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Dear Pope Francis,

I see you’ve extended the power to forgive abortions to all Catholic Priests. I see the compassion that sits beneath this act and I applaud you for bringing that to an institution that desperately needs to embody the teachings of its founder.

What I find interesting is that as an institution of men — an institution which doesn’t deem women suitable for high office — you concern yourselves with this issue at all.

We women — all females — understand our sacred power to create. We understand it because from a young age we bleed.

In bleeding we learn something; that we have a responsibility. We understand we are part of the cycle of life. We understand this because we experience it in our bodies. This is not an academic exercise for us. This is not a theological debate and it’s not an issue of intellectual understanding.

We live the sacred power. We live the responsibility that comes with that power.

And there are consequences. Consequences we cannot escape when we become pregnant. Ask the teenage girl who accidentally gets pregnant and finds the boy won’t support her in having the child. Ask the woman who has three children, who’s reliant on her husband for financial support, and who can’t stretch their finances to feed a fourth child. Ask the young woman who’s spent her whole life dreaming of being the first female in her family to go to university and who finds that now her dream cannot be fulfilled because there are no affordable child care places in her home town.

We understand the consequences of the power of creation because we live them everyday. That’s what makes this subject our domain and not yours.

What we need from you are not rules about how to manage our sacred responsibility. We are the living embodiment of that responsibility. We understand it at a cellular level, in a way you never will.

What we need from you is help. Help in building a world where having a child is not so burdensome. Where we all accept responsibility — financial, emotional, physical and social — for the wellbeing of children. Where that is not left primarily to women to manage alone.

This is a role you can play. This is what we ask of you. We need more paid parental leave. We need our birthing knowledge and wisdom to be respected and supported. We need more support during pregnancy where our bodies are under strain and we need the space and time to rest. We need young people to understand and respect sexual relationships.

We need men to understand and respect sexual relationships. We also need men to see their role as being in the home as much as in the work place. We need them to assume some level of responsibility for domestic issues.

This is where an all male institution such as yours can and should get involved. We need you to lead the way in showing the world what it looks like when men support women’s wisdom and choices.

We don’t need you to tell us what’s right and wrong. We’re divine beings. We too have access to divine wisdom. We’re not children who need guidance. We’re strong and powerful and we understand our place in the world.

The divine has entrusted us with the sacred power to create life, you too can trust that we’ll use it wisely.

As a gender we have proven time and time again that we are not careless with human life. As men, you are yet to prove the same to us. When you do, perhaps we will welcome you to the table to discuss the issue of abortion. Until then, please support us in ways that are truly helpful to the future of humanity and the planet.

With deep love and respect,

Samantha Nolan-Smith