In early 2011, Prison Ministry Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach conducted a survey of male inmates at two maximum security prisons within the diocese to see if abortion had ever been an issue in their lives prior to their incarceration. The results of the survey were astonishing; almost 90% of the participants responded affirmatively. This clearly required a plan of action.
Catholic Charities’ Prison Ministry and Respect Life Ministry formed a partnership to address the issue. The coordinator of Rachel’s Vineyard, a post-abortion healing program, agreed to formulate a program suited to the prison environment.
In June, 2011, the Florida Department of Corrections gave permission to Catholic Charities to conduct a pilot program at the Martin Correctional Institution (MCI), a prison housing 1500 men, in Indiantown. The structure of the program consisted of ten weekly two-hour sessions wherein the inmates volunteering to participate would experience the regular faith-based Rachel’s Vineyard healing program, slightly modified to accommodate the prison setting, supplemented by a post-abortion Bible Study for men presented in Linda Cochrane and Kathy Jones’ Healing a Father’s Heart book. The latter was designed to be done during their free time.
It didn’t take long for the men to reveal the hurt, broken trust, remorse, and deep grieving for the lost fatherhood that they all had in common. The symptoms of post-abortion trauma became evident: anger, anxiety, shame, guilt, numbness, depression as well as stories of risky past behaviors and addictions. Finally surfacing were the stories of failure in their relationships with women, their living children, and the men they were now living with. They longed for their children as any father would. As the sessions progressed, they began to connect the dots and recognized that life went wrong after their abortion experience.
At the completion of the first program, the Department of Corrections gave permission to conduct further sessions with other inmates at other institutions, as well as at MCI. In less than three years, 14 ten-week programs were conducted, and more than 70 men completed the program, proving that abortion isn’t just a woman’s issue; it’s an everyone issue. Men from every walk of life participated in the program: teachers, bankers, career military, Christians, Jews, Muslims and non-believers. Abortion knows no prejudice; it touches every walk of life.
It is clear that abortion is hurting men; so much that our prisons are filled with post-abortion fathers. But now there is a Brotherhood of Life building behind the walls. It is the love of their children that has brought them together. Many of the men who have been through this program had not spoken to one another prior, but after completing it, a bond has begun to build. They have experienced the love, mercy and forgiveness of the one, holy and almighty God. They know that they will be with their aborted children in paradise. They are changing; they are finding peace.