With the mosquito-borne Zika virus continuing to spread through Central and South America, Pope Francis said today that contraception could be seen as "the lesser of two evils" if women are concerned about having children with the birth defect microcephaly.
The Zika virus is usually mild, but has been associated with a rise of the alarming birth defect, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, often leading to significant developmental delays.
The pope compared the situation to a decree issued by Pope Paul VI, which said nuns in Africa could use contraception due to the threat of rape.
"Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil," Francis said. "In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also ask doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on."This will be very welcome news to women who might have otherwise been on the fence about this. Keep in mind that DHS data show that most of the affected countries already have high percentages of married women using modern contraceptives, but every little bit of encouragement helps.