Alaskans grieve and pray with women who’ve had abortions

    Carol Szopa knows firsthand the profound healing possible for women who have experienced abortion. A registered nurse in Anchorage she has spent nearly 20 years grieving and praying with women who have endured tremendous guilt from their decision.

    Szopa is a long-time volunteer with Project Rachel, a faith-based post-abortion healing program that began in Anchorage in 2000. Along with 11 volunteers, she helps facilitate a nine-week program to help women recover from abortion.

    Project Rachel is part of a national program that began in the late 1980s. It aims to help women come to grips with abortion and then to accept God’s forgiveness.

    “We suffer with them when they tell us their stories – we too are grieved,” Szopa explained. “When women come to us, their self-esteem is sometimes so low. They can have anniversary reactions on what would have been the day of their baby’s birth and they suffer from broken relationships.”

    Along the way there is usually a turning point where women open up and begin to accept God’s mercy, Szopa said, “and that is the hardest part.”

    In some cases, women call Project Rachel years after their abortions.

    “Right after an abortion a lot of people feel pretty good,” Szopa said. “They don’t have the burden of having a baby anymore. But after time, they begin to feel depressed. They see other kids and think, ‘Oh my baby would be that age now.’”

    Others suffer mysterious physical pains, she observed.

    “Some women come to us with abdominal pains and they don’t know why,” Szopa noted. “After going through the program women have told me that they don’t have those pains.”

    Women begin their journey through Project Rachel by calling a confidential number and leaving a message. The number is checked each day by volunteers who return calls within 48 hours.

    “After we talk and see if they want to go through with it, we start the sessions,” Szopa explained. “We watch videos, have discussions and do faith sharing together. They get to tell their stories over the course of nine weeks.”

    “In spite of the abortion, God forgives them – this is now a part of their life’s journey.”

    Along the way there is usually a turning point where women open up and begin to accept God’s mercy, Szopa said, “and that is the hardest part.”

    Project Rachel volunteers help women establish a relationship with the baby who was aborted. “They name the baby and learn to accept God’s healing and come to see that they have someone in heaven,” Szopa said. “In spite of the abortion, God forgives them – this is now a part of their life’s journey.”

    Initially developed as a Catholic outreach, Project Rachel is adaptable to women of any faith, or none at all.

    “We adjust the program to fit the women, but it is based on Scripture readings,” Szopa said, adding that the ultimate aim is for women to reach a point where they can accept that the Lord walks with them, loves them and forgives them.

    After two decades working with Project Rachel, Szopa said the ministry continues to inspire her.

    “As volunteers we are impacted,” she said. “It is powerful to see the Holy Spirit touch a person’s life. We don’t want women to suffer from being away from Christ. We want them to have a full faith life.”

    But the outreach requires volunteers who are rooted in prayer, Szopa said.

    “That’s the only way to be effective,” she observed. “This is God’s work – he just uses us.”


    Click here to visit the Project Rachel, Alaska website. For more information, call the confidential phone line (907) 297-7781 or toll free (866) 434-3344 (outside the Anchorage area).


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