Via STAT, Helen Branswell writes: Latin American abortions may be rising because of Zika fears. Excerpt:
Abortions — legal or otherwise — may be increasing in Latin American countries where the Zika virus is spreading, new research suggests.
The data, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, provide an early glimpse of a hard-to-track phenomenon that may be altering the way this unprecedented Zika outbreak is recorded in the annals of medical history.
Requests for abortion-inducing drugs shot up in some Zika-affected countries after the alarm was raised about Zika infection in pregnancy, according to researchers who analyzed traffic to the website of an international nonprofit organization that provides the drugs early in pregnancy. The requests rose by between 36 and 108 percent. Abortion restrictions are widespread across Central and South America.
Although the researchers acknowledge their data doesn’t prove a connection, there were no increases in requests from countries where Zika was not spreading.
If this is an indication of the desperation women in affected countries feel, the steep rise in cases of microcephaly and other devastating birth defects observed in Brazil may not be repeated in countries whose outbreaks started later, experts acknowledge.
“I do wonder if in some of the other countries that they had more time to react, and you may see fewer cases of microcephaly because of the actions women are taking where it’s possible for them to take those actions,” said Dr. Abigail Aiken, lead author of the study.
Getting public health officials to discuss whether abortions will mask the true impact of Zika’s sweep through the Americas is difficult; abortion is a highly charged issue. During a recent World Health Organization press conference, for instance, a top official studiously sidestepped the words “abortion” and “termination.”
But Dr. Bruce Aylward admitted the WHO is hearing some women who know they’ve been infected are making choices about their pregnancies. When asked what he meant by that, Aylward, the agency’s executive director for outbreaks and health emergencies, muttered: “They don’t have the children.”