Fear of microcephaly or other complications due to Zika have pushed women to illegal abortions, according to the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo.
Doctors indicate women in all social classes are seeking out these abortions “in despair over the possibility of deformity.” Some even go through with abortions without concrete proof of complications.
Paulo Leão, a state researcher and member of Brazil Without Abortion, said these decisions are another form of “eugenics.”
Abortions cost between $1,250 – $3,750.
Planned Parenthood and leftist politicians have argued that easier access to abortion will help contain the damage the Zika virus is causing in Latin America.
“It is essential to recognize that women and men have the right to make decisions and existential options and one of the most important choices in the life of a woman is to have children or not,” wrote sociologist Jacqueline Pitanguy in O Globo, another national publication.
Virologist Gubio Soares, who first identified the presence of the pervasive Zika virus in Brazil, suggested that legalized abortion in French Polynesia may have prevented scientists from uncovering a link between Zika and severe infant deformities sooner.
During a lecture, Soares claimed scientists do not know for sure if a link exists between Zika and microcephaly. This is mainly because women in places where Zika breeds often aborted children who showed signs of microcephaly, a disorder now linked to the virus. Microcephaly occurs if the brain does not form properly in pregnancy or stops growing after birth, causing a small skull. Children can suffer from seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disability, and feeding problems.
Soares suggested that legalized abortion in French Polynesia may have prevented scientists from uncovering the crucial link between Zika and the disorder.
Doctors cannot diagnose microcephaly until the third trimester or after birth:
In many cases, microcephaly may not be evident by ultrasound until the third trimester and, therefore, may not be seen on ultrasounds performed earlier in pregnancy. The diagnosis of microcephaly may be made at birth or later in infancy. The baby’s head circumference is much smaller than normal. During the physical exam, the doctor obtains a complete prenatal and birth history of the child. In older babies and children, the doctor may also ask if there is a family history of microcephaly or other medical problems. Sometimes the child is born with a normal head circumference but then acquires microcephaly because of a serious condition, such as certain genetic disorders, stroke, traumatic injury, or poisoning. The doctor will also ask about developmental milestones since microcephaly can be associated with other problems, such as intellectual disability. Developmental delays may require further medical follow-up for underlying problems.
Brazil outlawed abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. A judge must approve the case.
One Brazilian judge announced he will grant Zika-infected women abortions if they can prove their unborn child has microcephaly. He insisted these abortions are “valid” if reports prove the child will “be born dead” or “life after birth is impossible.” He will require at least three separate medical records to reach his decision.
Colombian Deputy Health Minister Fernando Ruiz confirmed women with Zika may receive an abortion if they can prove the baby has microcephaly.
Brazil, El Salvador, and Colombia have advised women not to get pregnant.
“It’s a very personal decision, but at this moment of uncertainty, if families can put off their pregnancy plans, that’s what we’re recommending,” stated Angela Rocha, the pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Brazil.
Giselle Carino, deputy director for the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s (IPPF) Western Hemisphere Region, called the move “insufficient at best” and “needs to be more comprehensive.”