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Zika Fuels Abortion Debate In Latin America

Update Date: Feb 09, 2016 11:42 AM EST

The alarmingly surging accounts of women giving birth to babies with neurological defects such as those born with microcephaly- a condition wherein infants are born with small heads- have triggered debates across Latin America over some of the world's most stringent laws on abortion.

The Zika epidemic has led to widespread fear among women of the likelihood of seeing their babies with birth defects. However, abortion is strictly prohibited under most circumstances in a mainly Catholic region where the religious establishment has entrenched opposition toward aborting fetuses.

In Colombia, a movement advocating for the lifting of restrictions on abortion laws is gaining momentum but is equally opposed by the Catholic Church. Also, in El Salvador, the health minister is calling on his fellow members of the parliament to revisit the country's laws on abortion in the light of an ongoing Zika scare. Likewise in Brazil, strict anti-abortion laws are forcing pregnant women to seek illegal abortion.

"If I were a woman, had just got pregnant and discovered that I had been infected by the Zika virus, I would not hesitate an instant to abort the gestation," wrote Hélio Schwartsman in article he wrote for Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo as quoted by The Washington Post.

In countries particularly hard hit by the epidemic, women seeking for "therapeutic abortion" are often faced with many legal hurdles. Not only that, they are also being criticized by Catholic authorities.

"We should never talk about therapeutic' abortion. Therapeutic abortion doesn't exist. Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives," remarked Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras as mentioned in a report by RT News.

Meanwhile, a judge in Brazil has publicly announced that he would declare abortions "legal" in cases of Zika-induced birth defects such as microcephaly according to a news article by the New York Times.

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