Zika Virus Has Significantly Increased Demand For Abortion Pills

June 24, 2016  |  

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Demand for the abortion pill has increased in several Latin American countries where citizens are currently suffering from the Zika virus, says the New England Journal of Medicine. In their latest study conducted with Women on Web, a non-profit organization that provides the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol in countries where doctors don’t administer abortions, researchers focused on how the Zika virus affects the choices pregnant women have to make specifically in Latin America.

What the authors found was demand for abortion pills has increased from 36 to 76 percent in countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras since the Pan American Health Organization put out an alert in 2015 that Zika causers birth defects. Orders for the abortion pill in Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela have doubled since that time. And while these percentages may seem realistic because of the Zika virus’ prevalence in tropical areas, Gilda Sedgh, the principal research scientist at Guttmacher Institute, revealed that the percentages may be skewed because Women On Web’s research in the study only accounts for the women they’ve serviced in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The study authors also noted their “approach may underestimate the effect of the advisories on demand for abortion since many women may have used an unsafe method, accessed misoprostol from local pharmacies or the black market or visited local underground providers. But accurate data on these choices are difficult to obtain. Thus, our data provide a window on how concern about Zika virus infection may have affected the lives of pregnant women in Latin America.”

Despite the differing claims the researchers have, one fact remains clear: women in Latin America don’t have access to even satisfactory reproductive health care. Jezebel reports from a recent study in The Lancet that an estimated 6.5 million abortions are performed every year in Latin America, with the majority of them being illegal. Women on Web released emails that have been sent to them by women in Latin America to depict the lack of health care access and issues women face in their countries:

“I contracted Zika 4 days ago. I love children. But I don’t believe it is a wise decision to keep a baby who will suffer. I need an abortion. I don’t know who to turn to. Please help me ASAP!”- Anonymous, Venezuela. 

Another, from Colombia, wrote:
“Here Zika is a major problem and the health authorities do not help with it … I have no resources at this time and want to ask for your help because fear overwhelms me. What if the baby is born sick?”

The World Health Organization has predicted more than 4 million people in the Americas will contract the Zika Virus by 2017, making this abortion pill trend seem likely to continue.

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