Thirty years of Project Rachel

In the wake of the Roe v. Wade ruling of the Supreme Court in 1973, it became clear to those in pro-life work that some sort of ministry was required to help women suffering from the far-reaching ramifications of legalized abortion.

Thirty years ago this week, Vicki Thorn launched Project Rachel to meet that need.

Catholic World Report spoke with Thorn about how Project Rachel got started and the fruit of its three decades of service to women, men, and children affected by the scourge of abortion.

CWR: Tell us about Project Rachel. How did it get started? Thirty years out, does it look anything like you expected it to when you began?

Thorn: I had a friend in high school before abortion was legal who had an abortion arranged by her mother in a major metropolitan hospital.

I learned later that my friend had placed a baby for adoption prior to this.

Her situation was one of the hard cases because her brother was the father of the second baby and, I had a hunch, the first baby.

We attended a day school/boarding school and she was a boarder.

Her mom had gone there and I think she sent my friend there to try and protect her.

Anyway, I listened to my friend talk about her pain for years and felt utterly helpless to assist her.

She ended every conversation with the same two sentences. “I can live with the adoption. I can’t live with the abortion!”

Those words are etched in my heart to this day.

We moved to Milwaukee where I took a job in the Respect Life Office of the diocese.

While the blueprint for the diocesan pro-life work was contained in the 1975 Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities issued by the US bishops, which called for a ministry of healing after abortion, no one knew what that looked like and how to make it happen.

It took me from 1977 to 1984 to assemble enough expertise to sponsor a training for our priests and Catholic Charities.

When I proposed putting this together to my boss, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, OSB, his response was enthusiastic and totally supportive.

He told me he would give me whatever money I needed to make this happen.

His vision made this possible! Continue reading


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