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Catholics to Pope Francis: Act Now and Respect the Consciences and Reproductive Rights of Women

February 12, 2016

In advance of the papal visit to Mexico, Catholics for Choice will deliver an urgent message to Pope Francis about the Zika epidemic in tomorrow’s International New York Times. The ad is part of a campaign asking Francis to do the right thing for Latin American women. An advertisement will also appear in the newspaper El Diario de Hoy in El Salvador during the pope’s visit.

Click to view full size ad

Invoking the parable of the Good Samaritan, the open letter asks Francis to show truly pastoral leadership.

“When you travel tomorrow to Latin America, we ask you, Francis, to make it clear to your brother bishops that good Catholics can follow their conscience and use birth control to protect themselves and their partners. Make it clear to the Catholic hierarchy that women’s decisions around pregnancy, including the decision to end a pregnancy, need to be respected, not condemned.”







“Pope Francis has an opportunity to reverse a longstanding injustice on this trip,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “If he wants a church that lifts up the poor, he must remove the birth control ban that falls so harshly on the women of Mexico and Central and South America, and allow women to make a decision about their pregnancies.”

“In El Salvador, women are imprisoned if they are even suspected of having an abortion, while the Catholic hierarchy continues its heartless ban on birth control. We need Pope Francis to stand up for the vulnerable women here, who deserve to make their own decisions about pregnancy,” commented Rosa Hernandez of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir El Salvador, who co-signed the ad in El Diario de Hoy.

The same ad that was accepted in the International New York Times and El Diario de Hoy was rejected by a Nicaraguan newspaper, La Prensa, because it expressed the truth about abortion in the country.

“There is a failure to face the reality that woman in Nicaragua do have abortions and need comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Women suffer because abortion is illegal in this country and the government-sanctioned media won’t allow us to even mention the word, let alone discuss the harm that these restrictions cause women,” said Bertha Massiel Sánchez Miranda of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir Nicaragua.

The Zika epidemic has spread to more than 25 countries in Pope Francis’ home region of Latin America and the Caribbean, where the Catholic hierarchy’s prohibition on abortion and modern methods of contraception has significant political influence. In the region, 97 percent of women of childbearing age live under a highly restrictive abortion law, according to the Guttmacher Institute. WHO predicts up to four million cases of the mosquito-borne illness this year. Brazil alone has seen a surge of 4,000 cases of devastating birth defects caused by the virus.

A global poll of Catholics conducted by Univision in 2014 found that 78 percent supported modern birth control, as did 91 percent of Catholics in Latin America.

O’Brien continued, “What the Catholic faithful recognize is that abortion, like contraception, is part of the continuum of women’s healthcare. The Zika virus is highlighting an issue that was already critical. Now is the time for Francis to show the compassion he preaches and use his trip to Mexico to be a pastoral, not political, pope.”