A small majority of Catholics support strict legal restrictions on abortion, but the vast majority believe that women who have had abortions should be forgiven if they confess the sin to a priest
Under Pope Francis I the Catholic Church has softed its stance on a number of sexual issues without actually changing official dogma. Pope Francis has, for example, indicated that women infected with the Zika virus could use contraception to avoid conceiving, and he has also suspended existing canon law which automatically excommunicates women who have abortions by telling priests to accept the confession of women who have had abortions.
Research from YouGov shows that the vast majority of American Catholics (79%) agree with the Pope's decision to allow priests to hear the confessions of women who have had abortions. Only 6% of Catholics disagree with the decision. Nevertheless Catholics narrowly tend to say that abortion should be illegal (51%) rather than legal (47%). 14% of Catholics believe that abortion should always be illegal, while 37% say it should be illegal except in special circumstances. 32% say that it should be legal with some restrictions, but 15% of Catholics support unrestricted access to abortions.