Posts Tagged ‘Abortion’

By Sally Bohrer

In Africa, only three countries (Cape Verde, South Africa, and Tunisia) have legalized abortion. In the other fifty-one countries, abortion rights vary. None have completely outlawed abortion, as all African countries allow abortions to save the mother’s life, but most do not allow abortions in any other circumstances, even in the case of rape or incest. (For a full list of abortion rights by country, visit: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/ng-interactive/2014/oct/01/-sp-abortion-rights-around-world-interactive). (more…)


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By Clarissa Schaffino

Microcephaly is a rare condition where infants are born with unusually small heads and consequently have problems with brain development. This condition has not been widely studied but can have severe ramifications later on in life. Microcephaly is believed to be caused by a number of things but today there is a concern regarding the Zika Virus. This virus is transmitted by a vector mosquito and produces minor symptoms for its host. This virus is believed to have come from Africa in the early 1940’s (Tavernise, 2016). Today, it is affecting many pregnant women in Brazil and other regions of the Americas. Those who have had this virus are now seeing microcephaly in their newborn babies. This is a rising concern due to the large number of incidence. Zika virus has not been proven to cause the condition of microcephaly but there appears to be a strong link among the two and major health players are stepping in.

Little is known about the exact transmission of Zika virus. It was previously thought that this virus was only caused by mosquito bite; however, new cases in different regions suggest that there are other transmission pathways. According to an article in the New York Times, new cases of Zika Virus in the United States suggest that “Zika virus” is “possibly being transmitted by sex” (Tarvernise, 2016). A report from Live Science, confirms this theory by stating that there are cases that “[provide] even more evidence that the virus can be transmitted through sex” (Rettner, 2016). A report on a man who contracted this virus states that “follow-up tests for the virus” were “conducted” and “it could still be found in the semen 62 days after the man’s illness”. This news is alarming because women now have to protect themselves for a period that is longer than 30 days and they may not have access to the proper protection methods such as “condoms or contraception” (Tavernise, 2016). Also, the “testing of semen may be difficult” (Rettner, 2016). This could cause problems because we are not entirely sure how long the virus remains present in fluids; therefore, we do not know when or how long women should refrain from pregnancy.

Another major concern is strict abortion laws in Brazil and in other countries (Romero, 2016). Women who are getting pregnant with Zika virus and do not wish to bring the baby to full term are not being permitted to get abortions. I believe that this will have a big impact on this specific generation of children being born. Women should have the choice in bringing a child into the world. A child with severe developmental problems may not live a life as beneficial as a child without these problems. This condition will also impact the healthcare system due to cost of care for an infant with severe developmental problems.

Treatment methods for this virus are still being researched. A vaccination may prove to be the best preventative option for women who are pregnant. However, there is some stigma against vaccinations and pregnancy. Women may not feel comfortable getting a vaccine during their pregnancy because of fear of hurting the fetus. Eradication may be more difficult than we imagined. Education on safe sex will also be a major tool in fighting the spread of this virus. We have to develop more treatment methods and have more education on safe sex practices. Currently, STI’s are still spread in large numbers.

Ultimately, this problem is going to take time to fix. This virus has the potential to cause major dents in the public health field. There are many different moving parts in regards to this virus and its consequences. Zika Virus is spreading fast through South America, Central America, and now to the United States. If not stopped now, we will be seeing the effects of this virus for years to come. I would recommend this topic to women who are considering pregnancy. This is a major concern because as of now there are little ways to combat the virus. Learning about this topic has opened my eyes to the many different avenues that a virus can impact. Zika Virus is not just a virus that affects a host but it is also a virus that has effects on an infant, on the healthcare system, political system, and global and local public health systems.


Below is a video from the New York Times that discusses the Zika Virus:





Rettner, R. (2016, February 12). Zika Virus in Semen Provides More Evidence of Sexual Spread.           Retrieved February 25, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/53704-zika-virus-semen-       sexual-transmission.html


Romero, S. (2016, February 3). Surge of Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict                          Abortion Laws. The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from                                         http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/04/world/americas/zika-virus-brazil-abortion-                      laws.html


Tavernise, S. (2016, February 23). C.D.C. Investigating 14 New Reports of Zika Transmission Through Sex. The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from             http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/health/zika-virus-sexual-                                                    transmission.html?ref=health




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By Alicia Van Enoo

Abortion is one of the biggest issues of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Race. The debate centers on the complicated interplay between moral beliefs and legal rights, but rarely focuses on the medical consequences of preventing access to abortions. Recent statistics show that “of the estimated 44 million abortions performed every year worldwide, around half are considered unsafe.”1 This is a specifically important issues in countries where proper medical care and access to birth control is limited or non-existent. In countries where abortions are illegal, and even in countries where they are legal, but inaccessible due to “providers claiming conscientious objection”5, many women resort to extreme and often dangerous methods of terminating pregnancy.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 woman dies every 8 minutes due to complications from unsafe abortions, making it “one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%).”3 With limited access to contraception and sexual education and the alarmingly high incidence of rape in certain developing countries, unwanted pregnancies are not uncommon. Young girls and mothers who are already struggling are faced with difficult decisions in a healthcare system that does not support them. WHO defines unsafe abortions as “a procedure for terminating a pregnancy that is performed by an individual lacking the necessary skills, or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.”2 Practically speaking, this can range from ingesting toxic chemicals, placing foreign objects into the uterus, or even blunt force trauma to the abdomen.3 These risky methods often lead to hemorrhage, infection, sepsis, or genital trauma – which without immediate medical attention, can result in death.3 Doctors without Borders run an obstetrical emergency center in Haiti to treat women suffering from pregnancy complications.1 They receive many women who are hemorrhaging and suffering from sepsis due to incomplete abortions. Unfortunately, if the abortion is incomplete, but uncomplicated, they are forced to refer them to another clinic. With the stigma associated with abortion, many women are often either treated disrespectfully, or even withheld treatment and left to die.1

Less restrictive abortion laws do not result in increased abortions, on the contrary, countries with the strictest abortion regulations have the highest rates of abortion.2 Consequently, the majority of unsafe abortions happen in developing nations, where abortions are largely unavailable due to accessibility or legality issues.3 South Africa is a promising case study looking at the effect of policy changes on the rates of unsafe abortions. In 2008, more than 97% of abortions in Africa were considered “unsafe”. However, the rate for South Africa, where abortion was legalized in 1997, was only 58%.2 It is a common misconception in the field of public health that providing access equates encouraging behavior. Evidence shows that increasing accessibility to abortion does not increase rates, but it does significantly reduce the proportion of abortions that are conducted in an unsafe and unregulated manner.2

Although programmatic changes concerning access to abortions are undoubtedly necessary in countries facing high rates of unsafe abortions, the first line of defense should be prevention.4 Access to contraception is a privilege taken for granted by many in developed nations, yet it is only sparingly available to many women around the world. Additionally, sexual education is heavily lacking, even in our own backyard. Preventing unwanted pregnancy could help drastically reduce rates of unsafe abortions, without needing to directly tackle the sensitive problem of pregnancy termination.

I concede that at a time of intense debate concerning individual rights and protection, it is difficult to step away from the legal and moral dimensions of abortion. However, the health implications of unsafe abortions make it first and foremost a medical issue in developing nations. Doctors Without Borders urges us to to recognize that aside from being an issue in the 2016 presidential election “safe abortion care is a medical necessity.”1 As Elizabeth McCguire, from Former president of Ipas, said “there is no perfect contraceptive method, so there will always be abortions, and it’s important that abortions be safe so that women don’t die.”4


The following video discusses Kenya’s struggles with unsafe abortions and highlights the extensiveness and severity of the issue



  1. Doctors Without Borders / MSF-USA. “The Dangers of Unsafe Abortion.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 10 Jan 2015. Web. Accessed 22 Feb 2016.
  2. Guttmacher Institute. “Facts on Induced Abortion Worldwide.” Nov 2015. Web. Accessed 22 Feb 2016
  3. Haddad L, Nour N. “Unsafe Abortion: Unnecessary Maternal Mortality.” Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2009;2(2): 122-26.
  4. VOA News. “World Health Organization Targets Unsafe Abortion.” Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube, 24 Jun 2010. Web. Accessed 22 Feb 2016.
  5. Wood S. “A Global class on Abortion. “ The New York Times. 28 Jan 2016. Web. Accessed 22 Feb 2016.

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By Madeleine Kelly

The hot topic at every girl’s sleepover in high school; how many kids their going to have, at what age their going to have them, and what their names are going to be. Unfortunately family planning turns out much better in your imagination than it does in real life.  The fight for access to sexual education and contraceptives makes it hard for women to control their bodies and lives. Living in a developed country we are lucky to have the minimal access that we have. Unfortunately those living in still developing countries are not as lucky.

In 2012, the United Nations declared access to contraception a “universal human right.” This was quite a step in allowing women to take control of their bodies. This declaration is by no means a law, it stands with no legal emphasis, but it opens doors to future legal movements towards much needed help. As of 2015 it was found that only 40% of married or in union women of childbearing age in developing countries were using some form of contraceptive (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 1). Keep in mind this only pertains to the percent of society married or in union. Family Planning is so vital to this century, with our high abortion and unsafe abortion rates, infant mortality rates, skyrocketing fertility rates coinciding with the poverty levels in underdeveloped (and developed) countries, and economic turmoil for so many countries.

With abortion as controversial as ever, it should not even be considered as a type of contraceptive or family planning. However because of lack of accessibility here we are in 2016 still abusing abortions. An amazing example of how family planning, access and education on contraceptives can impact abortion rates is Europe, which holds both the highest and the lowest incidence rates of abortion. The lowest, 12 per 1,000 women, is in Western Europe, and the highest is in Eastern Europe, with a rate of 43 per 1,000. The difference between the two is that Eastern Europe has low contraceptive use and dependence on outdated methods like the withdrawal and rhythm method (Guttmacher Institute, 1). Countries outside of the US and Europe haven’t been as lucky with family planning.

In developing countries, abortion rates are high, but unsafe abortion rates are even higher. What the World Health Organization is calling, a “preventable pandemic,” unsafe abortions are the result of fear of childbirth but also fear of shame. Defined by the WHO as  “abortions done by individuals without the requisite skills, or in environments below minimum medical standards, or both,” they claim 19-20 million abortions annually (World Health Organization, 1). This is nearly half of the 43 million global abortions that took place in 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute (1).  They also show that an estimated 68,000 women die annually world wide due to complications from unsafe abortions (1). These are complications that can easily be fixed, with more access to contraceptives and access to legal and available abortions when absolutely necessary.

Another issue with limited access to contraceptives is infant mortality. For those who decide to come to term with pregnancies, despite not being ready emotionally, physically, or financially for a child, put themselves and their newborn in a risky position. As of 2015, the top three countries with the highest infant mortality rates, Afghanistan, Mali, and Somalia, are all developing countries with roughly 10% of their infants dying. There are 36 countries losing more than 5% of their infants, all developing countries (Central Intelligence Agency, 1). These high death rates are correlated with high birth rates, correlated with a lack of control over birth.

The UNFPA goes as far as saying that family planning will boost the economy, stating that for every dollar invested in contraception leads to a reduction in the cost of pregnancy-related care by $1.47 (UNFPA, 1) They also comment on the annual GDP of growing countries, giving the example, “If adolescent girls in Brazil and India were able to wait until their early twenties to have children, the increased economic productivity would equal more than $3.5 billion and $7.7 billion, respectively” (UNFPA, 1).  As you can see, family planning is as important, if not more important in still developing countries than in already developed countries. It is a public health issue that is in desperate need for more attention, with the ability to decrease need for abortion, decrease infant mortality and population problems, and potentially increase economic productivity, family planning needs to be of higher concern to nations with these problem areas.


Beadle, Amanda Peterson. “United Nations Declares Access To Contraception A ‘Universal Human Right’.” Center for American Progress Action Fund, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. <http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/11/14/1189161/un-contraception-human-right/&gt;.


“Facts on Induced Abortion Worldwide.” Facts on Induced Abortion Worldwide. Guttmacher Institute, Nov. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html


“Family Planning/Contraception.” World Health Organization, May 2015. Web. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs351/en/&gt;.


“Family Planning | UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund.” Family Planning | UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund. United Nations Population Fund, 20 Apr. 2015. Web. <http://www.unfpa.org/family-planning#&gt;.


“Increased Contraceptive Use Worldwide.” Reproductive Health Matters. Department of Economic and Social Affairs 11.21, Integration of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services: A Health Sector Priority (2003): 198. Web. <http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/family/trendsContraceptiveUse2015Report.pdf&gt;.


“The World Fact-book: Country Comparisons: Infant Mortality.” Central Intelligence Agency, 2015. Web. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html

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By Michaela Gillis

Scientists are still puzzled by the Zika virus. Before 2007, only 14 people were documented to have Zika. No scientist was conducting research on the virus – it was not a subjective problem. People were experiencing flu like symptoms, nothing life threatening. Today, many mothers are wishing scientists took an interest nine years ago. Now, the race to find out what Zika is, is on. Scientists are currently invested in figuring out what Zika is. What causes Zika, how it is transmitted, how is causes birth defects.  This comes at a high price. The only reason, arguably, why Zika is being noticed by so many scientists now is because it causes an awful birth defect. The birth defect correlated with Zika is the shrinking heads of babies, and because of this, their brains are not able to fully develop. This is called microcephaly. As a public health advocate, I wish scientists would be engaged in viruses to prevent these problems, not research viruses because of these problems. I understand research funding comes into play when scientists apply for grants to conduct research, but that just means the entire system is flawed. My hope for the future is it will not be foolish to scientifically investigate people who only have flu-like symptoms, like the first people with the Zika virus.

Researchers are conducting case control studies, where they look at mothers with the virus and those who do not have the virus, to determine if Zika is definitely the cause of the birth defects being reported. Many doctors in Brazil were failing to report birth defects in babies, so who really knows how detrimental the problem really is.

The Zika virus has huge implications for women. While it is not proven Zika causes birth defects in any/all women, women are still going to be afraid to get pregnant. We need to think, not only about the present, but also of the implications for the future. After WWII in America, there was a rise in reproductive activity, and we now call that generation of children the baby boomers. What will we call this lack of generation in the future?

God forbid if Zika comes into the United States, it will bring a new light on the pro life pro choice argument. As if we needed another reason to not allow foreigners into our country, cough cough Trump.

Zika Virus Map

The Pope is not afraid of a fight. He suggested birth control could be used to prevent the spread of Zika, despite the Catholic Church’s ban on contraceptives. This highly affects places like Latin America, which is mostly consisted of people who are Catholic. Abortion in Latin America is illegal and it is very hard for women to obtain contraceptives. The Pope coming out and advocating for contraceptives because of Zika, may encourage areas like Latin America to make contraceptives more available to their women citizens. The government can warn women not to get pregnant all they want, but if they do not help provide resources to not get pregnant, their message will not be very successful. The virus is not women’s fault. The government should be trying to help the victims of this situation. The virus is the government’s responsibility, not women citizens.


Resource: vox.com

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