Pope Francis has suggested that the use of contraception may prevent the Zika virus from spreading. This statement appears contradictory to the church’s well established ban on almost all types of birth control methods. While Latin American health officials may cheer and rejoice in his comment, many conservative Catholics are expected to feel otherwise.
Abortion has become the most preferred intervention since the Zika virus is suspected to cause incurable neurological defects in newborns. On Thursday, Pope Francis was asked whether the church would recognize contraception as an alternative to women aborting Zika virus infected fetuses during a press conference.
The Pope said in response that abortion is a crime and an absolute evil; describing the act as killing someone to save another. He added that the act can even be compared to the ways of the Mafia. In the same press conference, he recounted a point in history where the Catholic Church’s ban on most forms of birth control was disregarded.
One very specific case was when Pope Paul VI granted African nuns and nuns assigned in Africa the use of contraceptives in cases of rape. Pope Francis mentioned that this was for the nuns in the Belgian Congo during the country’s political upheaval in the 1960s. The nuns used anovulant, a medication that is designed to prevent ovulation, Wall Street Journal reported. The choice to disregard the doctrine was to make sure that nuns do not become pregnant if they become victims of rape. At that time, contraception was legitimized.
The Pope stated that a similar scenario now exists in places where the Zika virus has spread. His remarks, although not from an official papal document, could have several implications. It will not only impact Catholic Latin American women but also Catholic women who might be afflicted with the virus in other parts of the world. The Pope’s pronouncement is not only applicable to specific group of people because the Zika virus is a global issue.
Pope Francis answer could grant thousands of Catholic hospitals in the Zika afflicted areas the capability to help women by considering contraception as an option. In 2010 Benedict XVI stated that there are cases when the use condoms to prevent the spread of an infectious disease can be a step towards better understanding of moral obligation, The Guardian reported.