Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Do We Help?

How Do We Help?

          A number of years ago I volunteered at a Birthright (now Birthchoice) clinic.  The purpose of the clinic was to offer support to women in crisis pregnancies.  Women don’t have abortions because they have “choice,” they have abortions because they believe they have no choice.  We aimed to change that, by offering counseling, prenatal services, adoption assistance if desired, and financial, job and education help.  There were even homes for unwed mothers with nowhere to go.  Today, many of the clinics offer even more, including ultrasounds.
          As the only man, my role was going to be talking with the husbands and boyfriends that came in, but as I was only there a short time, I ended up basically just walking the women to their cars when we closed at night.
          What really impressed me about the experience was how much the women that worked or volunteered there were willing to sacrifice for the women who came seeking help.  Some of them had gone through an abortion themselves and wanted to keep others from suffering in the same way. 
          What a beautiful thing it was to see these women serving the cause of life, and their fellow women, often in honor of their own unborn children.  They were loving, strong and courageous.  With so many women out there suffering from abortion, we in the pro-life movement have a serious duty to help them heal.
          They certainly won’t be getting any help from the other side.  Because of the politics of abortion, groups like Planned Parenthood work hard to convince women in general that they have no right to feel pain over an abortion, and by and large, they don’t want to hear about it.  Thanks be to God there are people who are willing to fight for children, and truly love women at the same time.
          We as Catholics know there is healing and forgiveness after an abortion.  Jesus said, “I have come to make all things new.”  And he frequently spent time with the worst sinners of His day to bring them healing and build up their dignity.  Today, through the Sacrament of Confession, women have the chance to tell someone about their abortion and hear the words, “I absolve you from your sins.”
          But there is so much we can offer as well.  First, although as individuals, we always hate the sin (starting with our own), we love the sinner.  A woman who has had an abortion must encounter in us the loving Face of Christ. 
Our culture suggests that simply speaking out against abortion makes us judgmental, but that is a lie.  To condone abortion, or even to encourage someone who is having one, doesn’t help, and makes us cowards.  We have a duty to stand up for the lives of children and to support all women by defending the Truth. 
However, no one does more to support both women who have delivered in crisis pregnancies, and those who have had abortions, than the pro-life movement.  What we want to offer is not support of sin, but true healing from it.
Aside from our own personal witness of love and forgiveness, there are a couple of programs we can become familiar with that serve women in this situation.
One is Rachel’s Vineyard.  This is a spiritual retreat that seeks to build up these women and help them understand that God still loves them and will forgive them.  That, I think, is the greatest problem.  There is so much pain after an abortion, that it is easy to go into denial.  And so many women believe that God can never forgive them for what they’ve done.  But that is not true.  God still looks upon them as His beloved daughters, and though he hates all sin, He seeks His lost sheep to the ends of the world, and when He finds them, He lifts them on His shoulder, and carries them home. 
The cause for canonization is even open for Dorothy Day, who herself had had an abortion.  One word of caution about Rachel’s Vineyard, is that I have heard it is very intense, and it is important that women be psychologically ready for the experience.  Research and preparation should probably be done before attending.
Perhaps a simpler place to start is Project Rachel.  This is a ministry, which the Church is seeking to expand right now, in which women who have had abortions can simply talk and meet with a trained counselor for as long as they need.  In it they experience that loving Face of Christ in someone who will support them in their healing.  These programs, of course, are available to Catholics and non-Catholics, and I am sure there are others out there as well.
The important thing for us is to look upon all people with the Eyes of God, and see in them one of His beloved children.  We also must acknowledge that truth about ourselves.  We should recognize the particular pain that comes with abortion, and as Catholic when we see suffering, we do what we can to alleviate it.