Bioethics News

Zika, birth control and free abortion pills

As concern mounts about the spread of the Zika virus, groups around the world are suggesting radical measures for North and South America.

Perhaps the most extreme response has been from abortion activist Rebecca Gomperts, the founder and director of Women on Web. Gomperts’ organisation is offering women infected with Zika free abortion pills, apparently to halt the rush toward unsafe termination of pregnancy.

“The Zika virus is now spreading to most of the countries where abortion is very restricted,” Gomperts told AFP.

“We really care about women’s health and lives and we want to make sure that women have access to a good medical abortion.”

Zika is thought to cause microcephaly, a rare birth defect, although the link is yet to be scientifically proven.

Abortion is illegal in Brazil save a few exceptions, and government authorities intercept abortifacients being shipped into the country. Gomperts is calling on the government to halt the ban “at least for the duration of the Zika epidemic”.

Elsewhere, Oxford bioethicist Dominic Wilkinson argued that Latin American and Caribbean nations should invest in birth control to prevent cases of microcephaly. In an article in the Conversation, Wilkinson suggested that birth control — though having limited efficacy due to the predominance of unwanted pregnancies — would at least stop a good proportion of pregnancies among women carrying the Zika virus:  

“If and when, international funds become available in response to the Zika epidemic, there should be a significant investment in birth control in Latin America. Governments in these regions should take seriously the need to address and remove barriers to contraception.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.