The Zika Virus: highlighting the impact of abortion restrictions on the lives of women in Latin America
Kelly Blanchard1, Kinga Jelinska2, Susan Yanow2, Cecilia Vieira da Costa2
1Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge MA, USA, 2Women Help Women, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The emergence of the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has coincided with increased reports of infants born with microcephaly, and has prompted some governments in the region to issue blanket warnings against pregnancy. However, the LAC region has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Government recommendations that women avoid pregnancy without provision of information, education, contraceptives or access to safe abortion care does not address women’s needs or promote their rights and has the potential to increase the incidence of unsafe abortion in the region, particularly among young and low income women who are most at risk of Zika exposure. This panel will provide an overview of the issues linking Zika and reproductive rights, and will share preliminary results of qualitative research on Zika and pregnancy decision-making among women in Puerto Rico and Brazil. Additionally, the perspectives of women from LAC seeking information about safe home-abortion from an online service will be shared. Strategies for potentially avoiding a surge in unsafe abortions will be highlighted.
Attendees will learn about the current legal framework in LAC for accessing abortion and the impact of the Zika virus in mobilising new strategies for expanding access to safe abortion. We will also invite participants to engage in a discussion of how to support regional activists in their long-term goals of increasing access to safe and decriminalised abortion and identify lessons learned for efforts to expand access to safe abortion care in other restricted settings.