The need for communal healing after an abortion was the message of Victoria Thorn at the Project Rachel orientation day May 26 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Philadelphia for those working in the field of post-abortion healing.

As the guest speaker leading the morning segment of the day, “Impact of Abortion on Others,” Thorn stressed that the mother having the abortion is not the only one who often suffers an emotional aftermath. She pointed out that the father, grandparents, siblings and even friends who accompany the woman to the abortion clinic may also experience post-traumatic repercussions.

“Few people ever address the psychological impact,” Thorn said. “People are hurting from this because they have all kinds of emotions around this. Some men are walking around being so angry because a woman had an abortion and didn’t tell them,” Thorn said.

She said men may consent to the abortion of their child but don’t realize its effect on them.

“Since men are not as expressive they do not know where to channel that anger,” Thorn said. “Sometimes they take that anger out on every woman who comes into their life. Everyone is wondering why he is so angry, and it is from a pain that he just stuffed inside,” Thorn said.

She also addressed the touchy topic of the shaming of women who may get pregnant out of wedlock or who are becoming pregnant again after having multiple children.

“We have to be careful about saying things like telling our teenage daughters, ‘Don’t you dare get pregnant and if you do, get an abortion,’” Thorn said.

Moderating the program was Steve Bozza, director of the archdiocesan Office for Life and Family. He said there is popular misconception that abortion is only an emotionally charged issue when a woman is pregnant.

“Many do not realize that many lives can be ruined or shattered by an abortion,” Bozza said. “Whenever a child is lost there is a need for social services and resources. Unlike a miscarriage or stillbirth where there is no choice, this is something that is a choice. Many only come to grips with that after the fact.”

Rick Willgruber of Catholic Clinical Consulting said the conference caused him to think about whether some of his former male clients needed post-abortion healing.

“Sometimes the men are angry and you touched on every topic, and the rage is still there,” he said. “Now, this is one of the things I will bring up when listing things that could have happened. I found it helpful to discuss something even we as counselors really do not discuss. I am sure as counselors we have had clients who are ashamed to bring it up.”

Kathryn Dobbs, a counselor at Neumann University, concurred. Even though most of the audience members were clergy, religious and lay Catholics, she was among the non-Catholics and African-Americans in attendance. She said she came to get a perspective on the issue since she comes in contact with college students.

“This information is definitely going to help me in my pastoral life,” Dobbs said. “Being aware of how this affects other members of the family is helpful. This gives me more information in helping.”

Mary McGinley was among the young people who were at the day-long event. They represented Legacy of Life, whose office is located at 12th and Locust Streets nearby an abortion clinic in center city. McGinley said the group has crisis centers for women in both Philadelphia and Bucks Counties.

“The information was good because it encourages women to be more in touch with the psychology of abortion,” McGinley said. “The women we deal with are already past the phase of considering an abortion. But it was pretty cool to learn about the cells and that remain in the body and what the fathers go through. This is information that most of us are lacking, so that’s why I think it was awesome.”

The program also featured social worker Kevin Burke, a co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries.

Other topics included “Understanding the Woman Who Makes an Abortion Decision,” “Manifestations of Abortion’s Aftermath” and “Protocol for Dealing with the Newly Aborted Woman.”

The day concluded with “Component Parts of Post-Abortion Healing” and a question-and-answer period.


For more information about Project Rachel in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia call 215-587-2472 or email