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The Guttmacher Institute has issued its latest report on abortion in the United States, based on survey responses from abortion providers in all fifty states. The numbers are staggering. In 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 22% of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) ended in abortion; and from 1973 to 2008, nearly 50 million abortions were performed.
After Roe v. Wade legalized abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy in 1973, the abortion rate quickly peaked at 29.3 abortions per 1000 women of childbearing age in 1981. It then dropped steadily for 25 years, but has leveled off at 19.6 per 1,000 -- just above the rate seen in 1974.
It is difficult to speak of our progress in reducing the numbers of abortions when every year over one million lives are being destroyed and over one million women endure—at a minimum—sadness, grief, and guilt over the child they’ve lost. While women deserve to know the truth about abortion’s risks, Guttmacher downplays the mental and physical complications, noting only the relatively small incidence of reported hospitalizations attributed to abortion. (Remember that Guttmacher started out as the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, and still retains that bias.) Yet scores of studies worldwide show an increased risk of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts, and deaths associated with abortion.
Women are not the only ones affected by abortion. Fathers regret their lost fatherhood and can feel like failures. Grandparents grieve their lost grandchildren. Friends who supported their friends’ “choices” years ago now question whether they did the right thing. Children with aborted siblings wonder if they, too, were unwanted – and mourn the loss of a brother or sister whom they never got to meet.
Ours is an abortion-wounded nation. But God’s loving mercy is great – certainly greater than any abortion, and even greater than the 50 million abortions committed to date. Through the mercy of Jesus’ own suffering, God wants to heal and restore all who have been involved in abortion – including those who perform, facilitate or promote abortion through fundraising and policymaking.
To reach some of those harmed by abortion, the Catholic bishops’ conference has launched a 10-week ad campaign promoting Project Rachel, the Church’s non-judgmental, confidential post-abortion healing ministry, on bus stop shelters in the Washington, DC area. Four ads depict four people from different walks of life reflecting with regret on their past involvement in abortion. Each in turn is answered with a gentle message of forgiveness, mercy and hope. One says to herself, “I feel so worthless” to which the reply comes, “You are precious to God.” A man thinks, “I failed as a father” and hears back, “Do not despair. All is not lost.” Another ad depicts a beautiful Latina, who thinks, “No merezco ser feliz” (“I don’t deserve to be happy”) and then hears, “Dios quiere devolverte tu felicidad” (“God wants to restore your happiness”). All ads end with the message: “Come back to God, who is Love and Mercy.”
The ads invite viewers to contact Project Rachel via its national toll-free number: 888-456-HOPE (4673) or HopeAfterAbortion.org featuring a map with all the local Project Rachel offices. If you know someone suffering after abortion, please consider sharing this information with him or her, too.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the Church’s post-abortion outreach, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/postabortion or www.HopeAfterAbortion.org.
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