Is changing Brazil’s abortion laws the real purpose for the claims of a Zika and microcephaly link?
See previous post The Truth About Zika Virus and Microcephaly for summary of the analysis showing failure to establish a cause and effect link between Zika & Microcephaly, and a broadening of the definition of Microcephaly. WHO, other agencies and activists have ignored the original Latin American Collaborative Study of Congenital Malformations (ECLAMC) analysis invalidating the original research. See English translation at http://www.nature.com/polopoly_fs/7.33594!/file/NS-724-2015_ECLAMC-ZIKA%20VIRUS_V-FINAL_012516.pdf
Brazil, a Catholic nation, has allowed abortion only to save the life of the mother or rape, but recently allowed it for anencephaly (missing brain birth defect). Was this a first step that prompted or preceded the bogus study and the alarming press releases? The UN has gotten involved and is urging changing the abortion laws across Latin and South America. Most of these countries are Catholic, so it could be considered an attack on the Church’s strict abortion stand.
See articles from the Guardian below about the campaign to change Brazil’s abortion laws and my notes in blue.
Zika emergency pushes women to challenge Brazil’s abortion law Sarah Boseley, The Guardian, Tuesday 19 July 2016
Women’s groups are set to challenge the law in the hope of making termination possible for women at risk of delivering a baby born with Zika-related defects. Women’s rights and gender equality supported by Women’s groups in Brazil are set to challenge the abortion laws this summer in the hope of making a safe and legal termination possible for women at risk of delivering a baby born with defects after exposure to the Zika virus.
“Women should be able to decide and have the means to terminate pregnancies because they are facing serious risks of having babies with microcephaly and also suffering huge mental distress during their pregnancies. They should not be forced to carry on their pregnancies under the circumstances,” said Beatriz Galli, a lawyer on bioethics and human rights who works for Ipas, a group dedicated to ending unsafe abortion. (IPAS is an international abortion advocacy NGO.)
Lawyers for the organisations will present a legal challenge at the supreme court in the first week of August, when the court sits again after the winter break. They are coordinated by Anis Instituto de Bioética, which campaigns for women’s equality and reproductive rights. (founder of Anis worked with the group cited below)
The groups have obtained an opinion from lawyers at Yale University in the US, who argue that the Brazilian government’s policies on Zika and microcephaly have breached women’s human rights. The government “has failed to enact adequate measures to ensure that all women have access to comprehensive reproductive health information and options, as required by Brazil’s public health and human rights commitments”, says a review from the Global Health Justice Partnership, which is a joint initiative of the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health. (“Health Justice” gives away the leftist, extreme position on “sexuality, gender and reproductive issues” of this group)
It is also critical of Brazil’s handling of the epidemic. Its “failure to ensure adequate infrastructure, public health resources and mosquito control programmes in certain areas has greatly exacerbated the Zika and Zika-related microcephaly epidemics, particularly among poor women of racial minorities”, the review says.
As of 7 July, there have been1,638 cases of reported microcephaly – an abnormally small head – and other brain defects in Brazil, according to the World Health Organisation. (almost all of these cases were in a small area in the northeast, but the Zika virus epidemic was country wide – a smoking gun against cause and effect) Women who do not want to continue their pregnancy because they have been infected, even if they have had a scan confirming brain defects in the baby, are unable to choose a legal termination. There is evidence of a rise in early abortions using pills obtainable online and fears that unsafe, illegal abortions will be rising too.
Galli said there were already about 200,000 hospitalisations of women who have undergone a clandestine termination every year, and a suspected 1 million illegal abortions before the epidemic. “We know that there are clinics operating in the very low-income poor settings in Rio and women are paying a lot of money and are risking their lives,” she said. (This appears to be an estimate based on a small number of hospitals extrapolated to the entire country and scaled up by some arbitrary factor. From various sources the estimates vary widely.)
Campaigners who want to change the law are encouraged by a ruling the supreme court handed down in the case of babies with anencephaly in 2012. This is a condition where the foetus develops without a brain, making it impossible for the baby to be born alive. The case took eight years, but eventually the court voted eight to two in favour of making abortion legal in those circumstances. (Is this the precedent prompting the Zika-microcephaly scam?)
Before the ruling, there were two exceptions to the ban on termination in Brazil – when the pregnant woman’s life was at risk and when she had been raped. Anencephaly became the third, but campaigners acknowledge that it is not a simple precedent.
Debora Diniz, co-founder of Anis and professor of law at the University of Brasilia, said she was confident the court would understand that the situation is an emergency. They were not asking for the legalisation of abortion, she said, but “to have the right to abortion in the case of Zika infection during the epidemic”.
“It is not an abortion in the case of foetal malformation. It is the right to abortion in case of being infected by the Zika virus, suffering mental stress because you have this horrible situation and so few answers on how to plan and have a safe pregnancy,” she said. (emphasis added)
Campaigners have five demands: good information for women in pregnancy, improvements in access to family planning, giving women mosquito repellents, better social policies to help children born with birth defects because of Zika and financial support for parents.
Diniz points out that the worst hit are the poor. “The feeling in my well-to-do neighbourhood [in Brasilia] is that everything is fine,” she said. People have never met a woman with Zika or seen a baby with neurological defects. But when she goes to clinics in hard-hit areas such as Campina Grande in the north-east, everything revolves around Zika. (Zika is a mild disease with low fever and rash, and is often not even recognized. Zika has been seen in other countries for 40+ years with no birth defects. Note the admission of limited area “affected.”)
“We have two countries in one country,” she said. “This is an emergency of unknown women. The trouble is they were unknown before the epidemic. I’m not being an opportunist. We have an epidemic and the epidemic shows the face of Brazilian inequality.”
UN tells Latin American countries hit by Zika to allow women access to abortion
Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro, The Guardian, Friday 5 February 2016 (Note that the article above is 6 months after this one, but is still touting the same line)
Strict curbs on contraception and abortion are common in hard-hit nations but UN says women should have choice about degree of risk they’re willing to take
Women protest anti-abortion laws in El Salvador, which has one of the highest rates of Zika infection – and where even miscarriages can be treated as murder.
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights has called on Latin American countries hit by the Zika epidemic to allow women access to abortion and birth control, reigniting debate about reproductive rights in the predominantly Catholic region.
The rapidly spreading virus is suspected to have caused an uptick in foetal brain defects. Although this is not yet scientifically proven, many campaigners say women should have a choice about the degree of risk they are willing to take. (emphasis added. Note that this author at least admits the lack of scientific proof.)
This is currently very limited in Latin America due to strict controls on birth control and abortion, which range widely from country to country. On one extreme is El Salvador – which has one of the highest rates of Zika infection in the continent – where even miscarriages can be treated as murder. On the other is Uruguay, where pregnancies can be terminated in any circumstances up to 12 weeks.
The UN commissioner is asking governments in Zika-affected areas to repeal policies that break with international standards on access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion.
“We are asking those governments to go back and change those laws,” said spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly on Friday. “Because how can they ask those women to become pregnant but also not offer them first information that is available, but the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish?”
The commissioner’s initiative was welcomed by the US-based NGO the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“Women cannot solely bear the burden of curbing the Zika virus,” said Charles Abbott, the group’s legal adviser for Latin America & the Caribbean. “We agree with the OHCHR that these governments must fulfil their international human rights obligations and cannot shirk that responsibility or pass it off to women. This includes adopting laws and policies to respect and protect women’s reproductive rights.”
Health authorities in at least five affected countries have advised women to avoid getting pregnant, with Colombia telling called on women to delay pregnancy for six to eight months, and El Salvador, suggesting women avoid getting pregnant for at least two years. (emphasis added)
Reproductive rights advocates say the recommendations to avoid pregnancy are irresponsible and do not take into account that most pregnancies in the region are unplanned.
This is not the only area of contention sparked by the rapid spread of the virus. Scientists in Brazil are also in disagreement about the significance of new studies – revealed on Friday – that show Zika is present in saliva, which some say should prompt warnings against kissing. (emphasis added)
The Fiocruz research institute in Rio de Janeiro said on Friday it had identified live samples of Zika in saliva and urine, which merited further research into whether these two fluids could be a source of contagion.
Until the outcome is known, Paulo Gadelha, president of the institute, suggested pregnant women should think twice about kissing anyone other than their partners or sharing drinking glasses or cutlery with people who might be infected.
Although he said this was “not a generalized public health measure”, the proposed precaution has been met with a mixture of fear and derision. Other scientists argue that it is extremely unlikely for the disease to spread in this way.
“The warning is crazy and unnecessary,” said Rubio Soares Campos, who co-identified the first case of Zika in Brazil. “Just because the virus is present in saliva does not mean it can be transmitted that way.”
He argued that it was more likely to behave like dengue, another mosquito-borne disease that is found in human bodily fluids but cannot be spread that way.
But the latest news has increased the unease of the Brazilian public, who have watched with alarm as Zika has come from nowhere to infect an estimated 1.5 million people with an apparently growing range of suspected – but not yet scientifically proven – side-effects, including immune system disorders and brain defects in newborns. (emphasis added)
“It’s starting to scare the hell out of me,” said one Rio resident, Maria Teixeira. “At first everybody thought is was just a mild fever. Then, we were told it could develop into Guillain-Barré syndrome, and then that it was associated with horrible side-effects such as deformed babies. What’s next?”