Updated 10:06 AM EST, Sat, Dec 15, 2018

Does the Zika Virus Outbreak Challenge the Catholic Church’s Stance on Birth Control?

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Latin America's ongoing bout with the Zika virus outbreak has now involved the Catholic Church. With so many women being advised to avoid pregnancy for the next two years, is Catholicism's view against birth control about to be swayed?

Reports said that pregnant women infected with Zika, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, are likely to give birth to babies with microcephaly, a defect that gives infants small heads and abnormal brain and mental growth. Scientists haven't confirmed the virus' connection with microcephaly yet, but Brazilian researchers said that Zika can travel from a mother's placenta to the fetus, Wired reported.

The Church has long expressed its aversion to almost all types of birth control methods, CNN wrote. As Zika looms above largely Catholic countries, does this mean couples should refrain from having sex for two years? One could argue to use the "natural family planning" method instead, which requires women to self-monitor their basal body temperature and vaginal secretions to abstain from intercourse during her fertile days.

This method, however, isn't entirely recommended. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services argued that the technique has a 25 percent failure rate.

The Catholic catechism approves of the natural family planning method, but regards everything that "render procreation impossible" as "intrinsically evil."

The Rev. Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said that the Church's view on birth control will be the same and will not be altered despite the Zika outbreak.

"That prohibition doesn't change based on circumstances," he said, as quoted by CNN. "So couples have a responsibility to live according to the church's teachings in whatever circumstances they find themselves."

However, Rev. James Bretzke, a professor of theology at Boston College, has a different opinion.

"The polemical approach, that contraception is devious or demonic in origin or the smoke of Satan, may ultimately not be the best pastoral approach," he argued, as reported by the news outlet.

Bretzke added also mentioned the leadership of Pope Francis, who has displayed a more merciful position on many social issues like homosexuality and abortion, CNN wrote.

Brazil's Ministry of Health said that 404 infants were born with microcephaly from November 8 to January 30, CNN reported. 17 of the cases are connected with Zika, while another 3,670 suspected cases are still being studied. Colombian officials estimated that the current Zika epidemic will result to 500 newborns with microcephaly and 500 with the Guillain-Barre syndrome, another neurological disorder.

Daniel Ramirez, a historian from the University of Michigan, said that the issue might not become huge, CNN wrote. Just like in the United States, plenty of Catholics in Latin American countries use contraception. Ramirez, however, believed that the Catholic Church will discuss Zika and birth control by the end of March, when the pontiff is expected to deliver an apostolic exhortation on family life.

The Catholic Church's stance on birth control could possibly be swayed by the current situation, especially one that puts babies to suffering. The decision of the Church, however, remains to be seen.

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