In the wake of Zika virus outbreaks in South and Central America, a Dutch nonprofit is providing free, safe medical abortions for women in affected regions.
Women on Web, a group dedicated to helping women obtain safe abortions, announced in a press release on Tuesday that women less than 9 weeks pregnant in Zika zones can contact them and receive an online consultation. Pending doctor approval, the group will send medical abortion pills — the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol — via mail.
Zika, a mosquito-borne virus typically produces very mild symptoms in those infected, but it’s been linked to clusters of serious birth defects in French Polynesia and Brazil. Though scientists haven’t established a causal connection between Zika and the increase in microcephaly — a condition causing a baby’s head and brain to not fully develop — the World Health Organization has designated the virus a public health emergency in light of the link.
Health experts have warned women in “Zika zones” to delay pregnancy, but abortion is either severely restricted or outlawed altogether in many of affected countries.
That’s where Women on Web comes in.
“The Zika virus is now spreading to most of the countries where abortion is very restricted,” Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, the group’s founder and director, told the AFP. “We are extremely worried that this might cause increasing unsafe abortions. We really care about women’s health and lives, and we want to make sure that women have access to a good medical abortion.”
The nonprofit asks for a “suggested donation” between 79-90 euros, but no one is turned down if they can’t pay.
“We consider an unwanted pregnancy a medical emergency, and it is not ethical to deny care if somebody cannot afford it,” Gomperts told Vice.
But the service isn’t available in Brazil, where nearly 4,000 cases of microcephaly were reported in the past year, and where the government intercepts any packages that contain medical abortion pills. Activists throughout Latin America have been pushing for more access to legal abortions in response to Zika.
“What we have at this moment, in this country, is a group of women who is in fear of getting pregnant and not knowing what will happen during the pregnancy,” Debora Diniz, professor at University of Brasilia, said in a recent video.
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