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.
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.