The following comes from a February 18 Washington Post article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein:

Pope Francis told reporters Thursday that using artificial contraception may be morally acceptable in fighting the Zika virus, but called abortion another situation entirely, akin to “what the Mafia does.”

Francis’s comment came on the plane ride back to Rome from Mexico. During the week-long trip, the pope had not addressed the virus, which has hit Latin American countries hardest.

His remark immediately set off debate about his intentions — as has become common during the news-making pope’s tenure — and whether Francis had offered a more open tone about the use of artificial contraception than that of his recent predecessors.

The impact of the pope’s remarks in Zika-hit areas, if any, wasn’t immediately clear. The Colombian bishops’ conference said it was still studying them. A top bishop in El Salvador said officials there needed more context and that it is still “under debate” whether women can use contraceptives for any reason.

Before Thursday, when asked about Catholic teaching and Zika, some top church officials in Latin America and in the United States have emphasized that artificial contraception is immoral.

Francis made the comment in response to a question. He was asked whether abortion or birth control could be considered a “lesser evil” when faced with the Zika-linked cases of rare birth defects such those in Brazil, where babies have been born with abnormally small heads, the AP reported.

“Abortion isn’t a lesser evil, it’s a crime,” he told reporters. “Taking one life to save another, that’s what the Mafia does. It’s a crime. It’s an absolute evil.”

Francis cited the decision taken by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s, according to a transcript, approving nuns in Belgian Congo using artificial contraception to prevent pregnancies because they were being systematically raped.