When Colombia, El Salvador, and Brazil recently warned women not to get pregnant because of the Zika virus, some human rights advocates hoped the outbreak would propel the Latin American nations to reconsider their strict antiabortion laws. But as the virus continues to infect thousands of pregnant women throughout the region, putting them at risk of giving birth to babies born with brain damage, the Roman Catholic Church is doubling down on its conservative stance against both contraceptives and abortion.
â€œContraceptives are not a solution,â€ Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner of Brazil said in an interview with The New York Times, in which he confirmed that the Zika outbreak would not cause the church to change its long-held position on the use of birth control. He joins Cardinal Odilo Scherer of SÃ£o Paulo and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras in publicly condemning the use of contraceptives in response to the Zika outbreak, which has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.
Instead, church officials have advocated for couples to either abstain from sex or practice â€œnatural family planning,â€ a method in which a woman tracks her menstrual cycle to determine when she is most or least fertile and plans sexual intercourse accordingly.