Pope Francis Describes Abortion as Like 'Hiring a Hit Man'

The Pope has re-emphasized his opposition to abortion in the wake of the controversial U.S. ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, describing the medical procedure as akin to "hiring a hit man."

The pontiff made the comments during a 90-minute interview at the Vatican with news agency Reuters on Saturday, although the article was not published until Monday morning.

The interview came just a week after the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 threw out the 1973 ruling that enshrined women's rights to medical abortions nationwide.

Pope Francis was asked about the court's decision, but said he did not have enough information to speak about it from a legal perspective. Instead, he reiterated the Catholic Church's teachings that life begins at the moment of conception.

Abortion Protest in Washington DC
In this combination image, campaigners for and against abortion rights gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court back in December 2021 in Washington, DC and Pope Francis (Inset) arrives for an audience to the Neocatecumenal Way Communities on June 27, 2022 at Paul-VI hall in The Vatican. Getty

He reportedly compared abortion to "hiring a hit man" and said: "I ask: Is it legitimate, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?"

It is not the first time the Pope has drawn the controversial comparison. Back in May 2019, whilst speaking at a Vatican-sponsored anti-abortion conference, he said: "Is it licit to throw away a life to resolve a problem? Is it licit to hire a hit man to resolve a problem?"

But he also said his opposition to abortion wasn't a religious issue but a human one, during the same event. And despite his strong words condemning abortion, he has also previously expressed sympathy for women who have chosen them.

He also made it easier for them to be absolved of what Catholics see as the sin of abortion.

Regarding his comments comparing abortion to a hit man, the Holy See Press Office, which represents the Pope and the Vatican, told Newsweek: "It is not the first time that the Pope has said [this]. The reason is clear. The position of the Catholic Church on abortion is equally clear, to be found in the Catechism [summary of Catholic beliefs] and can certainly refer to the Catholic Church in the United States."

Earlier in the Reuters interview at the weekend, the Pope was asked about a debate in the U.S. over whether a Catholic politician who supports others' rights to choose abortion should be allowed to receive Communion.

House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, was barred from receiving Communion at churches in her home diocese of San Francisco back in May.

Newsweek has contacted Pelosi's office for comment.

When asked about the issue, the Pope replied: "When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem. That's all I can say."

When Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone publicly announced the move to bar Pelosi, he said: "After numerous attempts to speak with her [Pelosi] to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion 'rights' and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance."

However, Pelosi is regularly given Communion at a parish in Washington, D.C. and last week, she received the sacrament at a papal Mass in the Vatican.

In October 2021, Pelosi and the Pope met at the Vatican. No details were given about their meeting, but Pelosi later described it as a "spiritual, personal and official honor."

A month before their meeting that year, The National Catholic Reporter asked Pope Francis about how the church should respond to parishioners who supported abortion rights.

The Pope reportedly said he would "never" deny anyone Communion.

"No, I have never denied the Eucharist to anyone, to anyone! I don't know if someone came to me under these conditions, but I have never refused them the Eucharist, since the time I was a priest."

Later in the conversation with Reuters, Pope Francis dismissed rumors he was planning to resign and he laughed off claims he has been suffering from poor health.

However, he repeated his position that he might resign one day if it became impossible for him to run the Church. Asked when that day might come, he replied: "We don't know. God will say."

Bookies are already taking bets on who will replace the pontiff if he decides to retire.

Update 7/5/22 12:28 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include the Vatican spokesperson's comment.