Health Advisories in Zika-affected countries may have brought about an increase in number of abortions.


Although abortion is illegal or prohibited in most countries, it has been discovered that since the 17th of November, 2015 when the Pan  American Health organization (PAHO) issued an epidemiology alert about Zika, the number of requests for abortion has gone up. This increase was noticed especially among the Latin American women by Scientists.

The alert from the PAHO made many Latin American countries to caution their citizens about Zika-related birth defects, especially Microcephaly- a medical condition in which the brain does not develop properly resulting in a smaller than normal head. The citizens were advised to delay or avoid pregnancies so as not give birth to children with brain damage since no vaccine has been approved yet.

In the quest to know if the health advisories’ or government advisories’ cautioning was what really affected the behavior of women in those countries, a study was published today in The New England Journal. The study showed a comparison between the number of abortion  requests usually expected and the number coming in now, and it was found that countries in which government officials have issued health advisories such as Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador had abortion requests increased by 36-108% since November last year. Funny enough, abortion is restricted in these countries and Zika is also locally transmitted.

That suggests to us that there is an unmet demand for abortion in those countries, because those women would not have been able to simply go to the healthcare system to exercise their reproductive options.

Abigail Aiken
Co-author and a public affairs researcher at the University of Texas

Women on Web- a non profit organization that assists women in countries where safe abortion is not available by providing abortion medication like misoprostol and mifepriston,  also received an increased number of emails and online forms for consultation. All these were analyzed as well by the researchers and they found out that Brazil had the highest number of requests of about 1,210 in 4months instead of 582.

The bottom line is, the countries that had increased number of abortion requests were those where the government had issued a health advisory. While in countries where Zika is locally transmitted and abortion also restricted but had no issued health advisories  like Mexico and Bolivia didn’t experience any significant change.

Aikens concluded by saying, much attention needs to be paid to the impacts all these has on women and how it is affecting their options and behavior.

Zika Virus is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus, transmitted by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus. Its name comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947. It is related to dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses. As of February 2016, there’s evidence that Zika fever in pregnant women is associated with intrauterine growth restriction including abnormal brain development in their fetuses through mother-to-child transmission of the virus, which may result in miscarriage or microcephaly.

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