Image: Huffington Post

In light of recent events related to the Zika virus, Brazilian government is facing a serious push for reform regarding its strict abortion laws.

  05 February 2016 17:00 - At what cost does a potentially debilitating disease weigh down the right to life? In light of recent events related to the Zika virus, the Brazilian government is facing a serious push for reform regarding its strict abortion laws, especially since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of emergency this past Monday (1/2).

Scientists have confirmed that Zika can be passed from mother-to-fetus, which means that pregnant women are at most risk. There has yet to be a vaccine developed to treat the disease, which is now linked to microcephaly. The little known and normally rare disease has a range of varying symptoms, sometimes as insignificant as a slightly smaller head to more serious damages, such as cognitive impairment that renders its patients with serious developmental setbacks.

Using Ultrasounds, the disease has the potential to be detected. But more often than not, doctors are unable to see how serious the disease will be and how it will affect the fetus later in life.

The abortion laws in Brazil, a deeply Catholic and religious country, are some of the strictest in the world. Aborting a pregnancy is only legal in the result of a rape or if it puts the life of the women in grave danger. Many women could be forced to get illegal abortions, causing serious damage to their health.  Furthermore, many are claiming that it is the Brazilian government’s fault for not eradicating the mosquitoes in time.

"What we have at this moment, in this country, is a group of women who is in fear of getting pregnant and not knowing what will happen during the pregnancy," Debora Diniz, a University of Brasilia law professor, said in the video.

In El Salvador, the government recommended that women refrain from getting pregnant until 2018, while Colombia advised the same for 6-8 months. While the advice may be well intentioned, it’s a little ridiculous coming from conservative countries where health care and contraceptives are hard to come by for the average citizen. Much of the abortion debate in Brazil has circled back to the inequality of income, as wealthy citizens are able to arrange for private clinics or even ire attorneys to make the process in the highly corrupt country possible.

If Brazil reconsidered their laws, it wouldn’t be the first time that an epidemic changed the laws for the better for women. In the United States, the rubella outbreak of the 1960’s paved the path for Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. Katja Iversen, the chief executive of the advocacy group Women Delivery criticized the WHO for their lack of support of women’s health, stating: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see WHO’s reproductive health department involved as well. Yes, it is about a mosquito carrying a dangerous virus, but it is also about a health system failing women.”

(Repoted by Ivana Lucic)


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