(PRESS RELEASE) Since the Pan America Health Organization issued its Zika advisory in November 2015, online requests to Women on Web for abortion pills have exponentially increased, according to a new study from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The study noted the number of online requests for medication abortion by women in Zika affected countries increased significantly, from 36 percent in Costa Rica to 108 percent in Brazil, the first country affected by the virus.
The NEJM study analyzes data of online requests for medication abortion through Women on Web between January 1, 2010 and March 2, 2016 in 19 Latin American countries, assessing whether requests for abortion increase after the Pan American Health Organization issued its Zika alert. Restrictive abortion laws are prevalent throughout Latin America, leading women to turn to organizations such as Women on Web to end pregnancies.
The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international health emergency and estimates the outbreak could infect up to 4 million people in the Americas. To date, the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Honduras and El Salvador—where the abortion laws are restrictive and there is limited availability of contraceptives—have called on women to avoid pregnancy to curb the virus.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today’s New England Journal of Medicine study proves yet again that women will take whatever steps necessary to control their fertility, health and lives.
“The spread of the Zika virus makes it abundantly clear that every woman needs access to the full range of reproductive health services and information so she can make informed decisions about her pregnancy and parenthood.
“The solution to this serious public health crisis lies in the hands of government officials and policy makers—not the women at risk of harm. It’s time that Latin American countries take real, evidence-based steps to combat the spread of this virus while protecting women’s fundamental human rights.”