I attended a meeting of my parish pro-life group this morning, and our guest speaker was a wonderful lady named Caryn, who is the director of our local Abortion AfterCare-Healing ministry (an affiliate of the international Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard ministries).  She spoke about the after-effects of abortion, including Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS)–a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.  I’ve heard of how abortion affects women–and everybody close to them.  But Caryn’s presentation really moved me and brought the issue home for me.  I struggled to hold back tears as I listened.  I just didn’t fully realize how many forms of suffering abortion causes, and the degree to which so many people suffer alone and in silence.

I also felt so blessed to know that our Church provides wonderful and realistic opportunities for healing for women and men who have been harmed by abortion.  I remember the first time I saw a little spot about the Rachel ministries in my parish bulletin.  It was when I had very recently returned to the Church, and still had not worked through my pro-choice stance.  I was shocked that the Catholic Church, of all things, provided care for women who had had abortions.  I had always thought of the Church as being very judgmental toward anybody involved with abortion.  But as I have learned time and time again since then, the Church is really about mercy and healing.  About being able to get up again and start living anew.

Sadly, as Caryn said, many women likely feel the same way.  They don’t realize that they can turn to the Church without facing judgment and an “I told you so,” “you made your bed, now lie in it” attitude. They don’t know who they can turn to.  They suffer alone, in silence.  Having experienced grief of my own, I can’t imagine the pain and torment of that.  My grief was not abortion-related, and I had plenty of good people to turn to for help.  I was never completely alone and consigned to silence.

To be fair, there are no doubt some Catholics and people within the pro-life movement at large who also don’t realize that these women need–and deserve–their love, compassion, and assistance. And that if we are pro-life, then mercy and healing must be part of our stance and our way of life.

The Rachel ministries, and their local affiliates, really do provide options for healing.  They work with all kinds of women–and men–people of every age, race, walk of life, and religion.  It is a Catholic ministry, but it is not only for Catholics.  They provide one-on-one assistance with therapists and/or priests, they provide weekend retreats with small groups, they help address after-effects such as the severe depression and anxiety, substance abuse, and sexual or relational problems.  They can help Catholics who have had or provided abortions to be freed of their sin and guilt, to be reconciled with God, and to be fully restored to communion with the Church.  They can tailor services to meet the needs of each person who contacts them.

They clearly do outstanding work.  And I just wanted to put this out there in case it could help somebody.  If you or somebody you know is suffering the often literally unspeakable grief of abortion, please seek out your local Rachel ministries. Or if not ready, then at least remember that they are there.

Here is a message from Pope John Paul II to women who have had abortions:

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life. ~~ Evangelium Vitae, § 99