Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Response to Pope Francis’ comments on abortion as part of a ‘year of mercy’

On Tuesday 01/09/15 Pope Francis announced in an open letter to the Vatican that during the next ‘Holy Year’ for Catholics he would grant all priests the right to formally forgive women who have had abortions.


Kerry Abel, Chair of Abortion Rights says

‘While we welcome the Pope’s more lenient words, we don’t believe that having an abortion is something that women should be apologising for.

‘Abortion is a safe and legal way for women to control their lives for their family, their work and their health. We must trust women to make that decision and don’t agree that women should be shamed or coerced.

‘Abortion is not a tragedy, but deaths from unsafe abortions are and that is what is at stake by denying the legal right to abortion.’

While the Catholic Church appears to be adopting a more modern approach to abortion with this news, it is worth pointing out that their actual stance on abortion has not changed.


Notes to editors:

  1. Abortion Rights is the national pro-choice campaign, working to defend and extend abortion rights and provide a pro-choice voice to the media. Since 1967 the Abortion Act has enabled women to access abortions in England, Wales and Scotland. One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.
  2. A consistent three quarters of people support a woman’s right to choose in Britain. However there is a vocal minority that continually seeks to introduce amendments to legislation in Parliament that would undermine women’s bodily autonomy and existing law and practice.
  3. These comments by Pope Francis were made in his open letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation on 1/09/2015.
  4. The Pope said that women who have undergone abortions could be forgiven if they sought forgiveness themselves, and that the ‘Holy Year’ was an opportunity to show greater mercy toward them. He described abortion as a ‘tragedy’ and also as an ‘agonizing and painful decision.’
  5. This more lenient approach to abortion is part of a wider plan to increase the Catholic Church’s capacity for mercy during the forthcoming ‘Jubilee’ or ‘Holy Year’ which is a special year for Catholics talking place from December 8 2015 to Nov 26 2016.