He told his weekly general audience at St Peter’s Square that “a contradictory approach to life allows the suppression of human life in the mother’s womb in order to safeguard other values”.
He added: “How can an act that suppresses an innocent and helpless life as it blossoms be therapeutic, civil or, simply, humane?” He went on to tell the audience that “it is not right” to take a human life, no matter how small.
Women’s groups in Italy have been fighting to ensure safe access to abortion amid a growing campaign from far-right politicians and anti-abortion groups to impose restrictions on the procedure or ban it completely.
Councillors in Verona, which is led by the far-right League party, last week declared the northern Italian city “pro-life”, passing an initiative that would “prevent abortion and promote motherhood” by funding anti-abortion groups, as well as promoting a project that would enable women to anonymously give up their babies for adoption.
The motion was put forward in May but despite the law, it is extremely difficult for women to access a safe abortion as more than 70% of gynaecologists refuse to terminate pregnancies for moral reasons.
Shortly after becoming pontiff in 2013, Francis appeared to be cultivating a softer stance towards issues such as abortion and homosexuality, saying that the Catholic church must move on from such arguments and “heal wounds” while focusing instead on “compassion and mercy”.
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