That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. How would someone decide if they are aware of the penalty? Does a priest get to decide if they are? So if you go to a priest who is having a bad day or is a crabby confessor or just doesn’t like women, he gets to decide this? Oh and as another note, it varies by dioceses. I’ve never heard of this happening in the U.S. and it varies when it does.
I say this gently because I realize that a lot of people regret their participation in abortion, but why should there not be additional steps to reconciliation? Is abortion really just like any other sin? It’s the murder of an innocent, defenseless child, before the child has had an opportunity to be baptized, by his very mother. I’m hard-pressed to think of a sin that is more grievous. Certainly there are situations the mitigate guilt. And God’s mercy is limitless. But all sin has consequences, and some of them are temporal ones like the fact that by committing them a person places himself outside the Church and needs to do something extra to be reconciled to it. We could probably come up with any number of analogies for ways this happens in secular life; i.e., situations in which seeking forgiveness is only the first step to making things right when we’ve offended someone.
Abortion generally takes place under duress which puts it at a lower level of culpability than many other crimes. How about priests using their collar to sexually abuse children? That strikes me as a much more grievous sin than a desperate, poor woman who gets an abortion. And no there shouldn’t be an extra step. How awful to be a woman who regrets her abortion and seeks forgiveness from the Church but to be told by a priest in certain dioceses that they are still excommunicated and not forgiven?
It should also be noted that the penalty is not just incurred by the mother. Any person who participates in this sin (by encouraging, paying for, performing, forcing another to commit it, etc) is guilty of the sin of abortion.
It makes sense to excommunicate people who are profiting from abortion but it doesn’t make sense to treat women the same way as you would treat an abortion doctor.