Pope Francis will visit Mexico this week and, as always, his flock will be waiting for him to address their concerns and fears. While there is always lots to be concerned about in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, high on the list these days is the Zika virus. It has spread fear around the otherwise joyful topics of pregnancy and growing families, with the nightly newscasts filled with sad images of babies born with microcephaly. 

The search for a vaccine has properly accelerated as the crisis unfolds and economic and social support for the affected is a pressing necessity. These things are costly and poorer countries ought to be assisted by global health organizations and richer neighbors.

- Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie

Pro-child cultures in Mexico and Latin America result in laws that protect the unborn, with abortion banned outright in the Dominican Republic, Chile, Suriname, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Five other countries—Panama, Paraguay, Mexico, Guatemala, and Venezuela allow the procedure only to save the life of the mother. This is in sharp contrast to the advocates’ model: the United States, where the procedure is legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy. 

Abortion enthusiasts deplore this pro-child state of affairs in Latin America, and see in the Zika virus a crisis that is too good to waste. The U.N. has weighed in, referring to abortion as a “reproductive health service” and a human right. Along with the Pan American Health Organization and many pro-choice activists they are calling for greater access to the procedure, as a proper response to the virus. 

Many Latin Americans--rightfully proud of their culture that protects a coming life, even when unexpected and materially challenging--think it’s a shame that a public health emergency like the Zika virus should be hijacked and politicized in this way. The natural and human response to a health epidemic is eradicating the cause and finding a cure or vaccine. Mosquito control--spraying of insecticide and eliminating stagnant water—is an effective means of controlling mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and encephalitis. The search for a vaccine has properly accelerated as the crisis unfolds and economic and social support for the affected is a pressing necessity. These things are costly and poorer countries ought to be assisted by global health organizations and richer neighbors. 

Instead, international organizations are pushing for the elimination of the victims through abortion. This is cost free—although neither humane nor rational. 

In Honduras, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has spoken out against the concept of “therapeutic abortion” as the proper response to the epidemic. In a recent homily he said, “Therapeutic abortion does not exist. Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives.” Pope Francis is famously outspoken on the issue, saying  “Among the vulnerable for whom the church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children…It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”

There is a vast gulf between this way of thinking and that of international abortion activists, who see in the Zika virus a convenient opportunity to further their aims in Latin America. 

The Catholics who will come in the hundreds of thousands to see and hear Pope Francis, and who make up 85 percent of the population, have been taught by the Church that all human beings, even the handicapped and those that are not yet born, are equal in dignity and deserving of care and respect. This is reflected in the laws which prohibit the taking of innocent human lives in abortion, and resistance to the idea that a “termination of pregnancy” is an act without moral significance.

The Pope, unceasing in his outspoken solidarity with the underprivileged who bear the world’s ills and enjoy little of its bounty, surely finds these abortion advocates disgraceful. Disgraceful in trying to turn the public’s attention toward their favorite hobbyhorse, when instead it should be focused on ways of really helping women who are worried about being infected while pregnant. Global attentiveness and international resources should be directed toward eradicating the source of the epidemic and searching for a cure. Latin American women and children deserve no less.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.

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