What Does Zika Virus Have to Do With Reproductive Rights?

mosquitoWhere did the Zika virus come from?

In 2012, biotechnology experts released genetically modified mosquitoes with the hopes of combatting the spread of dengue fever and other diseases into Brazil. Though the Zika virus has been around since the 1950s, there is speculation that these GMO mosquitoes have contributed to the rapid spread of the Zika Virus.

What is Zika virus?

The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and causes a variety of birth defects and health problems including microcephaly. Microcephaly causes babies to be born with small heads and developmental delays. Carriers of the virus show little to no symptoms. Health experts predict that the Zika outbreak poses a bigger threat than Ebola did. Ebola killed more than 11,000 people in Africa.

What does Zika virus have to do with women’s reproductive health?

A lot actually. Because abortion is illegal in Brazil (and many other affected countries), and the virus poses the largest threat to pregnant and women of child-bearing age, the recent outbreak is forcing lawmakers in these countries to reevaluate their stringent laws surrounding the matter. While these countries are advising women to avoid getting pregnant until the virus is eradicated, it leaves little options for women who are already pregnant or those that will become pregnant by accident. When a country bans abortion, women are forced to seek dangerous back-alley abortions. The Center for Reproductive Rights has been urgently petitioning for El Salvador, a country with a zero tolerance stance on abortion, to change its abortion policy in response to the recent virus outbreak.

What can be done?

Reproductive right activists believe that if the pope would relax the catholic church’s stringent views on abortion and family planing, that heavily Catholic Latin American countries would follow suit. Hopefully the desperate situation will cause these countries to reconsider alternative solutions.


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