Pro-life activists from across the country, including a delegation of representatives from the Diocese of Buffalo, assembled at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life 2015 on Jan. 22. Before the event, Vicki Thorn, original founder of Project Rachel, the Catholic Church's official ministry for post-abortive women, discussed the work she has done.
A resident of Milwaukee, Thorn is the executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, and was the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's first Respect Life director from 1977-1988.
For the last 30 years, Thorn has worked with many dioceses to establish Project Rachel ministries and train clergy and mental health counselors. She also speaks on the "Theology of the Body."
"If I can help people to make better sexual choices so that abortion doesn't become necessary in their mind, that's a win," Thorn said. "The wounds are both sexual and sociological, and they're caused by sociological change. We have to understand who we're dealing with, because the women and men we see look very competent, but the reality is that many of them have holes in their souls."
While at the March for Life, Thorn served as one of the breakout speakers for the student conferences. Before leaving for Washington, D.C., she said her talk would address the notion that "the wounds of abortion are far more than the wounds of the woman," but this is often dismissed.
"If you look at who comes to the March for Life, the young people who are coming, by the multitudes, are the future," she said. "There's an incredible passion for life issues among them, partly because they're survivors. They have lost brothers, sisters, friends and potential spouses in the system, and they see that this has not helped them, this has not gained anything in terms of setting us all free."
Thorn said she also focuses on how men are affected by abortion, a topic she said is not often discussed. With the help of the Knights of Columbus, she has sponsored talks on this, and said abortion is an issue that can affect more than the woman and her partner, including extended families and friends as well.
"There is a sadness that comes from who should have been in our family and isn't, and these sorts of things aren't always family secrets," Thorn said. "They leak out, and then there's this sort of undercurrent of knowledge about who is there and who is not." Longstanding feelings of guilt as the result of an abortion can carry over into the rest of a person's life, according to Thorn, including effects on future relationships. This is where Project Rachel comes into play, and Thorn said people come to the ministry with many issues.
"We've got suicidal people; we've got people doing drugs and alcohol," Thorn said. "We've got men who are hiding in sexual addictions and chemical addictions, masking their pain. We are such a wounded society."
Thorn stresses a message of the importance of healing. She said whenever she speaks she always talks about the fact that healing is possible.
"We don't know who's listening to us," she said. "People will say they don't think they can be healed. For 30 years, I've been listening to women and men. They'll say, 'God couldn't possibly forgive me.' When we can help people to know that there's help, we're really beginning to build a cornerstone for the culture of life."