Pope Francis on Zika: “Avoiding Pregnancy Is Not an Absolute Evil”

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It is well-known that contraception is looked down upon by the Church. But during a multi-national Zika virus outbreak that has been tied to birth defects, even Pope Francis is giving the green light to the use of contraception in certain circumstances.

primary care, family medicine, internal medicine, hospital medicine, emergency medicine, infectious disease, Zika virus, ob/gyn, obstetrics, women’s health

It is well-known that contraception is looked down upon by the Church. But during a multi-national Zika virus outbreak that has been tied to birth defects, even Pope Francis is giving the green light to the use of contraception in certain circumstances.

During a flight from Mexico to Rome on February 18, Pope Francis held a press conference during which he spoke on the mosquito-borne illness.

“Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion,” Pope Francis said.

News about the Zika outbreak sparked in Brazil in May 2015 when there was a spike in microcephaly cases. Children born with the condition have smaller-than-normal brain and head sizes and can potentially develop vision-threatening eye problems. It’s unclear what long-term effects can stem from the infection.

Some have suggested abortion in order to avoid birth defects linked to Zika. Republicans have voiced their concerns about women taking that step because there is a lot about the virus that remains unknown. Officials in some countries, such as Jamaica and Brazil, have advised women to avoid pregnancy for up to two years. But what does the Pope have to say about that? Abortion is out of the question, as expected, but contraception is okay.

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“On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear,” Pope Francis continued.

This isn’t the first time that the Vatican has made an exception for contraceptives. Pope Francis was referring to the case in the 1960’s when there were mass rapes in the former Belgian Congo in Africa. Paul VI permitted nuns to use contraceptives to avoid pregnancy.

This exception does not happen in every serious situation, however. During the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s, the Vatican said that if any rapes to the thousands of Muslim women in Serbs resulted in pregnancy, the children should be adopted. Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, is also opposed by the Vatican — but why?

Years ago, Vatican official Monsignor Elio Sgreccia told Newsweek that the Congo exception occurred because it was “a defense against the very real possibility of rape.” However, morning-after pills are different in his eyes. “In this case, it is not a defense — it is an afterthought. After the pregnancy has occurred… after the life has begun,” Sgreccia said.

Now that the number of Zika infected areas has increased by two — Aruba and Bonaire islands were just added by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – women in more than 30 countries and regions are backed by the Vatican to use contraception.

Also on MD Magazine >>> Zika Virus Efforts: To Fund or Not to Fund?

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