Pope Francis has made a statement that, for the remainder of the Jubilee Year, all priests will be permitted to absolve women of "the sin of abortion" - if they repent with "a contrite heart".
The change represents a temporary relaxation of Catholic rules, and will only begin in December and run until late November 2016. The change will also have no affect on Catholics in England, Wales and Scotland, as priests there can already forgive abortion without seeking permission from a bishop.
A spokesperson for Marie Stopes International said:
“Abortion services are a normal and necessary part of reproductive healthcare, and one in three women in the UK will have an abortion in her lifetime. We do not believe that any woman needs to seek forgiveness for making a considered choice about whether and when to have children.”
Societal stigma, stringent laws, and lack of access to safe abortion in some countries has led to unsafe abortion remaining the biggest threat to maternal health around the world. In 2014 we worked to extend choice to over 18 million women, and averted 3.9 million unsafe abortions.