The government of El Salvador, an underdeveloped Christian nation in Latin America, recently advised their female citizens “of fertile age” to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 due to the outbreak of the Zika virus.
The issue: El Salvador denies women the option to get an abortion under any circumstances due to religious reasons and doesn’t offer extensive options for family planning.
Birth control pills, IUDs and shots, as well as condoms, are all legal in El Salvador, but are often hard to come by. Birth control pills are only sold in specific locations and require a prescription, and condoms are only offered in limited subsidies, so lower class families can’t afford them.
Women often get imprisoned for having miscarriages, so to protect themselves, many El Salvadorian women are getting sterilized. In 2004, close to one fourth of all women under 30 were reported to have undergone procedures to become sterile.
So when El Salvador urges women to not get pregnant until 2018 but does not give them the resources to stop reproduction, it leaves them with only two choices. Abstain from sex altogether or have their tubes tied, a virtually permanent procedure.
With the Zika virus spreading all over the world and more nations urging women to avoid pregnancy, countries are forced to face abortions in a way they haven’t had to do; as a large scale public health safety measure.
There hasn’t been a need to publicly ask women not to reproduce before, unless you count China’s former one child policy. The Zika virus is the first modern disease that raises this concern globally.
Babies born with the virus are often born with microcephaly, a condition that causes children to have undersized heads. Microcephaly can result in crippling mental and physical disabilities- including seizures, difficulty walking or standing or vision and hearing problems.
Governments are concerned with the number of children born with this disease, because infants that have microcephaly are most likely to need life-long, possibly government-assisted care — something that many underdeveloped countries can’t afford and most developed countries want to avoid.
The Zika virus is a concern that has repercussions for public health that cannot be ignored for the sake of religious or cultural scruples.
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