The Impact of Abortion on Military Personnel and Their Families

May 23rd, 2019
Jody Duffy, RN

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

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.

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 abortion loss.  You can reach Jody at jae.duffy@gmail.com.]

I Spent Four years of My Life Defending This Country…But I Couldn’t Prevent the Death of My Child

May 23rd, 2019

David:

I was in the Army and was called to complete my last year of service stationed in Germany.  We agreed that Susan would stay with her folks.  We would save our money, and she would begin looking at houses for when I returned.  That was the plan. 

Susan called me shortly after I began my duty overseas and shared that she was pregnant.  The first thing I told her was, “we’re not ready for this; I have to finish my service. We can’t do this with me away for the next year.” 

I convinced her that abortion was the right decision. The day of the abortion was the day I died.  I felt dead for 14 years. 

When I returned home I dealt with this wound…by not dealing with it.  I stuffed it down deep, and put all my energy into my work. I felt like my identity was taken from me and I never felt whole. I spent four years of my life defending this country, but couldn’t prevent the death of my child because of fear, inconvenience, and selfishness. 

I was successful in my business…I had a wife, a nice house, and a couple of beautiful children. But I never felt whole.  It was like something was missing. 

I worked all the time and was emotionally distant from my wife and kids.  I felt in many ways like an outsider; more like a hired caretaker without a deep bond with my family. 

When this painful realization would break through I would drink, look at porn on the internet, and try to get away from these feelings as quickly as possible.  But this denial was slowly eating away at my marriage and robbed me of the gifts that surrounded me-gifts that I was unable to fully embrace and celebrate. 

Susan and I separated several times and we both turned to people outside our relationship to help ease the loneliness and pain we secretly carried in our hearts…

Despite our struggles, we clung to our Christian faith, even as we fell short and sinned, and tried to make things work for the sake of the children.  We started to see a Christian counselor at our church.  For the first time, someone asked us if there was an abortion in our past.  Susan just broke down.  It was clear that this was the greatest wound in our marriage, and the source of our martial struggles. 

If we were to stay together and build a new foundation in this marriage, we had to face this loss, and all the dark feelings associated with it.  The counselor recommended a weekend retreat for post abortion healing called Rachel’s Vineyard.  We found their website and registered for the next retreat in our area.

We arrived at the retreat center very anxious of what was to come, but quietly excited and hopeful that maybe this would help in some way…if it didn’t I was sure our marriage was headed for divorce. 

The Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is a healing process that uses various activities and exercises that are specially designed to heal the deeply buried grief and other pain that arises from an abortion loss. 

One of the first activities of the retreat on Friday evening is based on the bible story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery.”  These scripture stories are “reenacted” in a process called “Living Scripture.”  In these meditations you enter the scripture story and become a participant in that event.

After the exercise, as we shared our experience of the meditation, we touched on the issue of self-condemnation and were made aware of a pile of rocks of various sizes, shapes, colors and textures placed beneath a table at the center of the room.

 It turns out that many of us gathered on that retreat struggled with forgiving ourselves for our role in the death of our unborn children, and others struggled to forgive those who had pushed them to abort. 

The retreat facilitator invited those of us struggling with forgiveness issues to carry a rock as a reminder — a symbol of condemnation — of our inability to forgive. The rock represented (in a very concrete way!) our conflict.

At any point during the weekend, we could freely put it down. Until that time you were instructed to carry it with you at all times.   Through this simple exercise I became aware as the retreat progressed, of how the burden of self-condemnation was impacting my life in so many ways…

With each exercise and activity I began to trust that we were on a painful but rewarding journey that would bring the healing in our lives we so desperately longed for.  For the first time we were able to share the story of our abortion experience, and felt safe to share our hearts with each other and the group.  

On Saturday afternoon we participated in the Living Scripture exercise based on the story of Lazarus in the Gospel of John…

You are probably wondering how they reenacted this scripture account.  

The retreat participants are asked to name a part of themselves that has died because of sin.  The facilitator then takes a strip of gauze bandage, and gently wraps the area we identify. 

Some in our group wrapped their eyes because they lost sight of God.  One woman asked that her heart be wrapped as it was broken by abandonment of her father and later her boyfriend when she became pregnant.  Another man felt powerless to stop an abortion he did not want and asked that his hands be wrapped.

When the retreat team approached Susan my wife decided to have her left hand wrapped.  Susan said, “This is the hand that my wedding ring is on, and I want to see our marriage restored”.  

As the team approached me, I shared “You have to wrap my heart . . . it is just broken. It’s been broken ever since I got the call that the abortion was over and my child was gone.”

Each of us was then given the opportunity to profess our faith.  Through faith in Christ we believe that we can rise from the death caused by sin and be healed of our deepest wounds. After Susan made her statement of faith a team member went to un-wrap her bandage. 

 I received a gift of grace at that moment that led me to say, “No, no, please, let me do it — I think this is my place as her husband. I want a partnership to begin that we never have had. I want to be there for her, not so distant anymore.”

And so, I un-wrapped her hand; Susan, in turn, un-wrapped my heart and asked forgiveness for her bitterness toward me. We embraced for the longest time…

For the first time since we were dating, we held hands as we walked along the road together to the cafeteria for our evening meal…

[Excerpt from Tears of the Fisherman: Recovery for Men Wounded by Abortion, by Kevin Burke, LSW]                  

Game of Thrones – The Power of the Story in Recovery from Trauma

May 22nd, 2019

By Kevin Burke, LSW

“There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. Nothing can defeat it…”  – Tyrion Lannister

[Major Spoiler Alert for Series Game of Thrones!]

Like the raging, grieving fire-breathing Drogon, Game of Throne’s (GOT) devotees are spewing some serious flames of anger at the writers and directors after the series finale. 

A million of those disgruntled fans so disliked the final episodes that they signed a petition to demand a remake of the final season!  (Here’s some background on the show if you are not familiar with the story.)

 Many fans have expressed that the last season seemed rushed at times and poorly written.  That’s probably a fair criticism, though it must have been challenging for the writers and directors to wrap up such a sprawling story and epic series in the final episodes. 

I wonder if the fan protest is also related to the ending of the series.  After all, it is a type of death, and grief can be expressed with the emotion of anger.  Maybe, like Drogon melting the Iron Throne after the murder of his queen, some of that hot anger is rooted in grief. 

War Weary

In the Game of Thrones finale, the leaders of the Seven Kingdoms are weary after years of war and an apocalyptic battle that unfolded in season eight against the Northern Ice King and the army of the dead.  They know too well the consequences of the continual violent struggles for power that have plagued the realm. 

Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf who has counseled a number of powerful leaders, has been imprisoned by the Dragon Queen Daenerys for the crime of treason.  Tyrion has been humbled by his many years of personal sin and failings as he negotiated the Machiavellian politics of the Seven Kingdoms.

 Tyrion has an opportunity to address a gathering of the surviving leadership of the Seven Kingdoms.   He suggests that rather than continued violent struggle for power, the leaders appoint a worthy leader to ascend the Iron Throne and bring peace to the realm.  Tyrion suggests the disabled “Bran the Broken” [1] who evolved during the series into the mystical “Three-eyed Raven.”

Tyrion proclaims to the assembled leaders:

“I’ve had nothing to do but think these past few weeks [in prison.] About our bloody history, about the mistakes we’ve made. What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories.

 There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?

The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly. He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven. He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories. The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?”

While Sansa Stark remains Queen of an independent Northern Kingdom, the others agree with Tyrion.  After years of violence and chaos they decide to appoint Bran the Three-Eyed Raven their King of the Six Kingdoms. 

GOT fans had some serious disagreement with Bran having the “best story.”  But Tyrion touches on something important.

 Story Telling in Trauma Recovery

The GOT series has been wildly popular.  As a counselor and social worker with those suffering traumatic grief and loss, I am interested when I see a story connect in a powerful way with so many people.  Part of the reason is of course the quality of the production; the writing, acting, sets, special effects (amazing dragons!) and engaging story lines. 

But I see other themes in this series, especially in the final episode that touches on a powerful and hidden national trauma that is often a closely guarded secret.

In episode seven, the Dragon Queen Daenerys unleashes the hell fire of her dragon on the innocent men, women and children of King’s Landing held hostage by their Queen Cersei Lannister.  Daenerys justifies this use of her power over the defenseless inhabitants of the city as a necessary sacrifice so she can realize her destiny as unifier of the Seven Kingdoms.

Jon Snow challenges his Queen’s failure to pause and listen to the voice of her people before she continues to burn down the old world to give birth to her utopian vision.  He decides that to preserve the fragile peace and to prevent further genocide, he must kill his beloved Queen. 

Like the poor peasants of Westeros and Essos caught in the battle between powerful Queens and Kings, with the legalization of abortion in 1973, the 60 million preborn boys and girls of our nation that died in their mother’s womb had no voice. 

No matter how it is rationalized and justified by abortion apologists, like the killing of the innocent of King’s Landing by the Dragon Queen, abortion is an exercise of violent raw power against the weak and defenseless.

The ascendancy of Bran the Broken, promoted by a man who was himself a dwarf, reveals that the stories of those who are weak and seeming powerless in the eyes of the world, can be instruments of healing and peace. 

The Healing Power of the Story

Women and men often make the decision to abort in a time of weakness and fear.  Women are often pressured by their partners, family and friends to see abortion as the only sensible solution to their pregnancy. 

When women and men come to a place of wanting to reconcile that abortion experience, an integral part of that recovery process involves “telling your story.” 

An abortion recovery program provides a safe emotional and spiritual place so participants can honestly share their stories.  An honest telling of their abortion story is the door they must pass through on the road to reconciliation and healing with God, and their aborted child/children. From this act of humility will flow the hope of repairing other relationships injured by the aftershocks of the abortion procedure.

The stories of those who have survived abortion, and the stories of women and men who later regret their abortions, hold the power to change the direction of a nation that has legalized the destruction of preborn children in the womb. 

Read their storiesWatch their videos.  Share them.    

 “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. Nothing can defeat it…”    – Tyrion Lannister

[Please note if you are going to view the series:   Game of Thrones has some morally offensive scenes featuring the exploitation of young women in brothels and other settings.  Many episodes have depictions of graphic violence.]


[1] As a boy, Bran witnessed an incestuous liaison between Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime Lannister in his family’s tower.   Trying to protect their secret, Jaime tried to murder the boy by pushing him off the tower.  Bran survived, but was disabled from the fall. ority51 \lsdl

It Takes a Village…To Abort a Child

April 27th, 2019

by Kevin Burke, LSW

You’re no doubt familiar with the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Read carefully the following abortion testimony.  I highlighted, in bold italics, those individuals who were influential in the decision to abort the developing child in Dora’s womb. 

As you will see, abortion is rarely a woman’s “private personal decision.” Having heard countless abortion stories like Dora’s over the years, let me assure you, it often takes a village to abort a preborn girl or boy.

Every Picture Tells a Story

Dora: “When I first found out I was pregnant, I was a bit nervous and anxious; however, choosing to abort was not an option in my mind at this point. The very first person I told was my older brother, who was at my parent’s house with me when I took the test (my parents were at work, we were home alone). I walked into his room and told him I was pregnant, and he reacted by punching and breaking his window. I was very frightened and upset after that…

When I was finally able to let my boyfriend know I was pregnant…he replied, “There are other options.”  I immediately felt so much disappointment and sadness. I was overwhelmed by the intense emotions of fear, confusion, anger, resentment, hopelessness, and anxiety. I told him I would think about it…

I don’t know why I took a picture of us that same evening in my car. I have looked back on that picture often, wishing I could go back to that precise moment and tell him that I choose my baby. I don’t know why I keep that photo…but I do. Every now and then I look back and see such sadness hidden behind a smile, and I remember those intense feelings and the brokenness that was beginning to form.

When we arrived at his apartment his roommate and two other friends were there watching TV. We told them the news together…I remember that the rest of the evening consisted of all of them sitting down with me in the living room and telling me the best choice was to abort. I told them I was uncertain of my choice, but they kept reminding me that we were so young and unable to raise a child on our own.

I was so confused, and I remember thinking that I was going to have to go against everyone to keep this baby and that I would have no support if I didn’t go through with it. My boyfriend told me that a family member (a few years older) recently got a girl pregnant. He told me his dad and mom were so disappointed in him and how it basically ruined the plans for his life. My boyfriend told me he didn’t want to be that disappointment to his parents.

 I remember thinking that I would lose my boyfriend (who I was obsessed and infatuated with at that time) if I decided to keep the baby. I remember thinking I loved him so much that I didn’t want him to feel tied down to me because of a baby. In that moment I was convinced I was doing the most selfless thing, for him. All his friends said so, he said so, and I believed so.

Sadly, I fell for the pressure, and I fell for the lies. Although we all technically agreed with the decision, I still felt completely alone, and I began to fall into a depression.

My boyfriend made an appointment the next week, and I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic by myself (he had to work). The security was pretty intense, and the protesters outside were many. As I waited in the lobby I remember looking around and seeing many young girls, some balling their eyes out and others in a zombie state…I was one of the very few that was in there alone. I was scared and upset. I was still trying to convince myself that this was the best decision.

As they called me in with the nurse, they went over a very brief consultation of what was going to happen. They gave me a small cup of pills, (the RU-486 pills manufactured by Danco Laboratories [1]). I took the first dose there (first set of pills that stops the baby from growing but doesn’t actually abort the baby yet) and, almost immediately, I regretted my decision.

 In tears, I asked the nurse if I could take back my decision. I told her I wasn’t sure if I could go through with it. I was desperate to find encouragement from someone, anyone. She encouraged me, yes, but encouraged me to continue with the abortion. She said if I didn’t go through with the second dose my baby could and most likely will have severe damages and disabilities. [Dora was denied available medical information about the option of abortion pill reversal – KB]

I couldn’t bear to think of it, nor did I think I could live with myself, to see my baby suffer because of my decision. Looking back now, I would have done whatever it took to save my baby, but once again my fear kicked in, making me choose to continue.

I went back to my boyfriend’s apartment and waited for the time to take my second dose, the dose that actually causes the abortion. I remember sitting on the couch with my boyfriend and his friends watching TV, feeling complete numbness…

It was time for me to take the second and last dose. As I put the pills in my mouth and let them dissolve, within 10 minutes I started to feel intense cramps. When the cramps became unbearable, I made my way to the bathroom. I locked the door and experienced the most severe pain I had ever felt in my life.

I sat on the toilet and bent over in pain. I wanted to scream, but my boyfriend and his friends were right outside the door in the living room, watching TV (it was a small apartment). I grabbed a towel to bite on, in order to keep from screaming and was nearly passing out.

As I got up, I saw blood everywhere. I saw parts of my baby, an image I will never be able to erase from my mind. I fell to my knees in pain and was blacking out. Concerned that the guys would see all the blood and clumps, I got on my knees and cleaned it up.

Throughout the intensity all I could think was, “They cannot see this and be as traumatized and scarred as I have been.” As soon as I left the bathroom I was about to faint when my boyfriend helped me to bed.

The next two weeks were nothing but a blur. All I remember doing was lying in bed to sleep and cry. I didn’t eat, I didn’t shower, I didn’t answer phone calls, I didn’t go to school or work. I didn’t want to leave the bed…

I went by myself for the check-up [at Planned Parenthood] a few weeks later (once again he was working). The nurses performed the evaluation, and they told me the abortion wasn’t successful. Parts of my baby were still inside of me. The pill didn’t expel it all. The one in a million chance that it wouldn’t work (as they told me) had happened. I was that one in a million.

 I had to have an emergency D&C. They told me that, had I waited or not gone to my check up, I could have died. The nurse sent me immediately to a room for the procedure, and all I could hear were women screaming from the hallways. It sounded like a torture house.

They took me to a little room for a quick consultation of what was going to be done. At this point I was balling my eyes out and my whole body was shaking in panic. When the nurse saw how bad I was getting she offered me more sedatives to calm me down. I took many more and became completely numb, both physically and emotionally. I was a zombie. I simply didn’t care about anything at that moment.

They finished up the consultation and walked me to the procedure room. As I walked into the room, I saw a table full of surgical instruments, still full of blood. They had accidentally sent me in a room without cleaning up first…but in that moment I was way too drugged to care…

As they performed the D&C I couldn’t help but think that my baby was a fighter. The guilt was crippling every fiber of my being, and I was just waiting for it to end and go back home to lay in bed. Once the procedure was done, I called my boyfriend and told him to pick me up. I had told him what was going to happen before the procedure, and he was able to get off work early.

The next six months of my life was pure darkness, pure depression. I started drinking heavily and smoking weed every day to escape. I would often cut myself with razors to release the pain I had inside.

I remember one night I wrote out my suicide letter. I wrote my goodbyes to all my loved ones. But, by the grace of God, as I wrote my mom my final goodbyes, I couldn’t bear the thought of all the pain I’d put her through. Only the love I have for my mom caused me to not go through with it. I thank God for reminding me of that love, at that moment, which saved my life…

I dropped out of nursing school. I hardly ate. I went down to 110 pounds and I’m 5’9” in height.  I didn’t visit my family or see friends. All I did was consume myself in the bed and cling to my boyfriend. I was also diagnosed with severe anxiety and panic disorder that following year…

My boyfriend and I inevitably broke up. And I spent many years living in self-destruction because of my abortion. I would sleep around, get drunk three or four times a week, do drugs every day, put myself in situations that could have caused me fatal harm…going home with men I had just met. I didn’t really care about anything anymore, and the only time I felt alive was when I was having “fun” partying, drinking my sadness away.

One day I was at a park, and I was confronted with all my brokenness at once…My heart literally felt like it shattered. I cried out in agony and pain from the truth with which I was being confronted…

I had always known about Jesus. I grew up Roman Catholic my whole life and went to private Catholic schools. But in that moment, I felt a need for Jesus. I asked Jesus to help me. I asked Jesus to heal me. I asked Jesus to forgive me. That was the day I truly found Christ.

Christ truly healed me and restored me. He led me to therapy where I continued my healing from all my child abuse and abortion trauma…

Although I will have to forever live with my decision and mourn the loss of my baby, I know I am forgiven…and after 11 years I have finally learned to forgive myself.

As I found healing (and I will always continue my journey of healing…one never completely heals from abortion) Jesus has shown me that the more I share my story, the more healing I receive from doing so.

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Because I am no longer that same broken woman I was before—God has restored and redeemed me, and in Him I am a new creature! Praise Jesus for forgiveness He freely gives!

I am now a child of God—clean, sober, no longer self-injuring myself, and happily married with two beautiful baby boys!

All of this through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ

[You can read the full account of Dora’s testimony here.]

An original song and video by author Kevin Burke on a couple’s experience of abortion loss and healing.

Photo for blog by Genta Mochizawa on Unsplash

[1] The use of medication abortion has greatly increased over the years, and now makes up roughly one-third (32.8%) of all abortions at 8 weeks gestation or less. RU-486, the medication that Dora was given at Planned Parenthood, is manufactured by Danco Laboratories, the sole drug manufacturer for mifepristone.  Every employee and shareholder of Danco Laboratories has direct responsibility in the death of Dora’s unborn boy or girl.  <



Mary Magdalene and the Apostle Peter – Perfect Saints for Women and Men Who Have Experienced Abortion

April 17th, 2019

I just completed a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend where I served as team counselor.  All the weekends are powerful manifestations of the mercy of God and the effectiveness of this healing retreat model for those hurting after abortion.I just completed a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend for healing after abortion loss, where I served as team counselor. 

The retreat process features special scripture meditations, the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, and exercises that lead women and men to a deep emotional and spiritual healing.

I was struck how each participant drew closer to Jesus as the meditations and exercises helped them express their pain, shame, anger and fear. In the growing safety and solidarity of the group, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they discovered a yearning in their heart to draw closer to Jesus, their merciful Savior.

A number of the women in this group suffered abuse, rejection, and exploitation by significant male figures in their lives.  This made their encounter with Christ even more profound and healing for them.

As we enter Holy Week and the coming Easter Season, I wanted to focus on two Gospel figures that played important roles in the life and ministry of Jesus.   Each offers inspiration and hope for women and men suffering after abortion loss. But they also offer a message of consolation for those burdened by past abuse and anyone suffering from emotional, spiritual or physical illness.

Mary of Magdalene – Apostles to the Apostles

Contrary to the common misconception, Mary (from the town of Magdala,) was not the other Mary of scripture identified as a prostitute.  Mary Magdalene was a woman of some financial means, as she was in a position to contribute money to support the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.

In Luke 8:1-3 we read that at the start of Jesus’s ministry:

“The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out …and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.”

Mary’s conversion to follow Christ followed a personal experience of His healing power.  While her deliverance from “seven demons” could be a reference to an emotional or physical illness, it is also possible that she was involved in occult or pagan practices that may have opened her up to demonic oppression or possession. 

Regardless, this healing encounter made her a generous, but also courageous disciple of Jesus.   Mary was present at the foot of the cross, grieving and loving her Master as he suffered the horrific torture of Roman Crucifixion. 

Pope Benedict XVI had this to say about Mary Magdalene in a 2007 address referencing her role as first witness to the resurrection of Christ:

St. Thomas Aquinas reserved the special title, “Apostle of the Apostles” (apostolorum apostola), dedicating to [Mary Magdalene] this beautiful comment: ‘Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life’ (Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, § 2519).  

After many years in abortion recovery ministry, we encounter many women set free by the power of Jesus, who become grateful and fervent Disciples.  Like Mary Magdalene, some are called to courageously witness to the saving power of Jesus in the sharing of their abortion testimonies.

The Shame of Peter – His Liberation by Christ

Men with abortion loss, and those who have experienced abuse in the past, understandably struggle to enter into the emotional and spiritual vulnerability that is so essential to healing.

 Peter had to face his own pride and fear on the Sea of Galilee, and at that fateful Passover in Jerusalem during the last hours of his Master’s life.  Men who make the challenging but rewarding journey of abortion healing discover that, like Peter, they emerge renewed and strengthened as men, spouses, fathers and disciples of Christ.

Here’s a music video of a song I wrote with Henry Gennaria, “Dawn” on the experience of Mary Magdalene and the Apostle Peter at the time of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.   It features live performance of the song and excerpts from a beautiful Claymation movie about the life of Jesus, called The Miracle Maker.  (I highly recommend The Miracle Maker, a movie faithful to the Gospel accounts, and a great presentation for family viewing during Holy Week and Easter season.) 

A blessed Holy Week and Easter Season to you and your loved ones.

St. Thomas Aquinas reserved the special title, “Apostle of the Apostles” (apostolorum apostola), dedicating to [Mary Magdalene] this beautiful comment: ‘Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life’ (Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, § 2519).

Mary Magdalene and the Apostle Peter – Ideal Saints for Women and Men Hurting After Abortion

April 12th, 2019

I just completed a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend for healing after abortion loss, where I served as team counselor. 

The retreat process features special scripture meditations, the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, and exercises that lead women and men to a deep emotional and spiritual healing.

I was struck how each participant drew closer to Jesus as the meditations and exercises helped them express their pain, shame, anger and fear. In the growing safety and solidarity of the group, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they discovered a yearning in their heart to draw closer to Jesus, their merciful Savior.

A number of the women in this group suffered abuse, rejection, and exploitation by significant male figures in their lives.  This made their encounter with Christ even more profound and healing for them.

As we enter Holy Week and the coming Easter Season, I wanted to focus on two Gospel figures that played important roles in the life and ministry of Jesus.   Each offers inspiration and hope for women and men suffering after abortion loss. But they also offer a message of consolation for those burdened by past abuse and anyone suffering from emotional, spiritual or physical illness.

Mary of Magdalene – Apostles to the Apostles

Contrary to the common misconception, Mary (from the town of Magdala,) was not the other Mary of scripture identified as a prostitute.  Mary Magdalene was a woman of some financial means, as she was in a position to contribute money to support the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.

In Luke 8:1-3 we read that at the start of Jesus’s ministry:

“The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out …and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.”

Mary’s conversion to follow Christ followed a personal experience of His healing power.  While her deliverance from “seven demons” could be a reference to an emotional or physical illness, it is also possible that she was involved in occult or pagan practices that may have opened her up to demonic oppression or possession. 

Regardless, this healing encounter made her a generous, but also courageous disciple of Jesus.   Mary was present at the foot of the cross, grieving and loving her Master as he suffered the horrific torture of Roman Crucifixion. 

Pope Benedict XVI had this to say about Mary Magdalene in a 2007 address referencing her role as first witness to the resurrection of Christ:

St. Thomas Aquinas reserved the special title, “Apostle of the Apostles” (apostolorum apostola), dedicating to [Mary Magdalene] this beautiful comment: ‘Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life’ (Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, § 2519).  

After many years in abortion recovery ministry, we encounter many women set free by the power of Jesus, who become grateful and fervent Disciples.  Like Mary Magdalene, some are called to courageously witness to the saving power of Jesus in the sharing of their abortion testimonies.

The Shame of Peter – His Liberation by Christ

Men with abortion loss, and those who have experienced abuse in the past, understandably struggle to enter into the emotional and spiritual vulnerability that is so essential to healing.

 Peter had to face his own pride and fear on the Sea of Galilee, and at that fateful Passover in Jerusalem during the last hours of his Master’s life.  Men who make the challenging but rewarding journey of abortion healing discover that, like Peter, they emerge renewed and strengthened as men, spouses, fathers and disciples of Christ.

Here’s a music video of a song I wrote with Henry Gennaria, “Dawn” on the experience of Mary Magdalene and the Apostle Peter at the time of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.   It features live performance of the song and excerpts from a beautiful Claymation movie about the life of Jesus, called The Miracle Maker.  (I highly recommend The Miracle Maker, a movie faithful to the Gospel accounts, and a great presentation for family viewing during Holy Week and Easter season.) 

A blessed Holy Week and Easter Season to you and your loved ones.

The Movie “Unplanned”: Before You Take Your Kids to See the Film, Check out this Important Feedback from an Expert on Siblings of Aborted Children

March 22nd, 2019

By Kevin Burke, LSW

Theresa Bonopartis is the Director of Lumina, offering hope and healing after abortion. A special area of her outreach features the “Entering Canaan” sibling retreat weekends which focus on the struggle of siblings who learn of a parent’s previous abortion, and the realization they have lost a brother or sister.

I asked Theresa, based on her years of ministry with sibling survivors, to share some thoughts on the movie Unplanned:

Theresa:  The impact of abortion on sibling survivors is very complex and varied.  Many parents tell their children about a past abortion, and then believe they are fine once this secret has been disclosed.

But when it comes to abortion the parents are often the last to know the interior struggles of the child they have told. I hope what I share can help them better discern if their child should see the movie:

  • Many kids see the suffering of a parent who has had an abortion. It is not unusual for them to express a sentiment of “now everything makes sense” surrounding their life once they find out about a sibling. Wanting to shield the parents they love from further pain, they often hide their own pain and conflict at the expense of their own healing.
  • They are also wanting to be loved by them. The knowledge that their protectors were involved in the death of a sibling is often very hard to reconcile but they do not express this to their parents. Many times they are left with multiple questions but feel unable to ask for fear of causing more turmoil.
  • As Kevin shared in his recent blog, the movie has some disturbing and necessarily graphic material.  Discern carefully if this is the best way to educate your child about abortion. Chances are they know the destruction of abortion just from their personal experience and so there is not a need to subject them to what could be additional trauma that they are already trying to reconcile many times on their own.
  • Sibling survivors can manifest the impact in many different ways. Many feel guilty for being alive, wonder if their name would be the same or if they would even be here had their sibling lived. It is unrealistic to think that there are no implications to knowing. Most either become very pro-life or as in the case of children of abortion supporters they join their parent in justifying abortion for any reason.

If your child does knows of a past abortion, and sees the film, they may benefit from connecting with others who have this type of abortion loss in their families. It has been our experience over the past nine years of offering these retreats that it is very helpful to share and learn they are not alone, in an environment that does not judge their parents, but offers support, and helps with understanding. Many of the friendships made have been long lasting.

We have a support network where siblings can connect with others who understand their loss.  Our Next sibling retreat is August 16-18  and will be led by Father Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, and a sibling with abortion loss; both have extensive experience in this ministry. Scholarships are available.

  [For More information: Please call us at 877-486-4621 or email lumina@postabortionhelp.org ]

Abortion: It’s Not Really About Rights…It’s About Relationship – The Feast of the Annunciation and the Baby Chris Project

March 20th, 2019

By Kevin Burke, LSW and Theresa Burke, Ph.D.

March 25th is The Solemnity of the Annunciation, the celebration of the coming of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce her special vocation to be the mother of Jesus Christ.

The feast reminds us of the mysterious and intimate relationship of Mary with her developing son from the moment of his conception.

A National Pro-Life Coalition  is urging all citizens to observe March 25 as the Day of the Unborn Child. The Coalition is launching a special project on the Feast of the Annunciation called “Baby Chris” that will follow the development of a child in the womb for nine months until Christmas Day.  The project will feature an app that shows the developmental facts and stunning imagery of the child for each week of pregnancy.

This project has special significance for the millions of our fellow citizens touched by abortion loss. This includes the parents of preborn children, but also grandparents, and other family and friends who are often influential in abortion decisions, and in some cases, directly participated in the child’s death.

The Distorted Lens of Choice

Pro-abortion advocates see the abortion issue through the lens of “reproductive rights/choice,” and feminist empowerment. Funny thing about the pro-abortion language of bodily autonomy and choice — a woman’s body is not pro-choice!  Once conception occurs, and the pregnancy is developing normally, a woman’s body is focused on nurturing and protecting the life within her womb.

Of course she may be struggling with the circumstances of the pregnancy, and feeling pressure from others to abort. But on an emotional and physiological level, a woman has to sever an intimate communion between mother and developing child when that relationship and pregnancy is terminated.

The often unacknowledged shame, guilt and loss are connected to the violation of something deep within her identity and an intuitive sense that an intimate relationship has been severed. (Fathers can experience a similar grief of failing to protect the mother and baby entrusted to their care.)

Even when there is a sense of relief after the procedure painful feelings can surface later in life:

  • “The biggest impact abortion has had on me is that every time I look at my children I have now, I think about that little face I never saw and the child I have never known.” — Aimee

The common symptoms[1] we see after in the aftermath of the procedure call attention to a repressed and forbidden grief, and a relationship that has been damaged by abortion.

  • “I lost what I was trying to save with the abortion. I sacrificed my children on the altar of my ambition. Addictions came into my life as I tried to run from the pain. My misery drove me to my knees.” — David

Recovery from abortion loss requires an understanding that a relationship has been broken, and is in need of reconciliation and repair.

A Safe Path to Recovery

The heart of effective abortion healing programs like Rachel’s Vineyard, SaveOne, and Forgiven and Set Free is how they provide a safe path to emotional and spiritual recovery.  These programs affirm, with love and compassion, what was lost.  They restore in faith the broken relationship between parent and child.  This often begins a process of healing other broken relationships that have flowed from that abortion shockwave.

The Feast of the Annunciation and the Baby Chris Project provide an ongoing opportunity for outreach in our Churches, prayer groups and with family and friends to focus on the heart of the abortion issue, and the heart of our Christian faith; the intimate spiritual, emotional and physical connection of a mother and her unborn child.  They remind us of the need to protect the innocent preborn child, and to bring the mercy and healing of Jesus, Son of Mary, to all those wounded by abortion.

[Here’s a beautiful and comforting song by Alison Krauss for anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one.]

[1] Drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity or intimacy problems, anxiety/depression and sleep disturbance, trauma related symptoms.

[The Image of Mary and Jesus from “Vessel of the Preborn Jesus in Watercolor” by Lea Marie Ravotti]

The Movie Unplanned: You Had an Abortion – Should You See this Film? Self-Care and Opportunities for Outreach

March 14th, 2019

By Kevin Burke, LSW

The movie Unplanned tells the story of Abby Johnson. Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood director at a facility where over 22,000 preborn children were aborted. Johnson was a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood and believed strongly in the ideology of “reproductive rights.” She personally experienced a first-trimester abortion and later a chemical abortion.

All this changed when Johnson was present during a surgical abortion at her Planned Parenthood and witnessed the reality of the procedure. This scene is one of a number of very graphic and powerful presentations in the film Unplanned, which lifts the veil on “choice” as we get a closer look behind the walls of a Planned Parenthood facility.

The disturbing scene takes place in the procedure room during a first-trimester abortion.   You witness the bloody remains of what was once a developing child sucked into a tube and deposited in a jar. What is particularly moving, and jarring, is the sound of the fetal heartbeat as the procedure begins – and the deadly silence when the procedure successfully destroys the little boy or girl.

Another trauma triggering scene accurately depicts the suffering of women that experience a chemical abortion in their home. Ashley Bratcher, who portrays Abby Johnson in the film, shares in The Stream:

“Mentally and physically, the most difficult scene so far has been where Abby had an abortion by taking the RU-486 pill,” says Bratcher. “On Friday, it was almost like torture, reliving this moment in her life for hours. Every single take, I physically went there. I allowed myself to be emotional to the point that I literally threw up during one of the takes.” [1]

Abby Johnson describes her RU-486 abortion, re-enacted in the movie Unplanned:

“… I started to feel pain in my abdomen unlike anything I had ever experienced. Then the blood came. It was gushing out of me…The only thing I could do was sit on the toilet. I sat there for hours…bleeding, throwing up into the bathroom trashcan, crying and sweating…. I filled the tub and climbed in…The cramps kept coming, but the water helped soothe them somewhat. I opened my eyes after 15 minutes and was horrified. My bathwater was bright red… I stood up slowly and straightened out my body. As soon as I was completely upright, I felt a pain worse than any other I had experienced…Then I felt a release…and a splash in the water that was draining beneath me. A blood clot the size of a lemon had fallen into my bath water. Was that my baby?[2]  

Other Traumatic Triggering Scenes

So many women and men who lost children to abortion are troubled by the question: “what happened to my baby?” For them, this scene will be very painful:

  • Two large barrels containing the remains of aborted children, marked as “medical waste,” are being prepared for removal.   A nearby group of pro-life advocates plead with the disposal company employees to allow them to pray over the children’s remains before they are hauled away.

Another scene depicts a Planned Parenthood employee lifting a tiny severed arm out of the bloody remains of an abortion procedure – to ensure that no fetal tissue was left inside the mother that could lead to infection.

Grandparents of aborted children may also find that the film connects them in a deeper and more immediate way to their grief and pain:

  • A father brings his pregnant daughter for an abortion.   As he sits in the waiting room, he is kept in the dark about his daughter having serious complications after the procedure.
  • In another heart-breaking scene a mother pleads with her daughter not to enter the Planned Parenthood facility. The mother’s pleas fall on deaf ears as the daughter walks into the facility to end the life of her grandbaby.  

Women with Abortion Loss Who Viewed the Film

We have consulted with a number of women who have experienced abortion loss, have been through a healing program, and are involved in outreach to women and men hurting after abortion.

After viewing Unplanned they shared that the experience was deeply painful and disturbing. One woman was angry feeling that she was not properly warned of some of the more graphic and traumatic scenes.

The majority expressed that while it was challenging to watch, there is great value in this intimate encounter with Abby’s story, as it is the story of so many women (and men who accompany their partners and daughters to abortion centers.)

All agreed that there should be information available to those who might need to talk to someone or attend an abortion recovery program after seeing Unplanned. (There will be hotline numbers and other resources included at the close of the movie when it opens in theaters March 28th.)

Jody Duffy of PATH (Post Abortion Treatment and Healing of Atlanta) said their ministry will have trained abortion recovery volunteers who will be present at the two screening locations of Unplanned in the Atlanta area on March 28th.  Jody shares:

“The PATH volunteers will be available to speak to anyone who may be triggered by the movie and will also have information on hand about our Rachel’s Vineyard retreats and SaveOne Bible studies.”

Should You See The Movie – Recommend It to Others?

A movie like Unplanned has great potential to advance the cause of life and raise awareness and understanding in our nation.  The movie also has the potential to have a positive impact on those in pro-life advocacy and abortion recovery ministry.

Some women and men involved in this type of outreach can sometimes experience a type of vicarious trauma.  Therapist Donna Gardner shares an experience that can help us better understand the hidden grief of pro-life advocates:

“I recently spoke with an older group of pro-life veterans who spent years in prolife 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.”

Such a powerful story like Unplanned can connect us to our own need for deeper emotional and spiritual healing from the grief and pain associated with the destruction of the unborn and the traumatization of their parents.  Some will benefit from attending an abortion recovery program,  or a special time of prayer and fellowship to process their feelings and share their own stories of grief and loss.

Such a painful journey of faith can nurture a renewed commitment to our pro-life vocations and fresh energy and zeal for activism and outreach, grounded in humility and faith.

For those who have personally experienced the abortion procedure, it’s ok if you decide after prayerful discernment, that this is not a good time to see such a graphic movie presentation on abortion.

You can still be involved in promoting the film, making viewers aware of healing resources, and praying that the film touches those who most need to encounter this powerful story of Abby Johnson and Unplanned.

[1] The Stream.  Josh Shepherd, Finding Abby: Actress Who Portrays Johnson in Film Unplanned Nearly Lost to Abortion. Published on October 4, 2018

[2]  Abortion Pill Risks. Abby Johnson’s Story.

Out of the Ashes – Into the Light: The Season of Lent Is the Perfect Time to Let God’s Mercy Touch this Secret Shadow from Your Past

March 11th, 2019

By Kevin Burke, LSW

I would like to suggest a Lenten experience that will bless you abundantly, and change your life.

This will require humility, courage, and some sacrifice and pain.

But let me assure you, the blessings to you, your loved ones, and your relationship to God and the Church will continue to flow well after Lent ends – and into eternity.

Consider taking a deeper look into how abortion has touched your life.

This invitation is not only for the mother of a child lost to abortion. This is addressed to the fathers of aborted children; to grandparents who have lost grandchildren to abortion; to those countless friends and family who, like me, have been accomplices in the death of an innocent child in the womb.

You may have confessed this sin, and received the forgiveness of Christ and his Church. This is of course an essential first step.

But abortion is a complicated experience of loss. If you have been in any way responsible for (or unable to prevent) the death of a baby in the womb, be assured this has hurt you emotionally and spiritually.  Often an abortion recovery program is needed to help women and men come to a deeper place of healing and peace.

Programs like Rachel’s Vineyard feature beautiful scripture meditations and special exercises that help you safely open up this painful event from the past.  The weekend promotes healthy grieving, and participants experience a peace that only God can bring to the wounded soul.

Catholic retreats include Eucharistic adoration, Mass, and the sacraments of Reconciliation.  Gathered with other women and men who have been hurt by abortion, and the guidance of an experienced and loving retreat team, you will experience the “Church at her very best.”

It is natural to feel anxiety about shining light on this dark shadow from the past.  Don’t be afraid.  You are not alone, and there is safe and confidential help for you.   Take the next step.

[The testimony at the beginning of the blog is from Chuck and Linda Raymond. The couple shares about how an abortion loss they experienced as teenagers impacted their marriage, and how they came to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend. 

The one below is my testimony at the steps of the Supreme Court in January 2019 and my role as an accomplice in the death of a child in the womb.]

Have a blessed Lent!