A 1998 New York Times/CBS News Poll revealed that 50% of the respondents were willing to call abortion "murder," and that one third of those who called it "murder" said that sometimes abortion is the best course of action in a bad situation.
Our experience convinces us that the conflicted position of holding that murder is an acceptable solution is explained by the fact that while people see that abortion is wrong, they believe that it is sometimes necessary, and that it is helpful for the woman.
Priests for Life responds to that position by demonstrating, on a practical level, that abortion is neither necessary nor helpful. Rather, there are alternatives to abortion and there is healing and forgiveness for those who are hurting from abortion. The Church is committed to providing both the alternatives and the healing.
Our efforts to spread this message, in churches, in the media, in our travels, and in our educational material, is not a propaganda effort, but rather a response to the real needs of women who either feel that they have no option but to abort their child, or who feel that there is no hope or healing after abortion. We are proclaiming that "The doors of the Church are open," and that the role of the Church is not simply to stand up and say, "Abortion is wrong -- don't do it," but rather to say to the women of our day, "We are with you; we will help you to do what is right, and to find healing if you have done what is wrong."
Such an effort is fully in accordance with the call that the bishops and the Pope have made to the entire Church.
For example, in their official Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities (1985), the US bishops identified as one of its major components, "a pastoral effort addressed to the special needs of women with problems related to pregnancy, of men and women struggling to accept responsibility for their power to generate human life, and of all persons who have had or have taken part in an abortion."
They further indicated,
"This Pastoral Plan is addressed to and calls upon all church-sponsored or identifiably Catholic national, regional, diocesan and parish organizations and agencies to pursue this … effort with renewed determination. This plan envisages dialogue and cooperation between the NCCB/USCC and clergy, religious and lay persons, individually and collectively. We seek the collaboration of all national Catholic organizations in this effort.
"Priests have a privileged opportunity to serve others by offering the unconditional and efficacious love of Christ in the sacrament of penance and fostering conversion and healing in women and men who have been involved in the destruction of innocent human life. Clergy education should reflect this reality, especially by training seminarians and priests to understand the painful experience of women who have had abortions. Many lay people, by God's grace, also serve directly or indirectly in this process of restoration to spiritual, mental and emotional health."
In their 1995 Statement, Faithful for Life, the US bishops wrote the following:
"When pregnant women and girls don't know where to turn, thousands of committed Catholics in our dioceses—and others to be sure—are there both to sustain and to challenge them. Ten to 15 million people each year, including many experiencing distressed pregnancies, turn to Catholic Charities for social and emergency services. Across this nation there are more than 3,000 emergency pregnancy centers that offer assistance for prenatal care and related needs, as well as numerous programs of reconciliation and healing to help women and men deal with the emotional and spiritual aftermath of abortion.
"We repeat together what we have stated individually: no woman in need with a child, born or unborn, whether she is Catholic or not, should feel herself without help. We pledge the heart and hands of the Church to help mothers and fathers in need to find pregnancy counseling, pre- and post natal care, housing and material support, and adoption services.
"The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his or her life is always morally wrong; it can never be a licit means to a good end (Evangelium Vitae, §57). In speaking about this basic teaching, we must also make known from every pulpit the Church's sincere and open welcome to those who seek reconciliation with the Lord and peace with his Church."
Again, in their 1997 Statement, "Lights and Shadows," the bishops wrote as follows:
"We especially honor the work of more than 3,000 pregnancy centers, as well as those hospitals, agencies and medical centers in radical solidarity with women in need of counseling, pre- and post-natal care, housing, material support and adoption services. And for those women who have had abortions and seek help to deal with its aftermath, Project Rachel and other post abortion healing programs are available throughout the country. We pledge continuing support of these programs. Our condemnation of abortion is accompanied by an unswerving commitment to provide alternative solutions and compassionate care in respect for the dignity of all wounded by its violence. Such is the "spirituality of the Good Samaritan."
"To our fellow Catholics, we ask you to do even more for life. Reach out to women who are pregnant and in need of help, to families struggling with financial or emotional difficulties. Stand by those who wish to choose life with the witness of solidarity, hope, and service."
Finally, the following words were written by Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life:
"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. To the same Father and to his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. 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" (EV, 99).
These statements provide a clear call for all who are concerned about the sanctity of life to take immediate and effective action to come to the help of women in need.