Pro-Life Office


Healing the Wounds of Abortion

Segment Eight. Healing the Wounds of Abortion

Overview: In the Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II offers the hope of healing to women who have had abortions. He assures them, that in the mercy of God,  “nothing is definitively lost” and that they will be able to seek forgiveness from their child “who is living in the Lord” (99). Project Rachel is the post-abortion ministry of the Church which offers women and men the healing love of Christ through sacramental Reconciliation, counseling and retreats.

Until John Paul’s Gospel of Life encyclical, no Pope had ever written directly to women who have had abortions. John Paul was acutely aware of the many factors influencing women’s decisions to have abortions. His priestly ministry in Poland included a special outreach to women facing crisis pregnancies. In Communist Poland where he served as a priest and bishop, abortion was legal. Strict government regulations on housing and family life that made it enormously difficult for women faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

For some, John Paul’s words of hope that unborn children who had been aborted were “living in the Lord” were a surprise. The idea that a mother or father could ask forgiveness from their aborted child was something they had never considered.  John Paul’s remarkable pastoral heart and keen theological mind inspired him to bring the hope of God’s limitless mercy to all involved in abortions. This is truly “Divine Mercy.”

Here in the Archdiocese of Boston, as in most every diocese in the United States, the Project Rachel post-abortion ministry helps women and men find the healing love and mercy of Christ. Project Rachel is named after the Old Testament matriarch Rachel. In the Book of Jeremiah (31:15-17) Rachel “mourns her children; she refused to be consoled because her children are no more”. The Lord calls out to her and says “Cease from your cries of mourning. Wipe the tears from your eyes. There is hope for your future.”

In the work of Project Rachel there are many tears, but there is also great hope – and new life. Many women carry the pain of their abortion for a lifetime. Like Rachel, they refuse to be consoled because they think they are not worthy to be forgiven, or worse yet, they do not believe forgiveness is possible because of what they have done.

Project Rachel offers a confidential helpline with referrals to specially trained priests for sacramental Reconciliation. One-day and weekend retreats are also available which many women have found to be life changing experiences.

One of every three women of child-bearing years in the United States has had an abortion. Many men have pressured women into having abortions. Doctors and other medical personnel are directly involved in performing more than one million abortions a year. The grief and pain and shame can be overwhelming – until they encounter the merciful love of God.

One participant at a recent retreat wrote about her Project Rachel experience this way, “I am certainly not the same person who was so afraid to walk through those doors and I don’t ever want to see her again. I was finally able to begin to feel whole. The sacrament of Reconciliation was such a freeing moment for me. Just as much as I remember almost every detail of that horrible day fourteen years ago, I remember those forgiving words that I was absolved of all my sins. I keep replaying that phrase in my mind and it almost brings me to tears. But they’re finally cleansing, healing tears instead of tears of extreme sorrow. I am able to see God in my life, and it makes me smile. I feel worthy to be among God’s people and to be the best mother to my three children…”

We all know and love women who have had abortions. For more information about how Project Rachel might help them find healing, call (508) 651-3100 or e-mail

Gospel of Life (99)
Website of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, Inc.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1257) on the necessity of Baptism

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why do so many women and men find it difficult to seek out sacramental Reconciliation after abortion?
  2. How can you explain the connection between the Church’s strong stand against abortion, its teaching on the importance of Baptism, and the words of John Paul II to women who have had abortions?
  3. What are some practical suggestions for increasing awareness of the work of Project Rachel at the parish level?