“Ask a Priest: I had an abortion… After asking for God’s forgiveness, will I still go to hell?”

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Q: Twenty-one years ago I had an abortion. Since then, I asked God for forgiveness. Will I go to hell even if I did ask for forgiveness? –T.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If anything should give us hope in life, it is the realization that God is a merciful God. He is a loving Father in heaven who never spurns a repentant soul. “A contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (Psalm 51:19).

Permit me to quote at length a passage from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Gospel of Life (No. 99):

“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 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.”

One thing that comes through in this passage is that God can bring good even out of our failings, however big they might be. You need to know that you are a beloved daughter of God. He created you out of love. He sustains your life at every instant. He sent his Son to suffer and die for your redemption. You are special in his eyes, and he wants to be with him forever in heaven.

You might consider a few steps. If you are Catholic, please take advantage of the sacrament of confession to put your past into God’s hands. He wants you to feel the joy of his mercy.

You might need further help for yourself. The abortion has left a deep wound in your psyche that needs healing. This requires time and the help of others. You might consider approaching a group such as Rachel’s Vineyard (on Facebook) which specializes in aiding women who have suffered an abortion. Part of the healing process is to be able to forgive yourself and to ask forgiveness from your baby.

Moreover, you want to live with the hope that someday you can be reunited with your baby in heaven, enjoying together forever the love of a Father whose goodness knows no bounds. Rest assured of my prayers for you and your healing and for your baby. God bless you.

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