By Cindy Lima
Zika has caused a rise in abortion requests in seven Latin American countries where the virus has been increasing in the last year. The study in the New England Journal of Medicine, which describes the increases in abortion requests. The PAHO issued a health alert last year advising women of the potential birth defects Zika could cause and urging women to avoid pregnancy. In countries like Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela, the number of women requesting abortions has almost doubled, according to the study.
Researchers around the world collected abortion data from the website Women on Web (WoW). On this website, women can submit abortion requests and the site puts them in touch with a physician. Abortion is illegal in many Latin American countries. WOW allows women to secretly meet their needs without repercussions.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt, describes that the increase in abortion requests is due to the fact of a disconnect of Zika-related pregnancy warnings. “Although advisories, recommendations, advice have been given in many of these countries that women delay their pregnancies, the tragic disconnect was that services enabling couples to prevent pregnancies were not often provided,” Schaffner told ABC news. Fear and anxiety have taken over, women have to make difficult reproductive decisions where abortion is illegal, restricted, or unsafe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts about 4 million Americans will contract Zika Virus by 2017. Women in Latin American countries are also dealing with difficult issues like resources, legality, and health care access. The abortion laws in the U.S are different from the ones in most Latin American countries.
Schaffner stressed that one key message for Americans is that prevention is essential.“The issue is pregnancy prevention,” he said. “If there’s any hazard of acquiring Zika sexually or via mosquito pregnancy prevention is a first and foremost way to prevent it from occurring.”