Love in the Time of Zika
When Pope Francis' environmental encyclical Laudato Si came out, some Catholics rolled their eyes. ISIS is beheading Christians, and Planned Parenthood is beheading unborn babies! If we're supposed to be pro-life, why aren't we wringing our hands about these problems? Catholics should worry about real issues that affect actual people. The spotted owl and the rain forest can go pound sand.
Enter the Zika virus. It's a nasty, mosquito-borne disease that is spreading through South America and Latin America, and is the likely cause of thousands of serious birth defects. Mosquitoes thrive in warm, wet environments without enough cold to cause die-offs. If the world is getting warmer and wetter, then mosquitoes—and the diseases they spread so efficiently—will flourish.
Hardest hit in the region so far has been Brazil, where more than a million cases have been confirmed, including nearly 4,000 cases of microcephaly in newborns that could be linked to Zika. Microcephaly is a rare, incurable condition in which an infant’s head is abnormally small.
The birth defect gives babies small heads, partially-formed brains, and myriad developmental problems. There is no cure and no vaccine; and travelers who contracted the virus while in South America and the Carribean have now turned up in the United States, in Arkansas and Virginia
The Columbian, Ecuadoran, and El Salvadoran governments have advised women to avoid becoming pregnant for several years. The public responded to these directives with disgust and derision, because women in these countries often have little or no control over when they become pregnant, whether they're married or not.
So what next? Surely there will be a global campaign urging men to respect women, to stop raping them, to stop kidnapping girls and selling them as sex slaves, to stop treating them as objects, to cherish them as whole people, for the good of the entire human race. Surely there will be calls for abstinence, and surely there will be a global initiative for mosquito control. Surely the threat of widespread severe birth defects will draw us together and bring us to our senses, and we'll fall all over ourselves to do whatever we can to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, to protect them from assaults, both from disease and from other humans.
When the first world hears that third world women might have babies with birth defects, they set up a clamor for more abortion. This is how it always is: we see suffering, and we want to solve it with death. It's a call-and-response, and here's the worst of it: the far right does it just as much as the far left. Radical left-wingers think we can improve the world by cleansing the world of defective babies; radical right-wingers think we can improve the world by turning our heads while the third world quietly dies in misery.
Do you see how it is, pro-lifers? We don't have the luxury of saying that environmental concerns are first world, pie-in-the-sky problems. Even if you really are the kind of pro-lifer who only cares about unborn babies (and this kind of pro-lifer is in the extreme minority, despite what progressives love to tell us!), then you cannot afford to pretend environmentalism is not your concern. The world is our nursery, and if we say we love babies, we must take care of the place where they live.