The Zika virus which has set the Americas aflutter with health related worries, has not delivered its greatest shock yet.
When the virus began to spread rapidly throughout Latin America, with growing evidence that it was responsible for birth defects, mainly microcephaly (a neurological condition where babies develop small heads), the government made an unusual request; the women were advised to hold off giving birth for two years!
That’s a difficult directive by any standard, and many public health and medical experts were not slow in pointing out the negatives, foremost of which is the untold effect of the directive on the birthrate in Latin America.
The experts were also concerned about the women who were already pregnant noting that of all the countries that asked women to avoid pregnancy, only Colombia allows for abortion in cases of fetal anomaly, all the other countries do not. This restriction often results in clandestine abortions carried out in the worst of conditions by women who don’t want their pregnancies.
Carmen Barroso, the regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the Western Hemisphere had this to say,
“The way these governments are handling the virus is foolish, highly unrealistic, and insensitive to women. Even if a woman is convinced by the governments’ messages, she might still get pregnant unintentionally. What the government should be doing, besides combating the virus, of course, is they should make it easier for women to avoid pregnancies they don’t want.”
It would seem that a Dutch NGO agrees with her sentiments. Today, a Dutch NGO launched an international effort that offers pregnant women infected with the Zika virus free abortions. It is to provide free pills that will trigger abortions with an aim to halt any rush towards unsafe termination attempts. Rebecca Gomperts, founder and director of Women on Web told AFP, “The Zika virus is now spreading to most of the countries where abortion is very restricted, we are extremely worried that this might cause increasing unsafe abortions. We really care about women’s health and lives and we want to make sure that women have access to a good medical abortion.”