Babies with the brain disorder microcephaly deserve the same right to life as everyone else, Catholic authorities told South American countries this week as they work to curb the spread of the Zika virus.
The mosquito-borne virus, a growing concern in South America, is potentially causing brain disorders such as microcephaly in unborn babies whose mothers are infected. Microcephaly is a neurological disorder where a baby’s head is significantly smaller and the brain is abnormally developed, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition is not typically fatal, but it can cause health problems throughout the baby’s life.
Several South American countries report that the number of babies born with the disorder has been increasing astronomically with the spread of the virus, though the link has not been confirmed. “Between October 2015 and January this year medics in [Brazil] have registered almost 4,000 cases of microcephaly in newborns, compared to 163 in a normal year,” according to The Pool.
Abortion activists are using the health crisis to push for legalized abortion in pro-life South American countries; but Catholic leaders responded to the push this week, contending that babies with microcephaly also deserve a right to life.
“Nothing justifies an abortion,” said the Rev. Luciano Brito, spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife in Brazil. “Just because a fetus has microcephaly won’t make us favorable [to abortion].”
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Brito said they will not compromise Catholic teachings against abortion and artificial contraception during the crisis.
Many South American government officials are advising women against getting pregnant as they work to stop the spread of the virus. LifeNews reported that the abortion group Women on Waves also is pressuring women in South America who may be infected with the Zika virus to abort their unborn babies with dangerous, mail-order abortion drugs.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also commented on the issue.
“So, couples have a responsibility to live according to the church’s teachings in whatever circumstances they find themselves,” Pavone said.
Earlier this week, a young journalist who was born with microcephaly argued that South American countries should not give into abortion activists’ pressure.
“I believe that abortion is a short-sighted attempt to tackle the problem,” said Ana Carolina Caceres, a 24-year-old journalist and blogger from Brazil. “The most important thing is access to treatment: counselling for parents and older sufferers, and physiotherapy and neurological treatment for those born with microcephaly.”
She criticized Brazil Health Minister Marcelo Castro for perpetuating stereotypes about the disorder and saying that Brazil would have a “damaged generation” because of it.
“If I could speak to him, I would say, ‘What is damaged is your statement, sir,’” Caceres said. “Microcephaly is a box of surprises. You may suffer from serious problems or you may not. So I believe that those who have abortions are not giving their children a chance to succeed.
“I survived, as do many others with microcephaly. Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist.”
The World Health Organization and others are involved in working to stop the spread of the virus. No vaccine or cure has been developed yet.