Pregnant, Sick With Zika—and Prohibited From Getting an Abortion
Amid the rapid spread of the mysterious Zika virus throughout Latin America and the growing evidence that it may lead to birth defects, governments in the region have made an unusual request: that women should hold off on having children for as many as two years. The unprecedented directives from heads of state and government officials have shocked many public health and medical experts. They say the prohibition of pregnancy could have untold effects on the birthrate in Latin America, and that managing and terminating a pregnancy is often not an option for many women in the region, where contraceptive access is limited and abortion laws are some of the strictest in the world.
"The way these governments are handling the virus is foolish, highly unrealistic, and insensitive to women," says Carmen Barroso, the regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the Western Hemisphere. "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."