Speaking to reporters on the way back from Mexico on Feb. 18, Pope Francis weighed in on the outbreak of Zika virus in Latin America.
When asked whether birth control or abortion could be considered a "lesser evil" in the face of the virus, Francis condemned abortion as evil, but offered a more ambiguous response about birth control.
“Abortion isn’t a lesser evil, it’s a crime,” he told reporters. “Taking one life to save another, that’s what the Mafia does. It’s a crime. It’s an absolute evil.”
Francis cited the decision taken by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s, the AP reported, approving nuns in Belgian Congo using artificial contraception to prevent pregnancies because they were being systematically raped.
Abortion “is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil at its root, no? It’s a human evil,” he said. “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one (Zika), such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”
The Vatican also released a statement on Feb. 16 responding to calls for legalizing abortion to fight the impacts of Zika virus.
“Regardless of the connection to the Zika virus, it is a fact of human existence that some children develop conditions like microcephaly, and that these children deserve to be protected and cared for throughout their lives, in accordance with our obligation to safeguard all human life, healthy and disabled, with equal commitment, leaving no one behind,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza , the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the U.N.
In Brazil, the country hardest hit by Zika, authorities have recieved reports of almost 4,000 cases in which Zika may have caused microcephaly in newborns, and the World Bank recently estimated the virus could cost the Latin American and Caribbean region $3.5 billion in the "short-term."
Read more at The Washington Post.