Catholic officials in El Salvador have remained silent over the government’s ban on pregnancy.
More than 3,000 babies born with the defect of Zika virus since the beginning of the outbreak, have prompted the Salvadoran government to call for a cap on pregnancies, at least until the dangers of the virus are better understood.
According to CNS, Father Jose Antonio Ventura who is the pastor of St John the Evangelist Parish in San Juan Opico said, “the recommendation to not get pregnant “is illusory, the state doesn’t have a say regarding the private matters of the citizens, especially in regard to the procreation of children. The Salvadoran state has unsuccessfully tried to eradicate the mosquito, and their efforts should continue to focus on that direction."
“If someone asks me for advice, I would say that the important thing is to get rid of the larvae, but I can’t say do not get pregnant," he added.
Fr Alfonso Guzman, pastor of Calvary Parish in San Salvador, added: “As a Church, we are in favour of life, as God made it clear. These are not profound measures, we can’t go against God’s nature."
One Vanessa Iraheta, 30, lamenting on the devastating situation said, “It’s not up to the government; it’s up to God. I don’t think the youth will stop having children.
Vicar General of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in San Salvador, Fr Simeon Reyes, said: “So far, we have not been given any guidance by the bishops on how to deal with this situation.
“One of the first tasks is to go to the cause, to combat the mosquito, but I would say a recommendation to postpone the pregnancies may also be appropriate."
He added that he sees no malice or misconduct in advising all women not to get pregnant until 2018.
Zika cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the Americas in the current outbreak. The devastating effects of the virus aren’t on the people infected but on those yet to be born: children have been born with microcephaly, an unusual condition where babies have unusually small heads.
The virus is transmitted to people through the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes, the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. First case of the virus in El Salvador was detected in November and since then more than 5,000 suspected cases have been reported. Efforts to control the spread of the virus include eliminating mosquito breeding sites and taking precautions against mosquito bites such as using insect repellent and mosquito nets. There is no treatment yet or vaccine available for Zika infection.
Health officials said that among the 122 pregnant women who were under observation in El Salvador, 11 of them have given birth, and the condition of the babies is normal.
The government suggestion on pregnancy ban would imply access to birth control and abortion services, of course, but for women in countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, and the Dominican Republic, where abortion is banned in even the most extreme cases, the governments warning to stop having children for two full years until the Zika virus blows over is a very difficult situation.