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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 16, Issue 2, Summer 2016

Gary Michael Atkinson
Pages 209-214

Humanae vitae, Rape and the Zika Virus
Five Remarks

Zika virus infection in a pregnant woman may cause severe brain malformations (microcephaly) and other birth defects in her child, and women living in or traveling to areas where it is endemic are urged to postpone pregnancy. Do the dangers posed by microcephaly justify the use of contraceptives under the principle of double effect? The author discusses ambiguities in Humanae vitae n. 14 and the claim that the use of contraceptives was approved by Pope Paul VI for nuns at risk of rape, and uses the principle of double effect to show that the answer to this question is no: the use of the anovulant pill by married couples for the purpose of preventing conception of a microcephalic child cannot be licit.

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