BALTIMORE, Nov 16 (Reuters) - U.S. Catholic bishops plan to expand efforts to provide professional and spiritual counseling to women who have had abortions and to their families.
Officials announced the plan on Tuesday at a meeting of 300 bishops gathered for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, saying they would extend Project Rachel, which provides counseling to those affected by abortion.
The move came a day after the bishops said religious freedom had been whittled away by same-sex marriage, abortion and healthcare legislation, and vowed to ramp up efforts to protect it.
Officials at the annual meeting said two new pilot projects based in Boston and Washington would train priests in building more Project Rachel ministries around the country.
Project Rachel supporters say women who have had abortions are at greater risk of psychological problems. But a study in 2008 by the American Psychological Association "found no evidence that a single abortion harms a woman's mental health."
Project Rachel "isn't about making abortion illegal," said Deirdre McQuade, a spokeswoman for the conference. "We'll never get to the point where we can turn this around if we are an abortion-wounded nation." (Reporting by Jason Tomassini, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)