Monday, February 15, 2016

Abortion Restrictions In Latin America Remain Despite Zika Virus Spread

With the Zika virus spreading fast in a number of Latin American countries and the disease's link to microcephaly in newborns, the debate over loosening abortion restrictions is increasing. Reuters reported last week that in Brazil-- which has one of the most restrictive abortion laws-- change is unlikely:
Vandson Holanda, head of health for the Catholic Church in Brazil’s northeast, said there was no chance the Church would shift its position on abortion because of Zika.
Suspected cases of microcephaly have topped more than 4,000 – with more than 400 of those confirmed so far – since Zika was first detected in April....
Women’s rights groups in Brazil ... plan to appeal to the Supreme Court to relax Brazil’s abortion laws. They hope to build on a successful case in 2012 that legalized abortion for anencephaly, where the fetus develops without a major part of its brain and skull.
Given the difficulty of identifying microcephaly before the final weeks of pregnancy, Sinara Gumieri, a legal advisor to Anis, said the group would petition the court to legalize abortion for women diagnosed with Zika whose child was at risk of the condition, even if it is not diagnosed in the fetus. She admitted it would be difficult.
The doctors who led the anencephaly campaign in 2012 do not expect its success to be repeated.
The New York Times last week had more on the Catholic Church's unchanged position.  Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reported that the U.S. Agency for International Development has recommended that the U.S. offer contraceptive and family planning assistance to Latin America.  U.S. law prohibits foreign aid funds being used to pay or advocate for abortion.  At a Feb. 10 House subcommittee hearing on the global Zika epidemic (video of hearing), subcommittee chairman Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) said that the push in Latin American countries for greater access to abortion "is heartbreaking, especially since there are different degrees of microcephaly."