Pregnant women carrying children who may be affected with serious brain defects as a result of exposure to the Zika virus should not be allowed to have abortions, according to the Vatican.
The Catholic Church said it was concerned by the call from international leaders to increase access to abortion in countries affected by the disease.
“Not only is increased access to abortion and abortifacients an illegitimate response to this crisis, but since it terminates the life of a child it is fundamentally not preventative,” the Vatican said.
“Regardless of the connection to the Zika virus, it is a fact of human existence that some children develop conditions like microcephaly, and that these children deserve to be protected and cared for throughout their lives, in accordance with our obligation to safeguard all human life, healthy and disabled, with equal commitment, leaving no one behind."
Abortion is banned or highly restricted in many countries affected by the Zika virus, forcing pregnant women to "beg" online for abortion pills.
Several countries have advised women not to get pregnant until 2018 in order to avoid birth defects.
During his recent trip to Mexico, Pope Francis made no mention of the virus.
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