With birth defects reaching unparalleled proportions as a result from the Zika virus, experts are now saying the repercussions associated with the viral outbreak are escalating due to a Christian belief system of anti-contraception and abortions.
According to the World Health Organization’s Dr. Margaret Chan, the mosquito-borne virus “is now spreading explosively” throughout the Americas and there is a “steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.”
Brazil alone has already seen 4,000 cases of babies born with microcephaly to mothers infected with the Zika virus, which can also be “transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth,” according to the CDC.
— Raw Story (@RawStory) February 1, 2016
Experts agree that the best tools in fighting the Zika virus outbreak is to promote contraception and abortions as an alternative. However the predominately Catholic Central and South Americas, practicing safe sex is a religious taboo and is widely discouraged.
Raw Story reports that abortion is completely banned in five of the Latin American countries, and only 52 percent of women in the region have access to birth control. A Tennessee missionary doctor, David Vanderpool, told NPR that adherence to Christian edicts about sex has complicated the response to the outbreak.
“People assume that women in Haiti, you know, would have the same access to birth control that American women would, and it’s just not true,” Vanderpool said. “The Haitian woman may not have a choice in sex. The sex may not be consensual at all. And so just enjoining people not to have babies is probably not going to be very effective.”
“It’s easy to wax philosophical when we’re in an air-conditioned building in the United States surrounded by all the food and water that we need,” he continued. “We have so many examples of women who had to prostitute themselves because their children were starving to death. Well, you know, that’s not a philosophically discussed question, but that is a real question; that’s a reality.”
While the Catholic Church forbids contraception, Vanderpool said that his organization had found that opposing birth control was not a realistic option for those living in developing countries. “In fact, we give out contraception,” Vanderpool said. “Many of our ladies will be pregnant 16 times in their life. About half of those pregnancies, the children will survive until age 5. We see that with each pregnancy, they lose about 20 percent of their body weight, and the toll is extreme.”
Volunteer groups have warned of a rise in deaths from unsafe abortions due to a lack of access. Katja Iversen, chief executive of the Women Deliver organization called it “a cheap shot for governments to say postpone your next pregnancy if you don’t make contraception and access to safe abortion readily available.”
“It is interesting to see how the focus is on the big epidemic,” Iversen said. “But even though women are carrying the burden, they are still an asterisk.”
Listen to a report from NPR in the audio link below: