Pope Francis, in major change, alters church rules for women who’ve had abortions

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Pope Francis

(CNN) — Pope Francis has made a major change in the way the Catholic Church treats women who have had an abortion. Women who have an abortion will no longer need a bishop’s permission to avoid excommunication.

But the change applies only during the Holy Year that runs from December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016.

Until now, women who have had an abortion, as well as those who helped procure an abortion, were automatically excommunicated by the Catholic Church and needed a bishop’s┬ápermission to lift the ban of excommunication.

Pope Francis has now declared that any priest may absolve a woman of the sin of abortion during confession, which effectively lifts the excommunication.