People have less unprotected sex after the Pope visits a town

People have less unprotected sex after the Pope visits a town and abortion rates fall by a fifth, study finds

  • Towns and cities see drop in number unwanted pregnancies after a papal visit
  • But birth rates don’t increase meaning couples abstaining or using protection
  • Scientists who conducted study were led by team from University of Brighton

The Pope reduces the number of abortions when he visits a town because his presence makes people have less unprotected sex, a study found.

Towns and cities see a drop in the number unwanted pregnancies for months after a papal visit.

Scientists, led by a team from the University of Brighton, found that couples have less unprotected sex when the Pope is in town to avoid having an abortion and breaking Catholic doctrine.

The Pope reduces the number of abortions when he visits a town because his presence makes people have less unprotected sex, a study found. Pictured: Pope Benedict XVI

Even after the pope leaves the area, his influence remains as researchers found abortions plummeted by up to a fifth for as long as 14 months after a papal visit.

While the number of abortions dropped, the birth rate remains the same.

Because fewer abortions did not increase the birth rate, scientists believe the Pope’s words must either increase the use of contraception to prevent pregnancy or inspire chastity.

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 (pictured) and Benedict XVI between 1979 and 2012

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 (pictured) and Benedict XVI between 1979 and 2012

Whenever the Pope referenced the ‘unholy’ procedure in his speeches, abortions fell by twice as much as couples had less casual sex.

Study co-author Dr Egidio Farina, an economist at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, 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 a visit.’

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.

It is thought to be the first study of its kind to measure the effect of heightened religious feeling on abortion rates.

The study, published in the Journal of Population Economics, found that the reduction in abortions more than doubled when the Pope explicitly mentioned or implicitly referenced abortion in his speeches.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI referenced abortions in around a quarter of visits during the 33 year period.

Researchers found that Popes’ visits still dominated local media coverage and generated a ‘considerable excitement among the local clergy and the population.’

The study, published in the Journal of Population Economics, found that the reduction in abortions more than doubled when the Pope explicitly mentioned or implicitly referenced abortion in his speeches. Pictured: Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican

The study, published in the Journal of Population Economics, found that the reduction in abortions more than doubled when the Pope explicitly mentioned or implicitly referenced abortion in his speeches. Pictured: Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican

The team also discovered that the Pope influenced sex considerably more than his influence on church attendance.

Previous studies had shown that women visit church much more often following a Papal visit, but only for three months, while there was no increase in attendance for men.

Study co-author Dr Vikram Pathania, of Sussex University, said: ‘The data does clearly show a clear trend in a drop in abortions but no significant rise in births following a Papal visit.

‘While we cannot be exactly certain as to what can be causing this, a reduction in the frequency of sex between couples seems to be the most logical conclusion to draw.’

He added: ‘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 behaviour.’

The research was published on New Year’s Eve in the Journal of Popular Economics.