Archive for March, 2019

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

Friday, 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 ]

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

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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!