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NEW YORK, NY — Today at a news conference, when asked about the use of contraception amidst the spread of the Zika virus, Pope Francis said "Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil." He then referenced his predecessor Pope Paul VI's decision to allow nuns in Africa to access birth control due to the threat of rape. He also ruled out that abortion should ever be permitted. Below is a statement from Lori Adelman, Associate Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

“While the Pope’s comments reflect a much more realistic approach toward women’s sexual and reproductive health care needs, they fall far short. The Zika virus has made a longstanding public health crisis impossible to ignore, and it demonstrates the critical need for government support of sexual and reproductive health care. The Pope ignores the reality that preventing unintended pregnancy is a global health imperative, given that roughly 9,000 women in Latin America and the Caribbean die in childbirth each year, and 760,000 women a year are hospitalized due to complications from unsafe abortion. Further, the Pope’s comments on abortion fail to take into account that abortion is part of reproductive health care, and it is not something that women should be shamed or judged for.”


The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness, is quickly spreading across the Americas. Access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services must be a primary response to the rapid spread of this virus, which may be linked to microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected.

Abortion is a deeply personal decision, and must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her health care provider. Every pregnancy is unique, and every woman’s decision about her pregnancy — whether to parent, choose adoption, or have an abortion — should be respected and valued. No woman should feel shamed or judged because of her decision.

People all over the globe and of all different faiths support women's full access to reproductive care, and recognize the harm caused by limiting access to care. In Argentina, the Pope's home country, thousands took to the streets in 2014 to march in front of the Argentine Congress to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would give women the right to abortion. In Peru, President Ollanta Humala Tasso recently came out in support of a woman's right to abortion access.

As a leading women’s health care provider and advocate in the U.S. and around the world, Planned Parenthood is committed to providing patients with high-quality, confidential and nonjudgmental care, no matter what.


Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America


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February 18, 2016