Officials with Second Chance Ministry, a Scarborough, Ontario based service helping women come to terms with abortion, believe more work is needed to increase awareness of the procedure’s harmful aftermath.

Since l99l, Second Chance ministry has helped women deal with the grief and trauma brought on by abortion. While pro-choice supporters speak of the lack of risk associated with abortion, Second Chance and related ministries believe otherwise. In addition to the physical hazards, including the increased risk of breast cancer, abortion exacts a heavy emotional toll. The guilt and grief associated with abortion often to unacknowledged by women. Healing and recovery can be a slow process.

Second Chance Ministry was founded by Father Vincent Heffernan of the Scarboro Foreign Missions as a service to Catholic women who had experienced abortion. The service was inspired by a letter published in a Catholic newspaper which described one women’s lingering post-abortion distress. Almost immediately, Father Heffernan was joined by Angelina Steenstra of Whitby, Ontario, whose personal experience with abortion left her with special insights into the unique brand of ministry. Steenstra leads Second Chance Ministry’s weekly gatherings at the Scarboro Foreign Missions offices in Scarborough. She also brings the abortion recovery message to high schools and pro-life gatherings in southern and central Ontario.

“The most important thing Second Chance wants to communicate to people is God’s forgiveness,” Steenstra says. Abortion is often seen as an attempt to eliminate once and for all, the problem of a crisis pregnancy. For many women, the abortion is just the start of longer-term suffering.”

Although the ministry isn’t large in terms of sheer numbers, it provides a needed presence in the community for women dealing with abortion. Many of these women have discovered the relief they might feel after an abortion is short-lived, and that a host of new and unforeseen problems eventually come to the surface.

At the core of Second Chance Ministry’s counseling is the need for women who have undergone abortion to overcome denial of their action. Any guilt they feel as a result of the decision to abort must be acknowledged and resolved.

Second Chance Ministry even incorporates a Mass of commendation for women coming to terms with the abortion. Some women regard this Mass as a memorial for the child they gave up to abortion. Although this is often a painful process it enables women to achieve a sense of forgiveness. The Mass also allows a woman to personalize her unborn child by giving it a name and keeping it in memory.

“We emphasize the merciful rather than vengeful God.” Steenstra said. “The women come to understand something about the meaning of their suffering as a result of the abortion. There is a redemptive element to suffering in that it brings grace and healing.”

Steenstra said there are several means available to people of faith to combat the contraceptive mentality that leads to abortion. She suggested prayer for parents of aborted children, healing Masses for all babies lost to the procedure, and observing Holy Hours of reparation. She also suggested an attitude of mercy and forgiveness as a way of helping women recovering from abortion overcome the shame they might be experiencing.

In conjunction with this attitude of redemption and forgiveness, Steenstra urges renewed focus on chastity for our young people. By encouraging healthy respect for the gift of human sexuality, young people will become likely to avoid the temptations of premarital sex and promiscuous behavior.

A service similar to Second Chance recently began in North Bay, Ontario, and several related ministries are active in the United States.

For more information about Second Chance Ministry, contact Father Vincent Heffernan, 2685 Kingston Road, Scarborough, Ontario, MlM lM4, telephone (4l6) 26l-7l35.