Zika Virus Update: Outbreak Causes The Rise Of Abortion Requests in Latin America

By Wayne Parker, Parent Herald July 08, 04:30 am

Seven Latin American countries have experienced a significant increase in the number of 'abortion pills' requests following a declaration of Zika outbreak in the said region.

In November 2015, the health alert which was issued by PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) created panic among several Latin American countries. Because of the potential risk of Zika-related birth defects, an issue of national emergency declarations urging women to avoid pregnancy was made by these Latin American nations, including Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil according to a report on STAT News. The number of women in these countries, who are requesting abortions, has alarmingly swelled compared to before the Zika outbreak. However, in countries without health advisories on Zika outbreak, no increase in abortion requests happened.

Data on abortion requests was collected by the University of Texas researchers from WoW website (Women on Web). Through WoW, women can actually submit abortion requests, keeping these women in touch with their doctors. In Latin American countries where abortions are restricted, illegal, or unsafe, women resort to WoW as cited on ABC News.

An infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt, Dr. William Schaffner noted that the rising abortion requests emphasize a "cut off" between Zika-related pregnancy warnings and available resources for women to prevent pregnancies. "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," Dr. Schaffner told ABC news.

Although the said research draws a connection between the timing of the Zika-related advisories and the rise in abortion requests, no causal link can be conclusively determined. According to Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at the University Hospital at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, the rise in abortion levels in areas with Zika should not be directly linked to the Zika outbreak.

"It does not surprise me that in a situation where the risks may be high, and fear and anxiety even higher, women are making very difficult reproductive health decisions," asserted Dr. Jennifer Ashton, an obstetrician/gynecologist.

WHO (World Health Organization) estimated around four million individuals in the Americas will eventually contract Zika virus infection through 2017, including pregnant women in the U.S. Although abortion laws are rather different in the United States than in Latin American nations, Dr. Christine L. Curry of the University of Miami predicts related challenges. "Legality, access, and affordability are three different things," she said. "Many women have problem with access to care even if abortion is legal," Curry said.

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