an After abortion

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Playing in Peoria

Theresa Burke of Rachel's Vineyard conducted a post-abortion training event for the priests of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois this week.

A local news broadcaster ran this brief story.

The Peoria Journal Star ran a lengthier piece, Author works to bring issue out of the shadows.

PEORIA - As grief finds its way out of women who have had abortions, the issue of post-abortion trauma is finding its way into the spotlight, the founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries said Tuesday.Theresa Burke was in Peoria for a Catholic clergy seminar on post-abortion trauma and healing. She is the author of "The Rachel's Vineyard Weekend Retreat Manuals" and co-author of the support group model "Rachel's Vineyard - A Psychological and Spiritual Journal of Post Abortion Healing."

Her most recent book is "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion," written with David Reardon.

Two Rachel's Vineyard retreats will be offered by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria at King's House near Henry on Feb. 25 through 27, 2005, and Oct. 28 through 30, 2005. The retreats include exercises aimed at "dismantling the secret" and to help participants deal with grief and anger, Burke said.

She said unexpressed grief and feelings of guilt resulting from having an abortion can surface in such ways as suicide or attempts at suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, anger and rage, and sexual dysfunction.

But it's a "taboo issue," thanks to the politics of the situation, Burke said, so women are reluctant to talk about their experiences and feelings. They're told they have suffered the loss only of "a blob of tissue," she said.

"The reality of a mother's heart is she lost that child," Burke said. "She thinks about it every anniversary of an abortion."

Burke said awareness of the issue is likely to grow, citing statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute estimating that 43 percent of all U.S. women will have an abortion by age 45.

She disagreed with studies that post-abortion trauma isn't very widespread.

"If this was not a problem, programs like Rachel's Vineyard would not be in places like Peoria," said Burke, whose book also addresses the arguments.

She said about 350 of the retreats are being held this year in 15 countries and that men and women are invited. Even husbands who weren't a part of their wives' abortions are affected by their spouses' grief, Burke said.

Her goal Tuesday was to teach priests about abortion-related, post-traumatic stress disorder and how they can help those trying to heal.

While "there is definitely a judgmental attitude in some traditions," she said, religious groups are doing better jobs of helping post-abortive women suffering emotionally.

"The most important thing is to see it as a relational issue and have an understanding of how many women feel pressured and coerced into an unwanted abortion by men, by parents, by counselors, so when they address this issue, they're not seeing it uniquely as a woman's issue or one that she bears all the blame for," Burke said.

Burke said she got involved in the issue after realizing that many women she was counseling for eating disorders had also had abortions.

She is co-administrator and founder of Covenant Family Resources, a licensed children and youth agency that supports couples as they build families through adoption.

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