“Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15). This verse is often (and rightly) quoted when the issue of abortion comes up. It means that, symbolically or mystically, Rachel the mother of Jacob (Israel), and hence a kind of spiritual mother of the Judeo-Christian tradition, is weeping over the tragedy of the destroyed unborn children—and also it refers to the devastating after-effects of abortion on mothers, which is more and more clearly documented. The reprehensible pro-abortion lobby tries to cover up the facts and manufacture more slogans and smokescreens, but the truth is getting out, little by little, and women who have had abortions are increasingly “silent no more” about what it has done to their lives. (See www.silentnomoreawareness.org).
Our efforts ought primarily be exerted toward the outlawing and prevention of abortions, but what happens when the damage is already done? We can’t undo the deaths of the little ones—tens of millions of them. But their mothers, for the most part, still live, and many of them grieve or suffer various psycho-emotional, physical, and spiritual damage from the trauma of having killed their own children. Here (as well as in the areas of education, prevention, protest, and prayer) the Church must be present and active.
It is far better not to ever have had an abortion, but the sad fact is that many have, and many more do so every day. What is to be done in the aftermath? The Lord said through his prophet: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live. Turn back, turn back…” (Ezekiel 33:11). To “turn back” is to repent, to change one’s ways—and never to commit the same crimes again. Fortunately, the Church offers forgiveness through confession and absolution for those who have sinned, even those who have sinned grievously, for God wants all to be saved and hence that all sinners repent.
There are also organizations that exist for the reconciliation and healing of those who have had abortions and who are now reaping the bitter harvest in their bodies and souls. Project Rachel is one of the most well known, the founder of which works through the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing (www.noparh.org). They try to bring healing into these prodigal mothers’ lives (and sometimes the fathers, too), but not by glossing over the seriousness of the sin and saying everything is all right. Everything is not all right; a murder has been committed. But through profound awareness of the truth and through deep and sincere repentance, reconciliation with God and the Church can be experienced and wounds can be gradually healed—and new witnesses for the sanctity of human life can be formed.
Despite the heroic efforts of many, it seems clear that legal abortion is not going to disappear anytime soon. We don’t know how long God is going to tolerate this genocide, but in the meantime He still is trying to save sinners, for that is why He sent his only Son into the world. “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John ). We’ve made a terrible mess of our freedom, but all is not yet lost. Almost immediately after the passage quoted at the beginning, we find that “there is hope for your future, says the Lord” (Jer. 31:17).