Earlier this week, Pope Francis added to his statements on abortion from last year, and said that from now on, all priests will be able to forgive abortion. He then reiterated his position calling abortion a “horrendous crime” and “a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life” This is the kind of language that needs to be taken seriously when considering the state of abortion rights. His statement can be understood as a symbolic step in the right direction for the Catholic Church, but we need to put it in context and realise that it certainly cannot be seen as satisfactory for women in 2016.
His comments reinforce the idea that women need to somehow ask for permission to make decisions concerning their bodies. To state that women can be forgiven for having an abortion is to directly imply that women should ask for forgiveness. By debating the morality of abortion, Pope Francis contributes to the shame surrounding the procedure and women’s reproductive healthcare in general. This type of rhetoric should be used to question the relevancy of the morality debate surrounding abortion, as it directly causes harm to women everyday.
Chair of Abortion Rights, Kerry Abel said: ‘Abortion isn’t a sin. Where it’s legal women’s health is a lot safer.’
While we can count this as a symbol of greater recognition of the need for safe and legal abortion for all women, we also need to remind ourselves that we can and should expect much more from our global leaders. We need to remember that depending on certain countries, religion can be a defining factor in women’s reproductive lives. We should rightly expect our leaders to understand this and to act with women’s health and safety in mind, which includes actively working towards safe and legal access to abortion.