Pope Francis now backs birth control for women facing the Zika virus

Pope Francis now openly supports the use of artificial contraception to prevent spread of the Zika virus, reports the Associated Press. The head of the Catholic Church shared his view on birth control today (Feb. 18) just as he was leaving Mexico.

During his five-day tour of the country, the pope had spoken out about various social ills, but notably avoided the issue of contraception and abortion, despite evidence that the virus currently tearing through Latin America is sexually transmitted. Women infected with the virus risk giving birth to children with head deformations, which can cause early death or developmental complications.

The Catholic Church does not officially condone any form of artificial birth control, advocating instead for the use of natural family planning, a method in which married couples time their sexual activity with a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Despite his apparent leniency towards artificial contraception, Pope Francis sharply opposed abortion in Zika cases, calling it “a crime.”

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