Updated 10:07 AM EST, Sat, Dec 15, 2018

Zika Virus Outbreak: Catholic Church Opposes UN's Call to Allow Abortion in Brazil

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Brazil's Catholic Church has rejected calls to allow abortion to expecting mothers infected with the Zika virus.

Zika is being linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with abnormally smaller heads and incomplete brain development. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights have urged countries with surging rates of microcephaly cases to ease their laws and allow pregnant women with Zika to terminate their pregnancies, AFP reported (via Yahoo! News).

Brazil has restricted abortion except in some cases, which includes rape, when the fetus has no brain, or when the mother's life is in danger, the news outlet listed.

Auxiliary Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, secretary general of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, rejected the UN's argument.

"Microcephaly has been occurring in Brazil for years. They are taking advantage of this moment to reintroduce the abortion topic," the bishop told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, as reported by AFP. "Abortion leads to eugenics, the practice of selecting perfect people."

Sergio da Rocha, Brasília's current archbishop, said society should "value life in whatever state it's in," adding that "less quality of life doesn't mean less right to live," AFP further reported.

A group of activists in the country has also petitioned the Supreme Court to alter Brazil's restrictive laws on abortion, the news outlet noted. Each year, the nation sees around a million illegal abortions.

Women's rights activists in Brazil are also preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court to consider giving the right to abortion in microcephaly cases.

"We have everything on hand - we have an epidemic, we have the historical negligence of the Ministry of Health, and we have women's needs on the table," said Debora Diniz, vice chair of the International Women's Health Coalition, as quoted by PRI.

Since October 2015, Brazil has reported 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly, while another 3,670 cases are still under investigation, the news outlet noted. Scientists said that the Zika virus, carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, can be transferred from a mother to the fetus in the womb.

The Centers for Disease Control has warned women -- both those who are pregnant and planning to conceive -- to avoid traveling to South America, Central America, and Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico, USA Today wrote.

The virus, however, is not considered as a major threat to the rest of the people, USA Today added. According to CDC Director Tom Frieden, 80 percent of those infected will not display any symptoms at all, while others will only have mild symptoms. Zika remains in an infected individual's blood for about a week.

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