When she was in high school in the 1960s, Vicki Thorn had a friend who had an abortion. Earlier, the friend had a baby whom she gave up for adoption. “Her mother arranged the abortion,” Thorn recalls, “and I remember talking with her later [after the abortion]. She told me, ‘I can live with the adoption; I’m just not sure about the abortion.’”For years, that personal encounter with the aftermath of abortion clung to Thorn who eventually founded Project Rachel in 1984 and who today is the executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.On March 1, Thorn will lead a volunteer training session in post-abortion healing at St. Bede the Venerable Church in La Canada. The event is presented by the Right to Life League of Southern California. Project Rachel is a network of specially trained clergy, spiritual directors and therapists who provide compassionate, confidential one-on-one care to those who are struggling with the aftermath of abortion. While it is an outreach of the Catholic Church, Project Rachel is open to anyone --- parents, grandparents, siblings, friends --- who is struggling after an abortion loss.Looking back, Thorn is amazed that her “nice little diocesan program” on post-abortion healing would spread across the United States and into 22 countries and every continent except Africa (“We’re working on that,” she says). The program was inspired by the U.S. Bishops’ 1975 “Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life,” especially its emphasis on pastoral response and care for those who have been involved in abortion. In her 30-plus years with Project Rachel, Thorn has witnessed big changes in the post-abortion landscape, starting with more recognition and attention to men’s roles. There are more men’s conferences on the issue, and counselors are more aware of men’s reaction to abortion. “No one thought about the men for so long,” she says. “But men are often pushed aside or not part of the process which can have such an impact on them and their relationships with their partners.”In addition, new research gives insights into the physical nature of pregnancies and abortions. “Science confirms that women carry cells from every child that they have ever conceived, starting at four weeks after conception,” says Thorn. “This means that the mother can’t really ever forget that child on a cellular level. But it also means that her children realize that something is ‘missing’ in terms of a sibling. This is fascinating science that has implications across the board.”Thorn also finds the abortion healing ministry more accepted in society, making it more than a “personally religious” issue. “I’m seeing more concern that [women after abortion] can have big problems psychologically,” she says, adding that often women who have aborted a child can be more suicidal the closer to that due date. Even the media sees abortion with a new lens, says Thorn. “I saw on CNN the other day a question asking women how they felt about their abortion. This would have never happened 20 years ago. Today there is more open discussion about what happened to women after abortions. People are more ready to write about their experiences, share them and talk about what happened. This issue strikes a chord with so many women. They don’t want to be ‘Silent No More.’”As she travels across the country, Thorn has met many women who appreciate Project Rachel and its message of reconciliation and healing. “Women come up and hug me saying that this changes their lives and it often makes me weep,” she says.Still, Thorn is waiting to hear from her old high school friend to see if she indeed has made and found the peace from her early abortion, if that chapter in her life has been fully addressed. “The last time I heard, she had still unresolved issues,” she says. “But I know that my friend, like any woman I have met through the program, are always welcomed and will never be turned away.”Project Rachel training with Vicki Thorn takes place March 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at St. Bede Church, 215 Foothill Blvd., La Canada. Registration is $50 ($60 after Feb. 22). Information: (626) 398-6100 or www.rtllsc.org.