Project Rachel: Healing the Wounds of Abortion:
An interview with Vicki Thorn and Father Blair Raum
By John Mallon
(c) 1995, The Sooner Catholic
Having appeared in three parts in the April 9, April 23, and May
21 editions of the Sooner Catholic, the newspaper of the
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
Two nationally-known authorities on post-abortion counseling
recently reassured attendees at a day-long project Rachel workshop
in Oklahoma City that yes, indeed, the Church longs for the
return and reconciliation of its members who have procured,
assisted or undergone abortions.
"The Church definitely wants them in the Church," said Nick
Bagileo, director of the office of family life, sponsor of the
workshop. "In so doing, the Church is like Christ going after the
one lost sheep."
Victoria Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, and Father Blair Raum,
a priest from the archdiocese of Baltimore, with doctoral degrees
in counseling and ministry, presented the workshop to about 75
counselors and priests at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center March
Thorn spent the morning discussing the different psychological
effects of abortion on women who have had them, on parents of
children who have had them, on men who fathered the aborted
children, and on the siblings of the aborted children.
In one example she told of a young boy with a broken arm who,
after overhearing his parents discussing aborting a child with
possible birth defects, asked if this meant they were going to get
rid of him because he was no longer perfect.
Thorn went on to discuss the effects of abortion on abortion
providers. She said it often results in a great deal of
depression, anger and mean-spiritedness. She pointed to the
example of Bernard Nathanson, once an abortionist himself, who was
converted and has become an outspoken pro-life activist.
Raum instructed workshop attendees in an eight-step psychological
and sacramental pastoral counseling method designed to bring those
affected by abortion back to the Church and back to health.
Bagileo said Raum's approach is the Church's approach. "The whole
point is to make us whole, to make us one with God again. Those
who have had abortions need to know that there is hope, that there
is always life with Christ."
He said the conference was well-received and informative. "For
some people there, there wasn't an awareness of the severity of
the effects of abortion, not only on women, but on all the parts
of the family."
Project Rachel is an organization founded to help men and women
with post-abortion healing and reconciliation. Bagileo said that
Project Rachel counselors are available locally and can be
contacted by calling 405-721-8944. National referrals are
available by calling 1-800-5WE-CARE
The following is an interview with Thorn and Raum conducted after
their Oklahoma City workshop.
Let's say that a woman picked up The Sooner Catholic this weekend,
perhaps she's had an abortion and has had some second thoughts.
But maybe, as you said today, she feels the Church may not be
welcoming to her, or she has some guilt, shame or fear about
coming to the Church with her burden. What do you say to a woman
in this position? What should she know about Project Rachel?
Vicki Thorn: I would want her to know that the people involved in
Project Rachel have been trained to understand the dilemma that
she's faced with, and the pain that she's carrying, so that she
could come in confidence in knowing that these are people who
understand what her journey is, has been, and where she's going.
I'd also tell her that the Church has been very concerned about
this from early on, while in the public eye the Church appears to
be judgmental and angry about the abortion issue. In fact from the
very beginning the bishops have called for this ministry of
reconciliation and healing for people who's lives have been
changed by an abortion experience. When abortion occurs their life
is never ever the same again. The bishops recognize this and
that's a piece of the puzzle that people don't know about. The
Church cares so much that there is a special Project Rachel where
people are prepared for this ministry. So it's safe to come home.
And it's safe to come and to seek help in making sense out of this
Father Blair Raum: I would want to emphasize the openness and the
availability of this ministry to her when she's ready to avail
herself of it. There may be considerable apprehension, there may
be fear even, particularly fear of being judged, fear of being
condemned, fear of not being accepted by her Church because she
may perceive that everything she's done in having the abortion has
gone against the teaching of the Church. And that perception would
be correct. She has. But she may conclude from that that the
Church would not want to welcome her home, or not want to be part
of her life anymore. So I would want her to know the Church is
ready to assist her and support her in God's healing work in her
life, to restore her to the person God wants her to be. The
Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.
In your talks you made a distinction between the general pro-life
movement and Project Rachel. For example, you said that the people
who picket clinics are the people on the front lines of a war but
you compare Project Rachel to a MASH unit. Could you elaborate on
Fr. Blair: Well, the basic thrust of the pro-life movement is to
keep the pro-life agenda in the forefront of the American public,
and to help to neutralize and overcome the culture of death that's
heading us to self-destruction. To do that they're in an adversary
position, and an adversary context, debating, if you will, the
pro-life/pro-death positions. And if you're going to be a soldier
in a war you have to be totally focused, you have to be somewhat
hardened, you have to be totally committed. You have to be
somewhat hard, and I mean that in a good sense. You're committed
to get in there and fight it out to the end. Project Rachel is
very sympathetic and supportive with the pro-life movement,
because after all, if they win, we win. The idea is for them to
go out of business and for us to go out of business so that none
of us are needed anymore. We're not going to win unless they win.
So we're supportive of the pro-life effort. But at the same time
our piece of the story is a different piece. We're not in the war,
we're behind the front lines. We're dealing with women who have
had abortions, who need healing, need reconciliation and
essentially need a safe place where they can come and reconnect
with God, with themselves, with their baby, with their family,
with their husbands, with the Church. They need a safe place
where they can work through their issues and experience the
healing grace of God. A safe place is not a war. You have to
protect them, almost, from the battle. Isolate them, just like you
would in a hospital unit, so that they can receive the healing
that they need.
One of the interesting things is that Project Rachel is not just
for women. Often the men who are involved have issues and mourning
and grief to deal with. Can you tell us something about that?
Vicki: The fathers you see initially are the ones who tried to
prevent the abortion, who were opposed to it, and they have an
almost immediate reaction. They'll call within hours or days of
this abortion occurring and they're very angry that they were cut
out of the decision, that their child was lost however this thing
unfolded--whether her parents made a decision or she made a
decision and didn't tell him. One of the things about the fathers
is their anger is absolutely palpable. It's beyond anger, it's
rage. In dealing with them you have to help them process and
affirm this anger. It's okay to be angry. But we try to help
them channel it because this rage is absolutely bubbling over.
And then there's incredible grief that's going on. When I talk to
fathers on the phone, I just want to weep. We had a father this
week who called and I spent a long time on the phone with him
because I was very worried about him. He's an honorable man.
He's just an honorable human being who wanted to protect his
child. He knew his girlfriend was pregnant and said, "Okay, we'll
get married, we were going to get married anyhow. I can support
you," the whole thing. And she didn't even tell him. She was with
him on Wednesday, and Thursday morning she had the abortion. He
saw her three times after that before she told him, and when she
told him he just went off the chart in terms of anger and sadness.
This was a man whose father died when he was 14 and he kept
saying, "I wanted to be a dad to my child." I asked him if he had
any idea about the sex of his child and he said, yes, it was a
son. I asked, "have you thought about naming your child?" He
said, "I did that already. So he knew intuitively what as a parent
he needed to do as part of this process. But the grief this man is
experiencing is absolutely profound. And you hear the issues. He
said, he's a cowboy, he said "when my momma died, I swore I'd
never get close to a woman again. And I made a mistake. I did. And
now I've lost my child as a result of it. And I'm not ever going
to get close to a woman again." How do you help him begin at some
point to process this whole thing? As we were talking I said to
him "The brokenness in her family has to be pretty profound that
she would choose this." It was a good Catholic family with lots of
money and I asked what her relationship was with her mother.
Well, she hardly spoke to her mother. What about her father? She
was very afraid of her father. He had never been in a house where
people just didn't communicate with each other.
Again this was kind of beyond the beyond for him and so there were
all these issues fomenting for this man, and this incredible
grief. He'd thought about suicide. He's not Catholic, but he is
Christian, and he said "it's always my opinion that you burn in
Hell for that one so I didn't think I should do that." But it was
clear that it had been a major temptation for him. He really had
to think his way through whether he ought to kill himself as a
result of this. And you know when you talk to these fathers, there
are guys who are coming right off the abortion experience and they
just break your heart. I just wanted to weep on the phone with
this man because his story was so painful.
The guys who come later have a little bit of distance. The pain
is great but not quite so overwhelming as that immediate death
experience that these fathers right afterwards have. But the
fathers are very interesting. I think I have experienced some of
the most profound pain in all the years I've done this from the
fathers I've encountered it in terms of gut wrenching sorrow at
what's happened. So it's very interesting to see. The men are
really where the women were about 10 years ago. Their pain is
really surfacing -- big time. Then there are fathers who are
responsible for the abortions, who say, "Yeah, I really pushed and
I left town, and I kind of abandoned her," and whatever. They
talk about being involved in risk-taking behavior. I met one
father who had tried to stop the abortion and he climbed
mountains, he broke horses, he rode motorcycles. He was a medical
professional. They talk about chemical abuse. All these things
are to numb the pain and try to prove their manhood in another
way. The anger at women is incredibly profound. Distrust of women.
You know, "I'll never get close to another woman again." So the
issues that come here are very very complicated. And they just
keep surfacing in different fashions.
With the whole rise of the men's movement, groups like Promise
Keepers, groups of men coming together to say who they are as men,
and what they should be doing, the whole men's awareness movement-
-men are entitled to their feelings. That's all well and good, but
if you surface one set of feelings, the whole ball of wax is going
to come with it and we're going to have men who are very, very
upset when they suddenly have permission to feel their feelings
and they realize it isn't just nice wonderful feelings, but there
are all these sad, angry feelings that are going to come up as
well. There's the National Center for Fathering in Shawnee
Mission, Kansas, which has this wonderful magazine available for
free to men now. We're going to see more and more fathers
surfacing in terms of this father's rights issue.
There's a man in Florida who called not long ago. I had never
heard of him, he just surfaced out of the blue. He's part of a
group called Fact One, Fathers of Aborted Children Together as
One. And for several years every Father's Day he stages a 24-hour
vigil at the White House. He said, "Someday I will fill Lafayette
park with fathers." His sign says something to the effect of
"Happy Father's Day, Thanks for the Memory," and has a picture of
one of the Baby Does on it. He said, "I will fill Lafayette park.
I'm determined, I will do that. He sent a picture from last year--
it's one of those ironic pictures--here's this one man out in
front of the White House with all these riot police in full gear
with this poor little guy with kind of long hair with his sign,
and I'm thinking, "Boy, does he look dangerous. Wow. They're
spending a lot of money to protect the White House from this guy."
But we're going to see more and more of those fathers.
The grandfathers carry incredible issues with them. They're very
angry if there's been an abortion. And I think that those fathers
and grandfathers, without supportive care, have the potential to
act very rashly in some settings. And we really need to be about
diffusing that anger, and listening carefully and helping them
process it. I think they have the potential to be dangerous. If
somebody's going to do something dumb in a clinic because of their
rage, that's it. The grandfathers are off the chart. Grandfathers
scare me even more than the fathers do. They are really, really,
really, really mad.
It sounds like abortion attacks a basic male instinct to protect
his child. It sounds like the man you were speaking about a
moment ago was enraged because he was deprived of the opportunity
to protect his child.
Vicki: Yes. And it was very interesting because he said he bonded
to that baby right away. He said that she told him that she was
pregnant and he said he thought about it for a couple of days and
said, "Cool! I'm a dad! This is cool!" That's it. He made the
transition. He said, "How could she not make that transition?" He
just couldn't understand the dynamic that would allow her to go to
an abortion clinic and have this abortion and kill his child.
And not come to him either.
Vicki: Yes, and not come to him, even as he was offering to be
supportive, you know, to get married. They talked about this. She
wasn't a teenager. She was 25, he was 28. It's one of those
bizarre phenomena. These men tend to plunge into that father's
rights thing long before they're healed. That's almost like their
atonement piece of it. They just plunge right into it. There's a
group that started a number of years ago for fathers, and both of
the fathers who started it were on Ted Koppel and all these shows
featuring fathers rights issues. Both of them were very unhealed.
One of them subsequently had a heart attack and I don't know where
he is. I'm supposed to be on his board but it is as if he has
fallen off the face of the earth. And the other guy got sucked
into some far out political stuff. I mean this is one broken man.
This guy was just heartbroken. He was one of the dads on the video
we showed today. It is all so very, very sad. These folks just
sucked him right in.
You said they weren't healed yet, but they plunged right into this
activism. Could you describe what you mean when you say someone is
not healed yet and could you explain the specific healing process?
Fr. Blair: The specific process must be modified by the word
"sometimes." This is not equivalent to the Ten Commandments. But
it seems to work most of the time when these things happen people
move down a continuum of grieving.
When men and women are in an unhealed state, they still have a lot
within them that they have not yet come to terms with. That most
often includes feelings and emotions that have not been expressed,
not been dealt with, not resolved. From a spiritual and social
standpoint they often feel very unconnected with other people. So
a lot of behavior of the unhealed person involves trying to get
connected. But when unhealthy people try to connect with other
people--there is a metaphor I like to use, and it's an interesting
one here--it is as if they walk around with their umbilical cord
in hand looking for someone they can plug it into. Because they
want to establish relationships, not out of mutual giving but out
of their own need, they come to suck out of you what they need for
themselves. In a sense they're like people who feel like they're
drowning and they're flailing in the water and if you go to try to
save them they'll kill you to save themselves, so you really have
to be skilled and know what you're doing in order to help them.
From a spiritual point of view, they have not experienced the
unconditional love of God in their lives and they feel very
unconnected. If they go out and become very activist they
basically take their pathology and use that to multiply their own
problems into the lives of others. And so they create more
problems than they really solve.
Once they have reached a good level of healing, they've come to
terms with the issues, they have a handle on things. From a
spiritual standpoint, for me, the key is experiencing in their
lives the unconditional love of God for them. In spite of
everything they have done, even the worst case scenario, if you
will, they now have experienced that God still loves them. And, in
a sense, having gone through this crucifixion process, their
resurrection can be quite profound and the spiritual depth that's
achievable is really quite profound. They put me to shame often
because I have not suffered as they have suffered and therefore my
resurrection may not be quite as profound as theirs.
You spoke movingly about the difficulty priests face when it comes
to preaching on this because on the one hand they have to present
the Church's position, and to a hurting person that might sound,
as you said, doctrinaire and sort of cold blooded and not very
pastoral. But then, you followed with something fascinating: When
these women or men start to go through the process there's a great
deal of anger. When you try to identify who they're angry at it
may not be the boyfriend because he didn't know what he was doing.
It's not the doctor, the abortionist, he was just doing his job.
It intrigued me when you said they're usually angry at people who
could have and should have told them the truth about abortion but
didn't. Could you elaborate on that?
Fr. Blair: Well, the parish priest, that's who I'll speak to, and
having been one myself for 24 years in parish ministry, and as a
seminarian that makes 29 years, I'm really familiar with that
arena. The parish priest is in a most interesting position because
he has to take all of the spirituality, all of the theology, all
of the Church rules and regulations. The parish priest has the
most interesting challenge to translate the Church's rules,
regulations, teachings, doctrine, theology, law, all those things
into the lives of his parishioners and into his own life. Of
course, that's the challenge of every Catholic. This is one of the
greatest challenges in the Church. One of the fine lines the
priest must walk in the pro-life arena is, on the one hand, he has
to support the Church's very clear teaching about the value of
life and present that very clear teaching to his parishioners in
his homilies, in confession, in catechesis--wherever he is. And at
the same time he has to show compassion and love for those who are
hurting after an abortion. Now what makes that a difficult
question for him is that she who has had the abortion often hears
the very strong pro-life teaching of the Church as a judgment
against her. It causes her great pain when she hears that
teaching. So priests who preach the pro-life message will
sometimes experience people getting up in tears and walking out on
the homily. By and large I think priests are some of the most
sensitive, loving, caring people God has put on the face of the
earth. I would say man for man, as a group, this is probably the
most caring group on the face of the earth. When a woman or a man
gets up and walks out of church in tears at the pro-life message,
he, in his sensitivity, often reads that behavior as "I've hurt
somebody. I don't want to be the kind of pastor who's going to be
hurting people." Therefore he backs off the message.
What he doesn't realize is that the tears are often part of the
healing process. He's not inflicting pain, he's just helping her
uncover the pain that's already there and beginning to release the
pain. It's part of the healing, it's not part of the problem, it's
part of the solution. And preaching the truth begins to help her
deal with the truth of her own life, the truth of what she's done
and, yes, it may increase her pain level.
I'll tell you in 1985 when I was diagnosed with cancer I felt
fine. I had never felt healthier in my entire life. They diagnosed
this, they cut me open, they got tissue out, they said "You've got
cancer." They dumped poisons in me for seven months and shot me
with 4,000 rads of radiation. Now when they got finished with all
that I felt terrible! They made me sick. But in order to get
better, to get healed, they had to take me, who felt fine, and
make me sick in order to make me better. That's something of what
it's like in this process as well. That she has to go through the
valley of the shadow of death in order to reach the end, and to
reach the resurrection, she has to experience that pain. And so
the preaching often helps her uncover that. And when priests begin
to see that it's part of the solution and not part of the problem,
and that preaching the truth always benefits, always brings great
grace, even though it may also include great pain, then that
really begins to resolve the conflict that he may experience in
preaching what he may perceive to be a dual message, but really
isn't. And he may begin to be the step that brings a number of
people to healing in their lives. That's the difficult challenge
of the parish priest.
Vicki: I think it's also important as he preaches to talk about
the forgiveness part of it, that nothing is too big for God,
because that sometimes is that missing piece for that woman. It
kind of brings the two messages together, and I think that's an
important part of it. I know a number of priests who, having been
trained in Project Rachel, are suddenly given a handle on how to
homilize about it and how to come at it in terms of a way that
makes sense to them and as to who they are pastorally as sensitive
human beings. They not only talk about the loss of that child and
the loss of the pregnancy but also about all these other things
that happen, and that seems to make a lot of sense to priests.
That's a real freeing thing in terms of how they can preach about
You also both spoke today about the effects of an abortion on the
wider family, that it affects siblings of the aborted child on an
intuitive level. It affects the grandparents. You spoke about the
grandfathers, maybe you could say something about the
grandmothers, and the siblings and other people in the family,
maybe even the uncles and aunts of the aborted child.
Vicki: The grandmothers often times will seek me out, I think
you've had that experience, too, Father. If I go out to do a talk,
the grandmothers come in tears and say, "I'm a grandmother and I
don't know what to do with this because my daughter's life is a
mess, she had this abortion. I just want to see her healed."
Clearly they're carrying this raft of pain as well. And so we have
to help the grandparents to process this stuff, probably long
before their daughters or sons are ready to process it. In
processing and doing their own grieving in terms of dealing with
just the anger and the disappointment, the death of a dream when
your child becomes pregnant out of wedlock, there are all these
dreams you have for your child and those things come crashing
down. When these grandparents engage in their own healing journey
they're going to be better equipped to journey with their child
when their child is ready to do it. We need to talk to them about
their need to grieve for the loss of a grandchild and sometimes
the loss of their child, because the parents of the aborted baby
often distance themselves. There might be some very odd behavior
going on, dysfunctional sorts of things. We need to encourage them
and say that it's important that you do your healing so that when
your daughter or your son is ready you're available to them and
you've already processed your pain. We help them grieve and
identify that it's their grandchild. They know that but society
doesn't give them permission to even think in those terms.
Sometimes the grandmothers in particular carry that burden of
guilt because they were part of that decision, or they said to
their daughter you must do this. They seem to internalize that
guilt more than the grandfather. At least in my experience it's
the grandmothers who tend to carry that, "Well there should have
been something more I could have done," or "I said to her 'You
really should do this,' I can't believe I did that. It flew in the
face of everything I believed in, but I said that." So they carry
this real burden with them.
In terms of the extended family, the impact that abortion has on
sisters and brothers of the aborted parent is really profound.
Oftentimes I'll have someone who comes and says, "You know my
sister had an abortion and I don't know what to do. How can I help
or what can I do?" We need to give them permission to grieve. This
was a niece or nephew that was lost and they know that, and yet
when you say it, it frees them to say, "I guess I'm not crazy that
I think about this baby in that fashion." I even see how it
unfolds in the family beyond that in terms of my own family. Our
family should have a young woman, Maria, who would be 18 now, the
age of my oldest daughter, Sophie. She has always really wanted a
cousin her own age and couldn't understand why God had gypped her.
That was really her expression. And I could never answer that
question. Because all her brothers and sisters have cousins the
same age and the same sex. When I discovered that Maria had been
aborted, it was a painful thing because my daughter lost somebody
important, and I lost something important, because I would have
been I think very close to this young woman. And so I've been able
to watch events unfold as Maria's father asks Sophie's forgiveness
for having deprived her of this cousin and to watch now as she's
processed this as a young woman. She learned about Maria when she
was 17. Maria is Sophie's confirmation name. I asked her why she
had chosen that name; it was an obvious question and yet I wanted
her to articulate what was going on inside of her. She said,
"Because Maria should have been a member of this confirmation
class and so she deserves the recognition that she should have
been here." And I continue to see that Maria is a very significant
part of her life. When we celebrated my daughter's 18th birthday
with an at-home Mass, her petition was a prayer of remembrance for
Maria. So it plays itself out in terms of that generation.
This has been a significant loss for me and it touches me very
deeply. It's a significant loss for my daughter as well, and I've
watched it unfold in terms of some of the other kids in the family
finding out about it. For them it's a significant loss. It's
different than it is for Sophie, because Sophie lost somebody that
would have been her best friend. For the other kids this would
have been an older cousin kind of thing, but I just watch how this
unfolds and the circle of brokenness goes on and on. The kids who
found out about this have to cope with the fact that this uncle
who, for them is almost an alternate parent, could do this; he
spent so much time with these kids and they just love him. They
really had to think about what that meant. And I know it raised
some questions for them in terms of "well now what?" One of the
nieces asked the question of him while this was being discussed,
"Are you sorry that you did that? Would you do that again?" This
is a 12 year-old who's asking these very hard questions about what
this means. This doesn't fit with this loving person I know, and
how could this happen?
So that circle of brokenness goes on and on. Children who lose
siblings suffer survivor syndrome, just like if there were another
death from leukemia or a car accident, and they carry with them
almost existential guilt--why did I survive when my sibling was
lost here? And I think they can't even begin to process the
implications that a parent--their parent--could make this kind of
decision that would end the life of a sibling. I think that puts
them in a real state of anxiety of needing to forget a piece of
information they know.
Doctor Ed Sheridan who is a psychiatrist at Georgetown talked
about the fact that he had seen children who had learned about an
abortion experience who developed a learning disability. They had
to block this bit of information about the abortion, but in
blocking that they ended up blocking a few other things. That was
something he saw quite frequently in his practice with children
who knew about the abortions in their family. He also sees
children who come in with presenting problems who will draw
pictures of missing people. "Who is that?" "Well that's my best
friend." And the missing child should be the age of a child that
had been lost to abortion, but this child does not have that
information, but in asking the parents about it, the parents
acknowledge that there was an abortion and that this child should
be eight or seven or however old. And this other surviving child
intuitively is aware of that. So that circle of impact goes on and
on and on and on.
In terms of my own experiences, there was another abortion in our
family, and for a long time I suspected this to be the case. I'd
been given a lot of clues by the couple involved, but the story
had never been told. A number of times I almost asked the
question. This went so far as to have a coffee cup in my hand and
to say to my husband, "This is it. I'm going to go ask the
question." And something would always happen. This summer as this
couple now was expecting the birth of their first child, I made
the decision that I would have the opportunity to raise the
question with the father involved and simply said to him, "I have
reason to believe that you are an aborted father. And I need to
say to you that if this is the case you must, I want to invite you
to, finish your grieving before this baby is born so that you're
free to really bond to this child." I was right, but my own
experience with this is very interesting because I thought that
the mother of this baby was someone different than it truly is.
And in my own processing of this--I'm still processing it--I
discovered that instead of this baby being in its 20s, which is my
mental state, this baby would be right after Sophie, which means
when my child was saying "Why don't I have cousins?" she indeed
had cousins on both sides of her. I can't process that. I have a
very objective view of it, almost like an out-of-body experience.
I'm looking at myself saying "Isn't that interesting?" I can't
think about whether it was a boy or girl. I don't have this
relationship with this baby that I do with Maria. I'm very distant
and it's as though I can't bring myself to deal with it. Because
two of my kids are impacted in that, a son who also has a girl
cousin his age but no boy cousin. My belief is and the baby's
father thinks also that this was a son. So right here in the
middle of these two kids is another child missing as a result of
an abortion. And I've not processed that yet. So here it is on a
very personal level and I'm able to look at this and say "Isn't
that interesting? Her denial is real great there. I wonder why she
has such a problem with that?" But I know it's because of this
other piece. This is the other half. This is that other cousin.
There were two cousins that she had that got lost in this whole
process. So how does that play itself out in the next ripple of
the rest of the family knowing, the grandparents knowing? The
grandparents don't know at this point. The other aunts and uncles
do know. There are some other abortions in there that have now
unfolded because of people telling the truth and beginning to do
their healing. It's all very complicated. And the long-term
implications are just phenomenal. And we all get touched. We just
don't know who in our circle of loved ones or friends have had
It's almost hard to imagine nowadays that there is any family
Vicki: I believe every family's been touched. Whether it's in
terms of a child who's had an abortion, or a niece or a nephew
that's had an abortion, or the spouse of a child that's been
involved in an abortion experience. I think every family in
America has been touched.
Editor's note: This is the continuation of an in depth interview
with Mrs. Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, a healing
ministry of the Church for bringing healing and reconciliation to
men and women suffering grief and remorse from the trauma of a
past abortion. Fr. Blair Raum, Ph.D has recently been released by
his bishop, William Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore to work with
Project Rachel full-time. In our last edition of the Sooner
Catholic we discussed the devestating effects of abortion on the
abortive parents and the extended family. In this segment we
discussed how it is dealt with (and not dealt with) by the helping
professions and the need to reexamine approaches taken by the
larger pro-life community. The interview will conclude next
Fr Blair, you've said the psychological community has not come to
recognize post-abortion syndrome as something that should be
listed in the DSM-IIIR, but you related it to post-traumatic
stress disorder. Could you speak about that as a diagnosis of
what's happening here?
Fr. Blair: Unfortunately, the APA, the American Psychiatric
Association, is influenced greatly by political issues. So at
their conventions and meetings where they plan for and prepare the
diagnostic manuals, the APA has taken the political position of
being pro-choice, which already biases their view of looking at
post-traumatic stress disorder, post-abortion specified, that's
how you would diagnose it from their manuals. But they publicly
deny the fact that there's any problem with abortion aftermath,
rather than take a neutral position and make us prove it to them.
Those who have done research in the area, and can present good
research can't even get published. So it's a political issue and
the problem is that the profession is supposed to be a healing
profession. So they've really compromised their basic mission of
healing in favor of a political position.
Now given that, that does not stop the mental health professional
from seeing this clinically. The problem is the mental health
professional may not be looking for it because they may not think
it exists. So he may see the symptoms but not know how to add it
up. One of my former clients of Project Rachel came to me, she had
an abortion, she was in great personal distress over it, so she
checked herself into a mental hospital. In individual therapy she
told the doctor, "I've had an abortion and I can't deal with it."
The doctor was the one who couldn't deal with it. He said, "Well,
it's probably predisposing psychological factors"--which to some
degree it can be. He had all kinds of reasons why the abortion
wasn't the problem. He wasn't listening to what she was saying. He
was following the prevailing political theory. In group therapy
the therapists consistently steered her around the abortion as the
problem. And finally she thought to herself, "These people are not
going to help me. The only thing I can do is feign health and get
out of here." And that's exactly what she did. She acted healthy.
They thought they had solved the problem, they let her go, they
had discharged her, and when I wrote for her records they had
written on the bottom of her records, "but we're not sure if our
treatment was helpful because we're not sure if she was healed or
if she just played an act to get out of the hospital." So even
they sensed that she may not be authentic. She came to see me and
said, "My problem is I got an abortion and I can't deal with it."
And then we dealt with it. And that's when her symptoms began to
be relieved as she worked through the process and was healed. So
the mental health professionals today who follow the APA
perspective may not be able to add up the symptoms in an
appropriate way to come to an understanding of where she's coming
from. And it is not a good service to the client when that
It sounds like this woman was healthy enough to have the presence
of mind to seek further help.
Fr. Blair: Yes, she knew what was wrong with her. She knew when
the symptoms started and she knew why she was feeling the way she
was. She didn't have the resources to work her way through the
healing as oftentimes we cannot self-heal. But she had a sense
about what was going on with her and what she needed.
But wouldn't be bullied that abortion wasn't her problem.
Fr. Blair: She was searching for help and she was determined she
was going to find it. And if they weren't going to give it to her
she was going to do what she had to do to get it.
Vicki: These women have a clear sense of what needs to be done
many times. They know what the problem is. I had a woman who
called Project Rachel in Milwaukee who had been in a psychiatric
hospital many times with massive depression and suicide attempts.
She knew that her abortion was the problem and she wanted to
discuss it. She kept bringing it up. She kept getting the same
psychiatrist and he made it quite clear to her that he was the
father of two aborted babies and he didn't think that was her
Another anecdotal story someone shared with me was of a male
therapist who was helping a father go through a miscarriage
experience and the miscarriage father was grieving a great deal.
And after the miscarried father left the office the therapist
didn't come out, and his fellow therapists became concerned. They
came in and found the man just sobbing and sobbing. Well, what
happened is the miscarried father's grief had touched the
therapist's grief as an aborted father and he had never touched
his own grief. So there's also that element in that community,
just because of the sheer numbers.
We also have people whose own abortion issues are under wraps. And
to give somebody else permission to deal with their pain directly
impacts their own experience that might be unhealed. So I think
you've got a kind of two-fold kind of thing going, it's not
politically correct, but it might also be personally too painful
to allow someone else to discuss that, so they tend to go with the
"let's talk about your symptoms, oh you have a drinking problem,
well we'll deal with your drinking problem. Oh your marriage is
coming apart, well, we'll deal with that." The people who are
seeking help keep saying, "I want to talk about my abortion. The
professionals are saying, "No, we don't want to talk about your
It sounds like a whole segment of the profession is in denial.
Fr. Blair: The whole society is in denial. I find consistent
experience with clients whenever the presenting problem is,
whatever the diagnosis is, often if they're in the right
atmosphere with the right support and the right safety and the
right caring and the right empathy, they will be able to search
out what their solution is.
Vicki: Because we have an 800 referral line, we can find people
help anyplace in the country, and it always amazes me that the
women who call have a sense of at least some of the things they
need to do. So if you just ask them, what they have done in terms
of resolution, they'll say I did X, Y and Z. They intuitively knew
that those were things they needed to do. Are there pieces
missing? Yes there are, but it's this drive toward wholeness and
this intuitive sense that this was a life event that's got to be
reconciled. It is always amazing to me to see how these people, on
their own, have put many of these pieces in place just
intuitively. They instinctively have taken care of some of these
pieces. It's one of the things I see going on, all of a sudden.
Maybe it's a new awareness.
But even in terms of the pro-life message, there is that question
of how to speak our message. I think that's very important
because, as Father Blair says, you've got front line people, but
we are no longer speaking to the same group we were speaking to
20-22 years ago. Then we were speaking to a naïve group. A minimal
number of people had abortions. A minimal number of people had
even thought about it. It wasn't a topic that people were even
conscious of. Now we've moved to a new place where people,
influential people, will say, "Well of course, everybody knows
it's a life because medical science has made that quite clear, but
that's an irrelevant point because it's about whether I want to be
responsible for that life, so it's my choice about
responsibility." Jill Clayburgh says that in a book, and I think
it's very articulate, but we have this great gray middle in terms
of the pro-life, pro-abortion, pro-choice spectrum of people who
say they're "personally opposed but . . ."
I've done a whole lot of things in the pro-life movement. I've
been a crisis pregnancy counselor, I've worked in Church
education, I've worked with state right-to-life groups, worked
nationally, and we always tend to say that we don't know what to
do with those people who adamantly say they're "personally opposed
but . . ."
What I've come to discover over the past about two years is that
many of these people, if we talk to them about abortion's
aftermath, will finally risk telling you that this "personally
opposed..." is about the fact, and the "but..." is "my loved one
has had an abortion." "My mother, my best friend, my aunt,
whoever, and I don't know what to make of that. So in my own
personal code of ethics, abortion is unacceptable, so I say I'm
personally opposed. I could never do that. But I love this person
and I don't know what to make of the fact that they had to make
this decision. And so I have to believe that they're basically a
good person, and there must have been some compelling thing that
made them have to choose abortion, so I have to take the stance
that I'm 'personally opposed but...." which keeps them fixed in
this sort of middle area where they don't deal with it.
When we can very gently present this side that talks about
abortion's aftermath, and what it does to the family, and how
people grieve, and what impacts the siblings and relationships,
these people suddenly are freed to look at what happened to their
loved one. And when we talk about the pressures that are placed on
these people, whether it's the medical profession saying "you have
to do this because this is an unhealthy pregnancy, it's not going
to be a healthy baby," or parental pressures, or social pressures,
or whatever, when we do that we free these people who are in this
gray area to really be able, for the first time, to examine what
that abortion experience meant in the bigger picture of the family
I am convinced that as people involved in getting the message out,
we have to start doing that more often. Because these people are
stuck and we in the pro-life movement tend to sort of pooh-pooh
these people. I think we have to be much more gentle with them in
this invitation. As people who are committed to life we need to
engage those people in conversation.
I think sometimes we grow impatient and don't want to talk to
them. Rather, we need to say, "Why do you feel that way? Do you
know someone who's had an abortion?" Because if we keep our mouths
shut and invite the story then they can begin the process of being
able to make sense out of it. And we may be the first person who's
ever invited them to tell their story. And so I think that's part
of re-tailoring the pro-life message -- that invitation to hear
There are so many people who are wounded. And we're cutting them
off because we're coming on in such a fashion as to be so
doctrinaire that we can't take time to hear the story. We're
compelled to get our own piece of the message out there. We can't
be heard. We're not dealing with the same group. These are not
naïve people. These are people whose lives have been touched by
abortion. I had a whole string of these experiences about a year
and a half ago and it was just amazing the consistency of the
The most recent one occurred when Father Blair and I were in
Poland in September and went into the hotel office. While I was
waiting to take care of some business, there was a woman there
from Australia who spoke fluent English. She asked what I was
doing there and I told her. She was not part of our conference.
She just worked at the hotel. I began to talk about abortion's
aftermath and how I worked with the Church. And she kept saying "I
can't believe the Church cares. I never thought the Church cared
about that. Why, that's just amazing to me." She asked me all
these questions. This little dialogue went on about half an hour
and at the end of it she said to me, "You know, my mother had an
abortion after I was born. I've never ever thought about what that
might mean to my mother." I knew that she was suddenly in a
different spot. She was suddenly looking at this whole experience
in a very different way because of our conversation. But it's that
ability to spend that little bit of time and draw out her story. I
was willing to answer her questions without any judgments. I was
just willing to answer whatever questions she had for me. And I
think maybe that's the way we need to go because the pro-life
movement has been perceived with such anger that people are
afraid. They're really hesitant to even approach. We are supposed
to be the lovers of the world. We're talking about loving all of
life from conception to natural death, and if anything's been lost
because of the frustration of what's going on in the pro-life
movement, I think it's that ability to just love people and to
just be present to people and to invite their stories.
Right now in Boston, since the shootings in the Brookline clinics,
the tension on the street is incredible. In the last Sooner
Catholic we had a story about an elderly man who has been going to
the clinics for years to pray. Allegedly a woman from the other
side threw hot coffee on him. He jolted and hit her in the mouth
with his cane, maybe accidentally, maybe instinctively, it hasn't
been determined yet. A lot of people are realizing that something
has to be done to avoid more tragedy but many people feel torn
between following Cardinal Law's call for a moratorium, or
following the call they sense to be present to pray. That's what
this man was doing when this altercation took place, he was part
of a rosary group. There's tremendous tension. Is the approach you
speak of a solution, an avenue, that all this has to take to avoid
more hostile polarization?
Vicki: Yes, I think we have to be keenly aware of the fact that
we're now dealing with armed camps on both sides. There was an
article I believe it was in Glamour magazine interviewing an
abortionist who talked about the fact that he was armed. He
regularly carried a gun and he wore a bullet proof vest, and his
house was built as a fortress. So we're seeing this arming of two
camps and seeing two sets of very angry people, both very wounded.
You can't be an abortionist, a physician, or a health care
provider very long without having that get to you on some level.
We see, for instance, that at the National Abortion Rights Action
League conference every year there are special stress management
workshops helping them deal with the fact that alcoholism is a
problem, divorces are a problem, nightmares are a problem--these
things are going on. So I think that this ability to step back and
to listen and love is certainly part of that kind of response. The
other thing is something a woman from Virginia, I believe, shared
with me. A group of potential adoptive parents have taken a very
interesting tack. They go to the abortion clinics, set up a
table, bright colors, balloons, coffee, brochures, talking about
adoption, about the different kinds of adoption, and giving some
portraits of some potential adoptive parents. These are potential
adoptive parents who are just there as a kind and gentle presence.
And the response they've received from the police is incredible.
One woman officer asks to be detailed now to them when they're
there because they're just cool people.
It's a different sort of thing. In the few weeks that they've
been there--they go once a month -- the have had eight women
change their mind because this was a positive, not angry,
different approach that really struck people as novel, but also
really provided an answer.
Here are adoptive parents who are saying to these women, "We want
to be parents, we're willing to take your children." I think
those are the kinds of things that we need to be doing.
We've almost entered into the specter of death in the kinds of
protests that go on and I think we can get sucked into that
ominous, depressive, angry frustration that leads us into
violence. I think it's time to regroup in terms of prayer, in
terms of saying to God, "exactly what is it that we're about? Who
are we as Christians? And how do we need to get the message out
there?" Because clearly the message we're getting out there isn't
necessarily working with this question of violence on both sides.
There are people whose lives have been broken by abortions, who
are out there saying "no way, no how, I'm going to stop
abortions." Many of the people who are doing clinic protection
will say, "I've had an abortion, it was a good thing," are keeping
their own issues under wraps and this is a recipe for disaster.
You know, we've reached that point now, we're at critical mass
where there's so much woundedness that it's going to spill over.
It's not going to stay under wraps any longer.
And this is probably exactly Cardinal Law's point.
Vicki: I think there was a great deal of fear on his part that
this was going to escalate beyond this and that there would be
more massacre in terms of more lives being lost at the clinics. I
think in a pastoral sense he had to say that. I think he saw what
was going on. And we don't know what Cardinal Law was privy to
that we're not privy to. He's simply not in a position to say,
"hey guys, you ought to know." We need to trust that judgment.
These are not foolish men and these are not men who respond
carelessly. Certainly Cardinal Law's track record as being pro-
life and in offering some very creative approaches to pro-life
issues has been very important. The women affirming life group,
that began in his diocese. There's been a lot of leadership going
Editors Note: Herewith is the conclusion of our three part
interview with Father Blair Raum and Mrs. Vicki Thorn of Project
Rachel, a ministry for healing and reconciliation for people
suffering the wounds of a past abortion. Part one ran in our
Issue of April 9, and part two in our issue of April 23. It did
not run in the May7 issue so we could devote all available space
to the tragic bombing at the Murrah Federal Building.
Let me ask you, Father, about women in their 60s and 70s who are
suddenly coming to terms with an abortion, or abortions in their
life. This is interesting because all these sides of the story are
coming forth which we don't often think about, such as effects on
the men involved. The stereotypical person traumatized by abortion
is a woman in her teens or 20s or 30s. We tend to forget about the
men and the grandparents. Could you say something, Father, about
the people 60 and over who are coming to terms with abortion in
Fr. Blair Raum: One of the blessings that has come out of the
great tragedy of abortion is that we are gaining a great deal in
our understanding of what happens to a person after an abortion.
And also what some of the things are that need to happen for
healing to take place. Take for example, the woman who is in her
mid-60s, like the client I mentioned in my talk today, who had
seven abortions in her late teens and early 20s. These were all
pre-Roe v. Wade, they were all illegal abortions, they were all
what we might today call "back alley" abortions, none of them were
sanctioned and even when she began to feel some of the aftermath
from her abortion, nobody had the slightest idea what to do with
it, and in fact nobody wanted to hear that she had an abortion.
Because it was thought of in those days as being such a horrible
thing, that she would never think about telling it to anybody,
other than a confessor in confession, much less look to somebody
to help her for healing, because we hadn't a clue what to do with
One of the great liberations, if you will, for her is that now
that we've come to this place where we do understand more and more
about it...we still have a lot to learn, of course, and by the
way, most of our learning comes from the women who've had
abortions. They're the teachers, and we're the learners here. We
may have the degrees and look like big shots, but she's really the
one who's the teacher. We always have to keep that in mind. But
now that there's somebody who has some understanding of what has
happened to her, and offers it to her, or she perceives that it's
offered to her, she can come forward and begin to deal with it.
She's not even sure what it means. She doesn't have the vocabulary
about it herself, as do most post-war women. They don't know at
first what it is they're dealing with. But she can come forward
and say, "I've had these abortions and I hurt. Can you help me?
Will you accept me? Will you hear my story?" We are now in a
better position to help her. So we may see more and more post-
abortive men and women in their older years coming forward. And
now, we're seeing them for the first time, not because they've
been resisting it all these years, it is just that nobody knew how
to help them.
It was so unacceptable to have an abortion in those days she
thought she would surely be judged and condemned. In those days
she probably would have. In the example I used today, she heard a
priest say that if you've had an abortion, we don't want you in
the Catholic Church. Maybe in the 40s that was a prevailing
opinion -- that you were basically going to hell on a skateboard
if you had an abortion. The idea for preventing abortions in those
days was scare the hell out of people. Literally scare the hell
out of people so they wouldn't do it. But now we're in a much
different world and a much different Church and we know a lot
more. We go much more for understanding than intimidation. Now we
are equipped so she might be ready to take that risk and come
forward and say "Can you help me? Will you listen to me? Am I
really going to hell?" The answer is, "Good possibility you're
not. Let's talk."
Vicki: I had a couple of people like that. I had one woman who
wrote to us asking if there was Project Rachel in the state where
she lived and identified herself as being 70 some years old. She
had carried the burden of this abortion for 50 years, so I gave
her a referral for Project Rachel in her area. With some of these
cases you don't know how it plays out, but this was interesting
because a year later I got a letter from her thanking me for
giving her this referral. But she had a final question. Her
question was if I could please give her the names of some people
who knew they were forgiven after an abortion and were going to
heaven, because her husband had now died and her two sisters had
now died along with her two children who had been aborted and she
was looking for some reassurance that she might still have a
chance of going to heaven to see them. Of course, that's a little
bit tough because my communion of saints folks don't write
letters, you know? But for all those years she carried this
incredible burden because she didn't know what to do with it until
she heard about Project Rachel.
Another very personal story was of someone I had known for years
in a working relationship. We had worked in a building together.
She was retired at that point and knew everybody in the diocese
and so she did fund raising. I went to her house one day and
thanked her for doing this and she shared with me that she had had
an abortion as a young woman in her late teens or early 20s,
nobody in her family knew, this was her secret, but she had done
her healing, she had gone to confession, but she had also found
another woman who had had an abortion and together as younger
women they had worked through this whole process. But her response
was, "I'm so glad you're doing what you're doing." It's such an
awful place to be. And that one was one of those situations that
caught me completely by surprise. The important thing to remember
is that we don't know who has had abortions, and sometimes the
most unlikely in our thought process are the very people who hurt
the most. So we have to be very cautious--and conscious--of what
we say about this issue because we don't know who's listening. We
don't know that the person we're sitting at a table with, who
seems like such an unlikely candidate, hasn't had an abortion. How
do we love that person to wholeness and how do we come off as
somebody they could share that story with so they're not alone?
Fr. Blair: I'm sure if that priest, many years ago, had known he
was affecting this woman in that way for 45 years -- living in
condemnation for that long period of time, for what he probably
thought was an offhanded remark was going to affect her that way
he would probably repent in sack cloth and ashes and do whatever
he could to release that. He probably had no idea.
Vicki: The other half of that is that, priests not understanding
the severity of the aftermath, may in great compassion attempt to
dismiss people's pain, not intentionally, but say, "go and sin no
more." We had a case of that in our office, an old woman again,
who identified herself as being an old woman, had gone to
confession many years ago and had been dismissed. It wasn't that
father said you're going to hell, he just said, oh well, okay,
here's absolution, be on your way. All these years she had dealt
with this pain which was much more severe than how he treated it.
She called our office -- there were two of us there that day --
and I overheard the diocese, there was not a Project Rachel there,
but I called the diocese while this was going on and asked for the
name of a good confessor. They gave me the name of somebody they
considered to be a good confessor. I gave it to the woman who was
talking to her on the phone, she said we've called the diocese,
here's a referral, and this woman said, "I wouldn't go talk to
that priest if he was the last priest in the diocese because
that's the priest who dismissed my pain all those years ago."
Whoa, excuse me!
Maybe he had a reputation for compassion.
Vicki: Right. He was very gentle and he responded out of
compassion, but his response did not match the seriousness of how
she perceived it. We're not faulting him, he was doing his best
pastorally, but he didn't understand that what she was telling him
really needed some very serious attention.
Fr. Blair: She might have heard his response to mean that what she
was saying wasn't being taken very seriously.
Vicki: I think that was it. What are the chances of that whole
scenario playing itself out that way? I get the name of the guy
she's telling us about. And she's seeking more help.
Maybe the priest in the 40s used the intimidation model trying to
scare women away from an action that was contemplated, but didn't
know that it had already taken place.
* * *
We now have adults living who were born after Roe v. Wade went
through. In other words people who would be 22-23 years old today.
Do you see anything significant or different that stands out in
this generation that grew up never knowing a time when abortion
was illegal? Is this generation having abortions or is there a
backlash against abortion among them? What are you seeing among
this new young generation?
Vicki: I'm seeing both of those things, interestingly enough. I'm
seeing that there's some incredibly wonderful leadership growing
up among college students, so they'd be the next generation that
grew up right after Roe v. Wade. I think they are very articulate
pro-life leadership. And they're keenly aware that it's their
generation that has been lost. And that's new. It wasn't the same
a few years ago. The college students that were leadership people
previously were coming out of a different place, more idealistic.
With this group today, it's not the idealism, it's that they have
been directly affected by this and feel they've got to do
something about it. I'm also still seeing them having abortions
though. But they are such wounded people.
There is a stereotype that there's a calculated decision and it's
not a big deal. But when you talk to these young women what you
discover is that this was a horrendous deal and they're very
wounded. They tell you stories and your heart breaks. These aren't
women just casually having sex and going about their lives with
this as a form of birth control. They are in awful circumstances.
The women who are still choosing this are finding themselves in
terrible, terrible circumstances. Just recently I went through
this with a friend of my daughter's who found herself pregnant. My
daughter and I both saw it coming like a freight train. She was
pregnant. She withdrew from my daughter. My daughter attempted to
talk her out of it. I reached out to her. But her mother got in
the middle of this and her mother procured the abortion. I mean it
was done right away. She was at the clinic and so now we have this
18-year-old who is now carrying this experience of an abortion.
Well, she's still numb at this point. She says, "You know I know
that was an awful thing but..." You can see there's this distance
from it. She's sort of removed six steps from what happened to
her, but she knew. She joked when she was pregnant about being
with child, so you know at some point this thing's going to hit
her--major league. But her story's awful and I don't know that if
I were in her shoes I would have had the strength to withstand her
mother's pressure. There's also a divorce in the family and she'd
just been reconciled with her father. He was going to send her to
Europe this summer; she was back to being daddy's little girl
after having been rejected by him. What an awful place to be and
to face this kind of circumstance. Am I excusing this whole thing?
I'm not, I'm just saying from my compassionate point of view this
is an awful spot to be in, and that the amount of courage it takes
to fly in the face of all this mom pressure, dad pressure and
social pressure, is incredible. So I'm seeing these different
things. I'm seeing this existential question of "Why did I survive
when I know that other people of my generation didn't survive?"
As a spiritual director I see young people who carry incredible
wounds because their parents have said in a fit of anger, "I
should have aborted you!" We've got levels of woundedness here in
terms of awareness of a generation of compatriots who have been
wiped out. "Who died in that? Did my potential spouse die in that?
Did my best friend die in that? Did my cousin die in that?" So
you've got that other level of woundedness through rejection.
"God, maybe I should have been aborted. Maybe they thought about
that. If they say that to me maybe they thought about aborting me.
Well then what? Now what does that mean to my life in terms of
rejection?" So I see that this upcoming generation who are
products of the abortion generation have some very unique wounds,
and I think they will provide some very unique leadership. These
young people are keenly aware of the cost that abortion has
brought to their lives personally. And it's a different kind of
leadership. There's a real passion there that says I've been
affected and I need to do something about this.
Lest we leave anyone out, are you getting any calls from elderly
men? Like we talked about the elderly women who carried the
burden. Do you see much of that?
Fr. Blair: I've had several people that I've seen who were
grandfathers of aborted children. When I see them I usually see
them with their wives, they come as a couple. I don't think I've
seen any older men by themselves. I find them incredibly angry,
because it not only means the loss of a grandchild which they were
looking forward to spending time with, but if they were very
strong Catholics and raised their kids to be Catholics they see
this is an attack on everything they stood for as parents.
They're incredibly angry about that because it bespeaks to them
their worth as parents and what kind of "job" they've done as
parents. And that is an overlay of additional anger that they
have. Losing the grandchild would be bad enough, but then they see
it also as an attack on themselves and their values, so they're
very hurt and very angry folks.
Like the woman you mentioned who was in her 70s who had had an
abortion 50 years ago, do you see any men who impregnated women
long ago and are coming to terms with it?
Vicki: I've seen one and he actually turned up not specifically in
a Rachel call but at a talk I had given. It was at a Christian
therapists' gathering and I talked about the wounds of abortion
and a group had spontaneously come and said, "Can we gather people
who'd like to come and talk some more?" I was agreeable to that
and it was very interesting because one of these men who would be
in his 60s surfaced as an aborted father and talked about the pain
that he felt and the awareness that his daughter, Sarah, had been
lost in all of this. As I recall he was responsible for this
abortion. He was part of the decision and was not opposed in any
way. He's the only father I've found all by himself in isolation
without his wife being part of that. And that's 10-years worth for
me. That's the one group you don't see on their own very often.
Fr. Blair: I find that women will tend to be much more in touch
with, and much more honest about, their feelings. So when she
hurts, she's very likely to come forward. Men tend to be more
compartmentalized in their thinking. They will put it in a box
and put a lid on it, and they rationalize. They use defensive
rationalization. Intellectualization would perhaps be a better
way of putting it. They talk themselves into and out of just about
anything. So I have one person, one woman, that I'm seeing now who
is in incredible pain and her husband doesn't even know she's
coming to see me. She can't tell him. He's the father of the
aborted child and for him it's no problem: "Why are you getting
yourself all worked up over this? Forget it. Let's move on."
That's what he did with it. How long that will last, how long his
denial will go on, remains to be seen. She, however, is honest
enough to say, "I hurt very badly. I'm going to get some help.
He's not going to be any good to me. In fact he would be a
hindrance to me." She sneaks out of the house and comes over to
see me. And one day, particularly when she has her emotional
catharsis and breakthrough and begins to perceive the light at the
end of the tunnel in terms of her healing, she's really going to
be in pain for him because she's going to wish that for him. And
he's miles behind her on the track and may never actually find it.
And she's going to feel that very deeply.
Vicki: I oftentimes hear women saying, even younger women who are
married to the fathers, "Why doesn't he hurt like I hurt?" The
first wish is almost a self-punishment--"I wish he hurt like I
hurt." But then there's also this "I'm going through this process;
is he ever going to come to this?" And one woman I've been dealing
with recently has a lot of anger toward her husband and her
mother-in-law because the mother-in-law pushed and the husband
went along. And this woman's right in the midst of her healing.
She's one of these people who's a fallen away Catholic and the
Blessed Mother has led her right on down the primrose path to
healing. It's just amazing how Mary's turned up in this whole
thing. This woman returned to the rosary. There was a plate in
her drawer her grandmother had given her, which started the whole
thing. She was an evangelical Christian but she had been Catholic.
Just this week her husband was speaking to some pro-life people,
because she's done some things in the pro-life movement, and he
broke down crying when he said what his wife did, which surprised
the heck out of her. And then he shared with her and cried. And
she said, "You know, I was able to comfort him." So that wall of
anger here suddenly has a chink in it because, who knows, God
suddenly brought him to this experience of sadness about the loss
of his child at the time when his wife is going through some real
cathartic sort of stuff too. So now he's kind of tracking this. I
don't know if he's going to track the same way she does, but
suddenly he's started his healing. But the difference is that
women who happen to marry the men who were fathers of their
children have a real problem with that. He doesn't do what she
thinks he should do. But the other thing is that when you look at
parental grieving you realize that men grieve very differently and
they cope with it very differently. So even to be able to say if
he's coping with it is a hard call, if you can't ask him. He might
be a workaholic because he's coping with this and he's just shut
that down. So that men's situation is one that needs a lot of
The other thing I'd like to say, because I see this as a very
significant need, is that there's a need for people to fund some
research in this area. Because the potential to do research is
here, there are researchers out there who are gathering data and
we can't find money anywhere to get the data to finish it, to do
the kind of analysis that needs to be done and then to get it
published. And that's very frustrating. There are wonderful people
out there researching -- top-quality researchers. I'm not talking
about people who don't know what they're doing. And we can't get
the money for the research, so that is such a frustration because
this is a key in this whole abortion issue. To be able to talk
about what happens to the other people and to say, "Look here, we
know, we know this happens." That's one of the pieces that's
Fr. Blair: I would only add that the challenge to the Church in
post-abortive ministry -- which is also the challenge to any
individual, mental health professional, clergy, archbishop,
volunteer, whatever -- the challenge to all of us is to be open
enough to be able to carry a woman's heart, because that's
basically what it's about. We have to carry it and reverence it so
that it can be healed. It's a great gift, although it's a painful
journey. It's a great gift when she shares her heart with you.
It's one of the real blessings I think in the ministry. And it's a
great gift as you watch God's grace heal that heart and bring it
closer to the Sacred Heart, to bring it closer to the Immaculate
Heart of Mary. These are just wonderful spiritual experiences,
gained on a painful road to be sure, but very, very inspiring and
spiritually uplifting. I sometimes wonder after I've terminated
with a post-abortive woman who got more out of that journey. I can
assess pretty clearly what she got out of it. I'm not quite sure
exactly all that I've gotten out of it, but I know I've been
profoundly touched by it.
Vicki: One of the things that I've discovered in doing this
ministry is that the priests are very touched by this. God uses
this ministry to affirm priesthood and to remind priests what it
is they were called for. Because so often in today's society we
don't consult Father for anything anymore. He's just kind of a
nice figurehead over here but this is a place where Father comes
face to face with the love of Jesus as well and the power of the
sacraments and what this is all about in terms of ministering to
One last thing I want to say to someone who's beginning their
healing journey is that I have absolute confidence that if they
embark on this journey they will be healed. It is a message of
hope that God will touch them, that God will bring them to a new
place, and while it looks terribly dark, and terribly frightening,
indeed they're in a tunnel and not in a cave. And it's a question
of turning a corner to see the light at the end. And while the
healing journey is very painful, indeed the outcome of this, this
healing experience, this encounter with God, this encounter with
their child, will be a life-changing event and it will bring them
to a totally new place, a place that's filled with hope and with