In countries across Latin America, where abortion is either very restricted if not illegal, pregnant women have started to seek abortion at substantially higher rates, shows a new study.
This development comes following an alert in November about the Zika virus that the Pan American Health Organization issued.
The alert spoke of a potential for Zika to cause complications in unborn children that included severe abnormalities of the brain such as microcephaly, as well as hearing and eye defects.
Some governments issued health warnings, including suggesting that women avoided becoming pregnant.
The move was unprecedented one of the study’s authors said – as telling a country to just not get pregnant is unheard of while not giving access to any options like contraception.
With an absence of abortions being available, women across Latin America have recently turned to a nonprofit on the web called Women on Web that provides access online to abortion medication, in specific misoprostol and mifepristone, which are not the same as the morning after pill.
Researchers found in their study that in places where health advisories were issued by governments related to Zika and problems with pregnancies, requests for abortions jumped by 108% through Women on Web. These were not women who had contracted Zika, but those who feared they could.
The biggest increase was in Brazil, with Ecuador a close second. Requests from Venezuela were next followed by Honduras, Colombia and Costa Rica. Just Jamaica, in the group of nations polled saw a decrease in requests for abortions.
In the countries that did not issue health advisories, the numbers were up generally but by much less. Bolivia had the largest increase, followed by Nicaragua, Paraguay and Panama.
Both the Dominican Republic and Mexico experienced decreases in request for abortions.
There was also a group of countries nearby where Zika had not shown up at the time of the November issuing of the alert.
Requests there were up as well including in the Bahamas, Argentina and Peru.
All the stats are linked with numbers from Women on Web, however, and probably they are underestimated, since many women might have used a birth control method that was unsafe and therefore accessed misoprostol from a pharmacy or on the black market or even visited providers in the local underground.
It has been predicted by the World Health Organization that between 3 million and 4 million people in South America, Central America, North America as well as the Caribbean will contract Zika by early 2017.
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