face their own past lead them to put up defensive walls.

We must be examples of hope and life for generations to come. My prayer is that we no longer be enslaved to poverty and violence; especially in the womb; not only for African Americans but for human beings as a whole.

[You can read Onawu’s full testimony here.]

In the Netflix Series “The Crown” Winston Churchill Enters the Deep and Murky Waters of Male Grief and Loss

February 10th, 2017



Netflix‘s ten-part series The Crown premiered in November 2016. The Crown is a lavish drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II in post-war Britain.

If you are a devotee of the HBO epic Game of Thrones, you will likely be disappointed by the scarcity of graphic sex and violence.  However, if you’re a fan of compelling stories set in a fascinating historical period, excellent acting, with no expense spared for costume and sets – then take a look at The Crown.

It is refreshing that the writers and director allow time for the stories to breathe and develop.

From the Telegraph:

Like “Downton Abbey,” this is a series you watch to see actors being given the time to act…

As the series unfolds, we begin an intimate journey with Queen Elizabeth and the man she calls “my first Prime Minister”, Winston Churchill.  The British monarchy and government are struggling to find their place in the emerging new world order rising out of the ashes of war.

As the series progresses, we witness a growing tension between the Queen and Churchill as the Prime Minister begins to advance in age and experiences a natural decline in his health and stamina.

This dilemma reaches a head in the final episode of season one, entitled Assassins (which is not about an actual assassination.)  Interwoven into this episode, is the intriguing relationship that develops between Churchill and Modernist painter Graham Sutherland, and the role of Sutherland in helping Churchill face both his age related limitations, but also something much deeper and intimate.

The Murky Waters of Grief

In the season one finale, British Parliament has commissioned the artist Sutherland (played by actor Stephen Dillane) to paint a portrait of Churchill to celebrate his 80th birthday.  The tension and dialog between Churchill and Sutherland provides an excellent framework to look at what can be challenging territory for any man – the murky waters of grief and loss.

Churchill is an amateur painter and at various times throughout the series we see Winston taking retreat from the pressures of his larger-than-life role in domestic and international politics, to sit by his backyard pond painting the serene landscape.

Yet he struggles to capture the essence of the scene…as it eludes him time and time again. The experience of painting this pond is more like a violent wrestling match for Churchill than a time of meditation and peace.

As he sits for his portrait with artist Sutherland, with ever present cigar in hand, Churchill shares:

Painting a picture is like fighting a battle. A bloody battle. In the gladiatorial fight to the death, the artist either wins or loses.

It is here that we travel deeper into the soul and psyche of the blustery Churchill, aided by an excellent performance by actor John Lithgow. The shared vocation and love of painting, opens the door for these men to communicate on a more intimate level:

Sutherland: I do take comfort from the fact that your own work is so honest and revealing.

Churchill:  Oh, thank you for the compliment.  Well, are there any works that you’re referring to in particular?

Sutherland: I was thinking especially of the Goldfish pond here at Chartwell.

Churchill:  The pond? Why the pond? It’s just a pond.

Sutherland:  It’s very much more than that. As borne out by the fact that you’ve returned to it again and again. More than 20 times. Churchill:  Well, yes, because it’s such a technical challenge. It eludes me.

Sutherland:  Well, perhaps you elude yourself, sir.  That’s why it’s more revealing than a self-portrait.

Churchill:  Oh, that’s nonsense.

Sutherland has hit a nerve, and like a lot of men used to being in control of their lives and emotions, Churchill’s reflexive response is to dismiss the observation as “nonsense.”

Winston wants to keep things on the surface and avoid the deeper emotional waters:

Churchill: It’s the water, the play of light. The trickery. The fish, down below.

But Sutherland is gently relentless and he won’t let this fish escape the hook.

Like Great Britain and the Monarchy, there is something painful beneath the “tranquility and elegance” of Churchill’s pond:

Sutherland:   I think all our work is unintentionally revealing and I find it especially so with your pond.  Beneath the tranquility and the elegance and the light playing on the surface, I saw honesty and pain, terrible pain. The framing itself, indicated to me that you wanted us to see something beneath all the muted colors, deep down in the water. Terrible despair. Hiding like a Leviathan. Like a sea monster.

Churchill: You saw all that?

Sutherland: Yes, I did.

Churchill, needing a respite and diversion from his own interior pond, asks Sutherland:

Churchill: May I ask you a question, Mr. Sutherland?  It’s about one of your paintings. The one you call “Pastoral.” With all that gnarled and twisted wood. Those great ugly dabs of black. I found something malevolent in it. Where did that come from?

Sutherland:  Well, that’s very perceptive.  That was a very dark time.   My son, John, passed away, aged two months.

Churchill:  Oh, my. I am sorry.

Sutherland:   Yes. Thank you.

Sutherland’s vulnerability creates the possibility for Churchill to put aside his outer garment of power and control, and open up about his own experience of loss.

Sutherland asks Churchill about his children:

Sutherland: You have five, yes?

Churchill: Four. Marigold was the fifth.  She left us at age two years, nine months. Septicemia.

Sutherland:  I’m so sorry. I had no idea.

Churchill:   We settled on the name Marigold, on account of her wonderful golden curls.  The most extraordinary color.  Regretfully, but though perhaps mercifully, I was not present when she died.  When I came home, Clemmie [Churchill’s wife] roared like a wounded animal.

This journey with Sutherland now provides a moment of great grace and insight for Churchill:

Churchill: We bought Chartwell a year after Marigold died. That was when I put in the pond…Here.

Churchill pauses, as his face is moved with deep emotion and an expression of restrained tears as he connects the repeated act of painting the pond and the grief he never expressed with the loss of his daughter Marigold.

Churchill previously saw his paintings of the pond within the familiar construct of a great battle. This makes sense given his role as the iconic bastion of perseverance and strength for the British people during the great Battle of Britain when the nation was terrorized by  Nazi air strikes.

As he wrestled with his repeated painting of the pond, Churchill like many men was creatively using a concrete and physically engaging vehicle to channel his emotions of anger, frustration, pain and loss.

Yet without a greater awareness of what was driving his interior battle, Churchill remained without peace, and without closure –in his painting of the pond – and closure with his daughter’s death.

Staying on the Surface of the Pond – The High Price of Displaced Grief

Newsweek magazine featured a February, 2007 cover story entitled “Men and Depression.” [1] The article revealed that men suffer much higher rates of depression than previously thought.

Over time this can take a toll on a man’s health and relationships:

Although depression is emotionally crippling and has numerous medical implications—some of them deadly—many men fail to recognize the symptoms. Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, [pornography] anger or by becoming workaholics. And even when they do realize they have a problem, men often view asking for help as an admission of weakness, a betrayal of their male identities…

Michael Addis, chair of psychology at Cark University shares an insight that can help us understand why a prominent figure like Churchill’s initially struggled to be vulnerable with the artist Sutherland:

“Our definition of a successful man in this culture does not include being depressed, down or sad. In many ways it’s the exact opposite. A successful man is always up, positive, in charge and in control of his emotions. ” [2]

As a professional counselor, I have seen how the inability, or lack of an opportunity to honor and grieve a very painful or traumatic loss, can impact a man’s emotional and physical health, and his relationships.   Events such as childhood divorce, sexual and physical abuse, the neglect/rejection of a parent, and job loss can inflict some very deep wounds on the heart and souls of men.

I was surprised to discover early in my counseling work with men, that abortion, like Churchill’s loss of his daughter Marigold, can also be a very complicated and confusing experience of loss for some men.  They can carry a heavy burden of regret, shame and guilt that continues to impact their lives and relationships.

This has been confirmed by the largest study on men and abortion by sociologist Arthur Shostak. (Shostak was himself part of an abortion decision and accompanied his partner to the abortion center.)  His research revealed that men frequently think about the child that would have been born.  Many men revealed guilt, confusion and openly grieved during the interview process. [3]

The grieving process is unique for each person, and there are differences in how men and women express and process emotions. But it is life giving and essential for men to be open to that experience.   Without a safe place and the necessary support to share about such deep wounds, like Churchill, men will avoid looking deeper into that murky pond.

Some men will find significant relief in just being able to share with a counselor or friend, a caring person who understands their loss, or in a men’s prayer group some of their feelings and struggles. (Men who have been part of an abortion decision and procedure can find help here and also here.)

Always the Prime Minister

Churchill was surely blessed in his private life and relationships by any insight and emotional release facilitated by the story of his exchange with Sutherland and the journey to his own interior pond.

However, Churchill was not about to allow such vulnerability in his public life.

Churchill and his wife Clementine were not pleased with artist Sutherland’s very revealing portrait of the great Winston, with all his age appropriate emotional and physical vulnerabilities on display.  There would be none of that!

The couple made sure the painting never saw the light of day, and after building a large bonfire, ceremoniously burned it.


[1] Scelfo, J. (2007, February 25). Men and Depression: New Treatments. Newsweek.

[2] Ibid

[3] Shostak, Arthur. Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses and Love .  Praeger, 1984.