New research has shown that a visit by the Pope can renew sufficient religious observance among Italian women to withhold sex from their partners for more than a year afterwards.
A new study by Britain’s University of Sussex Busiess School study has shows that Papal visits to Italian provinces lead to a subsequent decrease in abortions of up to 20% with its impact felt for up to 14 months after, new research by economists, Dr Vikram Pathania and Dr Egidio Farina has revealed.
As the drop in abortions produced no
significant increase in recorded births, researchers believe the most likely
explanation is a reduced need for abortions as the Pope’s words inspire local
women to heightened observation of Catholic doctrine and avoidance of non-procreational
Dr Farina, now a research fellow at Queen’s
University Belfast, said: “The research finds a decrease in the number of
abortions starting from the third month until the fourteenth month after the
visit of a Pope.
“The decrease in abortions seems to be
driven predominantly by a reduction in unintended pregnancies as women choose
abstinence, increase their use of contraception or a combination of both, after
“While use of contraception is also
contrary to Catholic teaching, it may be viewed by women as the lesser of two
evils when compared to abortion.
“Our research shows the very real impact
that religious values can have in shaping people’s most intimate socio-economic
The researchers investigated the links
between regional abortion rates at the time of 129 official visits made to 85
Italian provinces by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI between 1979 and 2012,
in a paper published in the Journal of Population Economics today.
It is thought to be the first study of its
kind to measure the effect of heightened religious sentiment on the number of
abortions or to use administrative data to precisely estimate the effect of the
papal visits on the number of births.
The study found that the reduction in
abortions more than doubled when the Pope explicitly mentioned or implicitly referenced
abortion in his speeches, as Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI did in around
a quarter of visits during the 33 year period.
According to the university, “We
investigate the impact of papal visits to Italian provinces on abortions from
1979 to 2012. Using administrative data, we find a 10–20% decrease in the
number of abortions that commences in the 3rd month and persists until the 14th
month after the visits.
“However, we find no significant change in
the number of live births. A decline in unintended pregnancies best explains
our results. Papal visits generate intense local media coverage, and likely
make salient the Catholic Church’s stance against abortions. We show that papal
visits lead to increased church attendance, and that the decline in abortions
is greater when the Pope mentions abortion in his speeches.”