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September 2002 - Volume 1, Issue 7


The Monthly e-Newsletter of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries
Rachel's Vineyard Ministries holds weekend retreats for emotional and spiritual healing after abortion.
It is a division of American Life League.

Publisher: Rachel's Vineyard Ministries
Editor: Leslie Graves
Comments and questions:,


  1. "I'm so glad I had all those abortions"
  2. Country star Tim McGraw releases song about abortion
  3. Article about Rachel's Vineyard in "The Daily Oklahoman"
  4. Study: abortion / mortality link
  5. Comments from Maine and Indiana
  6. Phil Donahue and Oprah
  7. Sav-A-Life Affiliate Conference, November 7-9
  8. Rachel's Vineyard Retreat Dates, Locations & Contacts Sept-Oct
  9. Surprised by God


by Theresa Burke and Leslie Graves

Julie Burchill is an editorial columnist for The Guardian, a large London daily newspaper. In a column earlier this year, she writes about meeting the new baby of a close friend. As she holds the baby, she remembers her five abortions. She also remembers two recent British television shows. These shows had each featured a character who regretted an earlier abortion. Julie wrote:

"Exposure to my friend's breastfeeding, followed by Dot and Sonia's breast-beating, [as they remembered and regretted their abortions] should by rights have launched me into a right royal depression, or at least a bit of 'bittersweet' brooding over my barren terrain. But - and I examined my psyche closely for signs of self-delusion here - all I felt was happy to be home, alone, with my boyfriend."

Burchill then expresses contempt for those who experience pain after abortion:

"Me-Ism - psychiatry, psychoanalysis, any sort of navel-gazing - has to take part of the blame for the demonisation of abortion. The idea that everything we do or have done to us stays with us for ever is a reactionary and self-defeating reading of modern life. No doubt if you're the sort of lumbering, self-obsessed poltroon who believes that seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus 30 years ago irrevocably marked your life, you wouldn't get over an abortion, as you wouldn't get over stubbing your toe without professional help. But you choose to be that way, because you are weak and vain, and you think your pain is important. Whereas the rest of us know not only that our pain is not important, but that it probably isn't even pain - just too much time on our hands."

While this quote will anger some, others will recognize in it an echo of their own internal self-criticism. "Why can't I get over this? What is wrong with me? I am weak and vain and obsessed with myself to keep lingering there. If anyone knew I felt this way, they would mock me."

Painful emotions related to loss and grief can be locked firmly in the mind and memory, suspended in a state of disconnected numbness. Defense mechanisms are employed to help us avoid pain. We also know that individuals can remain paralyzed in one or more of the grief stages for literally decades. Anger, denial, numbness, and bargaining, for example, are ways to avoid the deeper levels of excruciating grief and loss. It is easier for Ms. Burchill, for example to be disgusted and condemning towards those who grieve, seeing them as tiresome and nauseating, while she is so determined NOT to feel.

Who would write the same description denigrating the memorial activities of last week commemorating the broken families and lives lost on September 11th? With dignity, the world watched as we remembered the thousands of lives cut short, the human potential and promise destroyed because of a terrorist regime that believes in killing to solve their problems. Imagine the reaction to Julie Burchill's words if they were regarding the memorials and grief expressed last week. Would anyone dare call such displays of grief "reactionary," "self-defeating," "navel gazing" and blame it on the fact that we have too much time on our hands??

On the contrary, we know that by grieving our losses as a community we find strength, compassion and the ingredients of mental health, hope and recovery. Women and men who speak publicly about their abortion experiences have something important to teach us about the freedoms which oppress - and the bitter pain and grief that accompanies a mother's broken heart when her child dies. Those who speak openly about their abortion experiences are courageous individuals - who make themselves vulnerable because they care about others and want to reach out with hope to those who suffer. They also desire to reach out with the truth to those who are making a decision regarding abortion. Finding meaning and purpose in such suffering is not a challenge for the weak and vain - but can only be accomplished by the human spirit who puts aside the natural human tendency to self-absorption to create a coalition of support for victims who suffer and those at risk of losing their children.

It's natural that interacting with a child or listening to a woman on television share about an abortion would surface Julie's own loss. If she gave permission, it could be the event that becomes an open sesame to the vault of buried emotions. But she never enters the cave, content to assure herself of a blissful alone life, misdirecting anger and condemnation towards other post aborted women who grieve to supplant any grief or guilt with a sense of inner superiority.

There appears to be a disturbing collusion by those like Julie Burchill to devalue and discount the growing population of women who grieve the children they have lost to abortion. This involves turning a blind eye to one's own inner feelings of grief and oppression to instead vent those fervent emotions onto safer targets... like women who grieve and don't keep it to themselves.


Tim McGraw is a highly lauded country singer. He has sold nearly 25 million albums, had 21 Top 10 singles (17 #1's), won The County Music Association's Album of The Year Award twice, and is a two-time Academy of Country Music Awards Male Vocalist. McGraw, the 2002 CMA Entertainer of the Year, has described himself as "a bum with diamonds in his pockets." McGraw has recently signed a two-book contract with Simon & Schuster publishers.

His newest album is due out on November 26. On September 5, McGraw released his first single from this album, a song called "Red Ragtop." The lyrics appear below. Here is a link to Tim McGraw's website. Tim McGraw - Official Website.

Red Ragtop - Tim McGraw September 2002

I was 20 and she was 18.
We were just about as wild as we were green
In the ways of the world.
She picked me up in that red ragtop
We were free of the folks
And hiding from the cops on a summer night
Running all the red lights.
We parked way out in a clearing in a grove.
And the night was as hot as a coal-burning stove.
We were cooking with gas,
Ooh it had to last
In the back of that red rag top
She said please don't stop
Well the very first time her mother met me,
Her green-eyed girl had been a mother to be for two weeks.
I was out of a job and she was in school.
And life was fast and the world was cruel.
We were young and wild.
We decided not to have a child.
So we did what we did and we tried to forget.
And we swore up and down
There would be no regrets in the morning light.
But on the way home that night,
On the back of that red ragtop
She said please don't stop loving me.
We took one more trip around the sun,
But it was all make believe in the end.
No, I can't say where she is today.
I can't remember who I was back then.
Well you do what you do and you pay for your sins.
And there's no such thing as what might have been.
That's a waste of time.
Drive you out of your mind.
I was stopped at a red light just yesterday beside a young girl in a Cabriolet.
And her eyes were green. And I was in an old scene.
I was back in that red ragtop on the day she stopped loving me.
I was back in that red ragtop on the day she stopped loving me.


On August 31, a lengthy feature article about Rachel's Vineyard appeared in "The Daily Oklahoman", Oklahoma's largest daily newspaper. The article by staff reporter Carla Hinton is not available online, but we have included an excerpt here:

"To see other women who have gone through this and that they are not alone -- that helps. To see that other women who have not had abortions are not condemning them -- that helps," says Susan Lepak, retreat coordinator. And forgiveness is key.

"The common denominator is this tremendous guilt," Kelly said. "I knew that God had forgiven me. I had talked to my pastor about it, but when I started having my children, I could not believe that I could destroy them, which is what I had done to my child."

Martha, another retreat attendee who asked that her last name not be published, said the retreat helped her deal with the question of forgiveness that had loomed over her.

"You are able to grieve your child and let go -- and know that God forgave you," Martha said of the retreat.

She said she tried self-help books, counseling and other things to extinguish the pain of her abortion more than 20 years ago. When she gathered the courage to call and register for a retreat earlier this year, the torrent of tears that flowed just from speaking to the registrar let her know she needed to attend.

Kelly said she showed up at two retreats, but left before actually joining the gathering. Her courage did not fail her the third time, and now she is helping others go through the retreat process.

Lepak said the power to change lives -- the foundation of the Rachel's Vineyard retreats -- is that of a higher one."


On September 8, the Washington Times--a major daily newspaper in Washington, DC--carried an article about three recent studies that show a statistical correlation between abortion and later emotional distress. The article by staff writer Lauren Schultz is archived online at this link: Abortion, death rate linked in study -- The Washington Times .

According to leading post-abortion researcher David Reardon, PhD of The Elliott Institute, the article may have conflated three recent articles about post-abortion effects in peer-reviewed journals. These articles appeared in the British Medical Journal (January 2001), the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (2002, Vol. 72, No. 1, 141-152) and the Southern Medical Journal (August 2002).

For information about each article, please visit the website of The Elliott Institute at

On September 12, the Washington Times printed a letter from Theresa Burke as its lead letter-to-the-editor. To view that letter, click here: letters -- The Washington Times


Maine and Indiana are states where Rachel's Vineyard retreats were held for the first time in recent months. Two new retreat coordinators wrote us the following:

From Jeanne Bull, Project Rachel Coordinator, Catholic Charities Maine, commenting on Maine's first Rachel's Vineyard retreat:

"Our first retreat was wonderful. It's a difference between explaining the retreat to the team members and then having them witness the hand of God. Even now sitting here I am at a loss for words to describe how blessed and humbled I feel to be part of this work. It is a wonder."

From Carolyn Kenning, who initiated the Rachel's Vineyard retreat within the Diocese of Gary, Indiana:

"The affirmations of the retreat process from retreatants during and after the retreat were heartwarming to say the least. Our priest was awesome. Father Mens is our diocesan pro-life director. It was his first RV retreat. He came on Friday evening, was back at 3 p.m. on Saturday. and stayed until everyone went to confession very late Saturday night. He took his rock with him and carried it up the aisle at his

regular parish Mass on Sunday - that was the way he introduced the

parishioners to the RV process."


In the September 2002 issue of "Oprah" magazine, MSNBC television talk show host Phil Donahue is interviewed about how he pioneered a certain style of television talk show during the 1970s.

In this interview, Phil Donahue includes a graphic and disturbing description of an abortion he filmed in the 1970s. He televised this footage on his talk show at that time so his audience could see, as Mr. Donahue says, "Well, that's the procedure--15 minutes." Because of the graphic nature of his description of this abortion, we are not including it here.

If you would like to contact Mr. Donahue's current television show to encourage him to include a segment on post-abortion trauma and recovery, the email address is "". And if you would like to encourage the editors of "Oprah" magazine to include coverage of post-abortion trauma, that email address is: "".

The Sav ~ A ~ Life 20th annual Affiliate Conference of crisis pregnancy centers is November 7-9, 2002 at the Embassy Suites in Birmingham, Alabama. Theresa Burke, Ph.D. will be presenting several workshops for the conference which include the following topics:

Rachel' s Vineyard

Looking for new resources for your post abortion ministry? Rachel's Vineyard is a unique combination of psychological and spiritual techniques, which provide a powerful model for assisting groups to find closure and spiritual healing after abortion. This workshop will present a descriptive overview of the Rachel's Vineyard Retreat including content and process. An in-depth explanation will be offered for the Living Scripture technique, the specific purpose of each exercise, and psychological and spiritual constructs as catharsis for memory and emotion. We will also examine the retreat structure as a means to provide an opportunity for dialogue of the soul and opening traumatic wounds to the grace of God. We will explore how the retreat functions as a journey through the paschal mystery for the suffering body of Christ.

Fact or Fiction: An in depth look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Part I

Part I: We have heard that Post Abortion Syndrome is a variation of post traumatic stress disorder. In this workshop, you will receive in depth training on what post traumatic stress disorder actually is. This two-part seminar will present a trauma-sensitive perspective on how women cope with pregnancy loss after induced abortion. Symptoms of PTSD as they relate to abortion will be described. An examination of how trauma may impact memory will be explored including amnesia, hypermnesia and dissociation. Examples of avoidance, preoccupation, sleep disturbances, panic and anxiety, obsessive compulsive rituals, and numbing behaviors will be included.

Finding Freedom from Traumatic Re-enactment Part II

Part II: One of the biggest struggles of post aborted women is re-living their experience, as well as consequential behaviors of that experience. Since repetition is one of the greatest indicators of trauma, a knowledge of traumatic reenactment will be a valuable tool for helping understand behaviors, which recreate aspects of the original trauma such as powerlessness, destruction, fear, and shame. Examples of posttraumatic reenactment will be given within the framework of eating disorders, multiple abortions, anxiety over fertility and maternal identity and sexuality. Until the trauma is fully acknowledged and worked through in an intensive way, individuals will continue to re-create the conflict again and again. This can be particularly painful for those who have accepted Christ, but continue in compulsive self-destructive and shaming behaviors rooted in trauma. Understand how the trauma can be grounded in safety so that an individual can reconnect, integrate, and mourn the traumatic event so that it can be released and healed.

The theme for this year's Sav-A-Life conference is "Follow As You Lead."

Scripture shows us that Jesus was committed to leadership. He poured his life into eleven men who would in turn lead others, and reach the world with the Gospel. Other workshops include: How to start a medical clinic; Medical Basics for the Counseling Room; Fatherlessness: It Affects Us All; Reaching The Hispanic Client; Teen Culture and Abstinence Education; Creative Fundraising Techniques; How to motivate your Board; Grantwriting; How to adapt your curriculum to meet the needs of your center; and others.

Speakers include Carol Everett, Anne Pierson, Anne Boyd, Vicki Botsford, Dr. Nate Rose, Kirk Walden, Gerry Wallace, Debbie Calhoun, Mike Reid and many others. For information regarding this conference contact Sav-A-Life, Inc at (205) 979-0302. You can also e-mail them at


September 6, 7, 8, 2002 -Mobile, Alabama

Contact: Elizabeth Burgess (251) 476- 1730

September 6, 7, 8, 2002 - Hays, Kansas

Contact: Donetta Robben (785) 625- 6800

September 6, 7, 8, 2002 -Charlotte, No. Carolina

Contact: Dr. Martha Shuping (336) 659-1342

September 6, 7, 8, 2002 -Dallas, Texas

Contact: Barbara Hennes (972) 785 - CARE

September 13, 14, 15, 2002 -Fairfield, Conn.

Contact Clarissa Cyncotta (203) 372- 4301 Ext. 314

September 13, 14, 15, 2002 - North Dade, FL

Contact: Kathy Weissinger

September 13, 14, 15, 2002 Rome City, IN

Contact: Sue Brazo (616) 683- 4958

September 13, 14, 15, 2002 - Oklahoma City, OK

Contact: Susan Lepak (405) 721-8944

September 20, 21, 22, 2002-2002-New Orleans, LA

Contact: Melanie Baglow (504) 889-2431 or Project Rachel (504) 831- 8620

September 20, 21, 22, 2002- Linden, NJ

Contact: Michelle Krystofik (732) 388-8211

September 27, 28, 29, 2002- Wichita, Kansas

Contact: Janice or Jim (316) 269 4673 or 1-888- 456 HOPE

September 27, 28, 29, 2002 -Pittsburgh, PA

Contact: Ann Depner (412) 456-6955

September 27, 28, 29, 2002 - Fort Worth, TX

Contact: Betsy Kopor (817) 923- 4757


October 4-6, 2002-Los Angeles, California

Contact: Christine Lowe 626 286 0442
Contact: Rachel's Vineyard Los Angeles

October 4-6, 2002-Falls Church, Virginia

Contact: Karen Smith 703 276 0373

October 4-6, 2002-Richmond, Virginia

Local host: Epiphany Catholic Church
Contact: Kay Marie Geiger 804 330 3137

October 4-6, 2002-Calgary, Alberta

Contact: Julie Kohler 403 218 5506

October 11-13, 2002-Lisbon, Portugal

Contact: Claudia Muller

October 11-13, 2002-Rome City, Indiana

Local host: Our Lady of Rome City
Contact: Sue Brazo 616 683 4958 or 616 683 7831

October 11-13, 2002-Vancouver & Washington

Contact: Valerie 800 822 HOPE

October 11-13, 2002-Monroe, Connecticut

Local host: Archdiocese of Hartford Project Rachel
Contact: Mary Hayden 203 882 1326

October 18-20, 2002-Youngstown, Ohio

Contact: Brenda Dama 330 797 8951

October 18-20, 2002-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Immaculata)

Contact: Mary Alice 877 HOPE 4 ME
Contact: Linda

October 18-20, 2002-Portland, Maine

Local host: Project Rachel, Catholic Charities Maine
Contact: Jeanne Bull or Annette Rioux 207 871 7464 jbull@CCMAINE.ORG

October 18-20, 2002-Temple, Texas

Local host: Diocese of Austin
Contact: Grace Rau 512 238 1246 or 877 932 2732

October 25-27, 2002-Kelowna, British Columbia

Contact: Janet Kormish 250 762 2273

October 25-27, 2002-Providence, Rhode Island

Contact: Donna Warner 401 331 4463/days 401 785 9625/evenings
Contact: Gail Picard 401 941 4357

October 25-27, 2002-Oregon, Illinois

Note: Interdenominational retreat
Contact: Catherine Rennert 815 968 1157

October 25-27, 2002-Asheville, North Carolina

Local host: St. Banabas Respect Life Committee
Contact: Shelley Glanton 828 684 4330
Contact: Paula Bolick 828 684 4330

October 25-27, 2002-Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Local host: New Hope Pregnancy Care and Restoration Ministries
Contact: Marsha Tucker 336 764 9958

October 25-27, 2002-Denver, Colorado

Contact: Edie Gutierrez 303 682 9185


Sometimes it is easier to talk about pain than about our blessed and personal encounters with God, when He heals, renews and restores us.

Christian counselor Dan Allender is well-known for his work on recovering from the wounds of childhood sexual abuse. He addresses that subject in a book, "The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse."

In his book "Bold Love", Dr. Allender talks about how we can get caught up in ourselves and our struggles. Allender says that God sometimes breaks through our self-absorption by surprising us. We close this issue of "Vine and Branches" with Dan Allender's description of surprise, to remind us that God is patiently waiting, watching, and looking for ways to surprise us with his perfect, startling love.

"What then is the kind of silence that brings about a lengthy look into the eyes of God? It is the silence evoked by surprise. Few words could be more important for an understanding of the gospel than surprise. There are few experiences in life that have the power to shed us of our burdensome struggles as powerfully as surprise does.

Our family delights in the exquisite joy of the artful surprise. It is not enough to hide, jump out and shout "Boo!" I returned home from work and was full of myself and my troublesome world. I climbed the stairs and went to my bedroom closet. I opened the door and reached for a hanger. I parted the clothes in front of me and went to hang up my jacket, and one of my daughters was quietly standing eye to eye inches from my face. I was so surprised that it did not even register. It was (at least for her) a delightful, delayed response. I gasped and stumbled back. It was the quintessential scare; she did not speak a word. I never anticipated her presence. It was so inconceivable and jolting that I lost my thoughts, burdensome as they were, in an instant."

Our prayer for you is that you will find yourself surprised, startled, silenced...and staring into the eyes of your Loving Savior, who has come personally to touch, rescue and heal you.

Dan Allender's website is

Questions or comments about Vine & Branches: The Rachel's Vineyard Newsletter may be directed to the Editor, Leslie Graves, at

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