Why an NGO is offering free abortion aid to pregnant women infected with the Zika virus

Yesterday, a Dutch non-governmental organisation, Women on Web, which runs an internet community of women who are pro-abortion rights, announced that it is offering free pills to women with the Zika virus to aid in triggering the termination of unwanted pregnancies. This follows an international effort to save lives by dissuading any attempts at unsafe pregnancy terminations. According to the NGO, the concern is that the virus is slowly spreading to regions in South America that restrict the procurement of abortions severely.

Abortion is illegal in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Venezuela, but this does not prevent women from opting for the procedure when they need it desperately. Thus, in order to avoid birth defects, as a result of passing the virus on to their unborn babies, the affected women could be pressured into turning towards less trusted means of terminating their unwanted pregnancies.

Recently, there has been an intensification of a terrifying birth defect known as “microcephaly” in South America, where a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain. The World Health Organisation (WHO) attributed this development to the Zika virus and declared an international health emergency. Although a scientific link is yet to be made between the virus and microcephaly, a previous incidence in Brazil where about 3,900 children were born with the neurological condition following an outbreak of Zika virus supports the theory.

Rebecca Gomperts, the founder and director of Women on Web, states that her organisation is set to provide concerned women with a free online consultation and subsequently send a mail to their homes to deliver the pills necessary to secure a ‘medical abortion’ once they have been cleared for one. Currently, the government in Brazil is preventing the packages from reaching the women, despite the fact that it has recorded the most cases of microcephaly. Gomperts is suggesting that the Brazilian government reconsider this action, until the region is rid of the epidemic, at least. According to her, the goal of the organisation is to save women’s lives and this initiative does that and more.

The initiative to grant free abortion aid to women with the Zika response is an immediate and tangible response to the ongoing situation in South America and response to health emergencies is a recurring factor when outlining contributions to the spread or containment of an epidemic. Secondly, it tackles the awkward stance that the governments in the affected region have taken on the issue, by asking women to refrain from childbirth for at least two years.

The request, which is both insensitive to women as it is unrealistic, fails to adequately address the problems of women that are already pregnant in these affected regions, along with women who are likely to get pregnant without planning to, as noted by Carmen Barroso, Regional Director of Planned Parenthood Federation. This is why another thing which the initiative achieves is drastically reducing the level of panic among women in South America. The WHO met on Monday to determine whether or not to classify Zika virus a global emergency, as this classification would help shape the next steps to combat the threat.

Women on Web is dedicated to providing women with information about abortion and presently receives about 10,000 monthly emails from such women. They urge women to apply as soon as they can for the medical abortion, in order to have some ample time on posting delays. According to the organisation, women need to know that abortion is an option.

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