Updated 08:58 AM EST, Tue, Jan 19, 2021

Pan American Health Organization Call for Increased Access to Contraception in Latin America Due to Zika Virus Spread

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Due to the spread of the Zika virus, health authorities in at least eight affected countries recommended that women avoid getting pregnant.

While said authorities may have suggested so with the women's best interests at heart, women's rights advocates in Latin America as well as the Pan American Health Organization denounced such recommendation. They said that it is irresponsible to do so, considering that most pregnancies in these areas are unplanned, said The Guardian.

PAHO director Suzanne Serruya also said, "You can't recommend that women not get pregnant. The countries need to inform people of the risks, but the final decision is the woman's alone. It's her right." Other organizations saying the same thing pointed out that putting off pregnancies effectively puts the responsibility wrongly on women's shoulders at a time when there are no alternatives.

Among the countries that urged women to avoid pregnancy included Ecuador, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. All of these countries were noted to have urged women to avoid getting pregnant -- at least until more is known about the dangerous Zika virus.

The risk for the virus affecting newborns in impoverished neighborhoods is even higher, considering that women in these low-income areas have less access to contraception and have a greater liklihood of having standing water, which is the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Thus, PAHO noted that affected countries should call for greater access to contraception. An expert told Fox News Latino, "We don't know how much longer it will last. What happens if in two years it's worse? That's not the solution. We've got to work to reduce the vector (the Aedes aegypti mosquito) and to ensure women have greater access to contraception."

Women affected with the Zika virus give birth to babies with microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes babies to have smaller heads. Along with this comes brain damage and life long impairment that not many women in these poor countries can stand to raise. With strict abortion laws in South America, the need for education, contraception, and avoidance of pregnancy is easier said than done, especially considering the strict abortion laws in the region.

According to Time, there are only three countries in South America where abortion is legal, and that's in Uruguay, Guyana, and French Guiana. Everywhere else, abortion is only allowed in rape and incest cases, or if the life of the mother is at risk. However, Mexico, Colombia, and Panama are the only ones who allow for termination of pregnancies due to fetal impairment.

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