There's a reason why Pope Francis has been widely considered as the most progressive Catholic leader in history. He has made huge efforts to show his tolerance regarding taboo topics that not even the Republican Party supports. His latest move to validate this belief: allowing priests to forgive women who have had abortions. That's right, Pope Francis will be giving all priests discretion during the Roman Catholic Church's upcoming Holy Year (which begins Dec 8, 2015) to formally forgive women who have had abortions.
The Roman Catholic Church has always condemned abortion and viewed it as one of the worst sins a woman could commit. The Catholic faith believes that life begins from conception and that taking the life of a fetus is morally wrong. This support comes at a time when women's reproductive rights have become more important than ever. There's been recent controversy with Planned Parenthood — a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health and maternal services for women — ever since the Center for Medical Progress released the first of a series of undercover videos on July 14, showing Planned Parenthood officials supposedly sharing aborted fetal tissue with researchers.
Conservatives, anti-abortion activists, and all the candidates of the 2016 GOP have since been on a mission to try to defund Planned Parenthood on both a national and state level. Republican presidential candidate, Marco Rubio even went as far as saying during the GOP debate in August, that he doesn't support abortion regardless if rape or incest was involved. "I believe a human being is entitled to life, irrespective of the circumstances in which that human being was conceived and so forth," he said during the GOP primary debate in Cleveland.
Pope Francis wrote in a letter published by the Vatican on Tuesday that many women who have terminated pregnancies "bear in their heart the scar" that comes with having to make such a hard and painful decision. His empathy towards women is definitely something we have not seen with previous Roman Catholic leaders before. In the past, only designated clergy and missionaries were able to formally forgive abortions but now all priests will be allowed to do so. As of right now, it doesn't look like Pope Francis has any plans of retracting the church's opposition to abortion, but this is a step in the right direction.