Does taking the "Morning after pill" mean excommunication?

Hi, just wondering if a woman takes the morning after pill, but confesses to a priest, is that sin absolved or do they have to be absolved by the Bishop?

I understand that this is participating in abortion so wondering whether it’s treated the same as an abortion thereby excommunicating that person?

Pope Francis has given priests the authority to absolve the sin of abortion in the person of Christ indefinitely. It has been in the news the last couple of days.

I saw that, but was that just for the year of mercy? To be honest the person in question is me, and I confessed this to a priest several years ago, would that be valid? Or should I mention it again?

Oh I see it says continues the dispensation…

If you’re in the USA, the priest already had tge authprity prior to the Year of Mercy.

A). Taking the “morning after pill” not a procured abortion
B). There is no canonical penalty attached to taking the morning after pill.

Honestly, for peace of mind, I would mention it in your next confession by asking Father if this resulted in an excommunication or not, since Father knows best about Diocesan directives.

In my opinion though, I think you’re fine, since the priest several years ago gave you absolution. Priests know what they’re doing in the confessional. As a priest of 35 years once told me, “I’ve been a priest for 35 years, I know what I’m doing” :).

Because this is such a new big thing in the news, I think it is important that we as Catholics have the right answer. I’ve seen many responses here on multiple threads that really don’t provide laymen like myself any definitive answer (although mVitus did answer it), or an answer that is easy to comprehend. And as a former Protestant converted to Catholic, I understand very well why these discussions can cause confusion and can ultimate end up in resentment of the CC by those in it, and misunderstandings of the teachings of those outside it (e.g.: Protestants). I think it is important that we know our faith well and are able to express it in simple terms, without the need to cite loads of canon law.

I did some research myself outside this site and here is what I found:


Yes, the penitent is absolved of the sin of abortion by a priest if one were to confess prior to the Pope’s declaration during the Year of Mercy, but only back to 1983.

Link to letter

The below is part of a letter written to a priest from a woman who had an abortion:

Let me clear up at least one concern. You can confess the sin of abortion to and receive absolution from any priest. The 1983 code of canon law no longer classifies it as a reserved sin, that is, one only the bishop can absolve. Part of the reason is that it has unfortunately become so common. As you have experienced, that fact does not take away from the terrible feeling of aloneness and isolation. Abortion still is one of seven offenses which bring automatic excommunication, but when the priest gives you absolution, the excommunication is lifted and you can return to communion.

God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom

What I still don’t understand, as a Catholic now, is why this was ever part of the law in the first place. If anyone could provide insight into why this was instituted, that would be helpful.

Found this:

Catholic World Report

The “right” answer is that taking the morning after pill is not a procured abortion and has NO excommunication attached to it.

This is not accurate. The 1983 code clearly states (1355) that automatic excommunication (which are not reserved to the Holy See) can be lifted by the ordinary.

In the US, the bishops extended this to priests. Not so in other countries.

The Pope extended it to all priests during the YOM and now has declared that to remain in force.

This is not accurate.

The Pontifical Academy For Life issued an explanation in 2000.


In taking the morning after pill, how would you know if you conceived; therefore, if there was no conception, there was no abortion.

The morning after pill such as plan B works to prevent ovulation in the event of a sexual encounter. If you have already ovulated, plan B will not work and your chances of getting pregnant are the same as if you did not take anything at all.

It’s not an abortion.

If you take the pill, you are assuming a need for it; ie conception…if conception did take place, the pill is an abortifacient…if conception did not take place, you don’t have any reason to take the pill…but you don’t know for sure, so you take the pill - just in case, because you don’t want to be pregnant…sounds like seeking abortion to me…

[see section 3 in the ‘Pontifical Academy for Life’ statement]

Though you don’t elaborate much here, your statement is credible noting that while abortion shares the same moral object as other kinds of murders, only abortion among them earns excommunication. Thus, even if a particular act to take the morning after pill also had the same moral object as abortion, it does not follow that it too earns excommunication.

The action of the pill, and what the person understands and does, need to be understood before categorising the act.

Thanks for your replies

I emailed my spiritual director about it. He said in Australia Priests have been able to absolve that for some time and not to worry God has forgiven me

NO, but it is still a sin of grave matter.

I didn’t say otherwise.

If only the Vatican said something about it…

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