The rapid spread of the Zika Virus to 22 countries in the Americas has prompted some government bodies to advise women in the affected areas to delay having children. El Salvador suggested that women should not get pregnant for at least two years.
The effects of the Zika virus on pregnant women and their babies has also triggered a very strong debate on legalizing abortion in the region, where many countries have strict laws. This is meant to make it easier for expectant mothers with the Zika virus to terminate their pregnancies before it grows into a deformed baby.
“Fear is growing among women because this is a new disease that we know little about. We don’t have many answers,” said Adriana Scavuzzi, a gynecologist at the IMIP hospital.
Also, women’s rights organisations are seeking for legal abortion in the case of women who contract Zika, a move that so far has been only taken by Colombia’s health ministry.
Meanwhile, the case is not the same in Brazil that has a majority of Catholic faithfuls who may never agree to the abortion legalization. A group of researchers, activists and lawyers in Brazil plan to petition the Supreme Court to allow abortions for women who have the virus.
This same group won a ruling in 2012 to extend legal abortion to anencephaly, a birth defect in which the baby is born without some parts of the skull and brain and almost always dies shortly after birth.
The reason behind the need to legalize abortion may be to prevent future disaster in affected areas. With Brazil’s health care system already swamped with cases of the virus, the future could be bad for many mothers if the Supreme Court does not act fast, said Debora Diniz, a law professor leading the campaign.
“We will soon have a generation of poor women whose destiny will be to look after extremely dependent children full-time,” she said.
The situation is really bad for the pregnant women. Imagine that you have a child that will remain dependent on you for everything and you have to take care of him for the rest of his or her life.