When Infectious Disease Has Social Consequences

I might have metioned once or twice that the Zika virus could have similar effects on attitudes towards abortion that rubella did. From Brazil (boldface mine):

But now some activists here are drawing comparisons between the Zika epidemic and the debate over abortion in the United States in the 1960s, when an outbreak of rubella, a virus that can also cause microcephaly, resulted in thousands of babies born with birth defects. The concerns over rubella, also called German measles, paved the way for states like California to allow abortion when a fetus is substantially damaged.

“Pregnant women across Brazil are now in a panic,” said Silvia Camurça, a director of SOS Corpo, a feminist group in Recife. “The fears over the Zika virus are giving us a rare opening to challenge the religious fundamentalists who put the lives of thousands of women at risk in Brazil each year to maintain laws belonging in the dark ages.”

As in the United States before the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion in 1973, a clandestine abortion industry thrives throughout Brazil. Some illegal providers charge thousands of dollars, risking arrest and the closing of their clinics.

Estimates on the number of illegal abortions in Brazil vary widely. Drawing on hospital records showing that 150,000 women seek medical attention each year for complications from illegal abortions, Brazilian scholars estimate that as many as 850,000 abortions are performed illegally on an annual basis.

The reality that, for as long as women have been getting pregnant, they have wanted to get ‘unpregnant’, seems to escape anti-abortion advocates, who resort to a tactic familiar to those in the U.S.:

“With microcephaly, the child is already very much formed, and the parents are conscious of this,” said Dr. Lenise Garcia, a biology professor at the University of Brasília and the president of Brazil Without Abortion, a group against easing the abortion laws. “Getting an abortion creates guilt that will stay with the woman for the rest of her life.”

Or, maybe a woman who is desperate enough to seek a third trimester abortion knows exactly what she is doing. Maybe she thinks the infection is the tragedy and the abortion is the blessing.

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1 Response to When Infectious Disease Has Social Consequences

  1. Pingback: Q&A: What is microcephaly, the birth defect linked to Zika? | Herpes Survival Kit

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