UN Justifies Abortion Amid Zika Virus Outbreak, Urges Predominantly Catholic Latin American Countries to Change Laws

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Feb 08, 2016 06:36 AM EST

Some of the health officials from countries in Latin America have already advised their women to put off their plans for pregnancy amid the Zika outbreak. The virus infection is linked with a birth defect among babies called microcephaly, which is a a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the normal size.

But, for those who are already pregnant and infected with the virus, one of the options is abortion. And, this proposition came from no less than the United Nations.

The U.N. officials are now asking countries in the Latin American region, where most are predominantly Catholics, to reconsider their stand on abortion and modify laws to give these pregnant women an access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion, according to Fox News Latino.

"Laws and policies that restrict her access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations in order to ensure the right to health for all in practice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

"That's why we are asking those governments to go back and change those laws because how can they ask these women not to become pregnant? But also not offer them first information that is available but also the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish so," added Cecile Pouilly, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Pouilly gave the statement in a news briefing wherein she was asked about countries like El Salvador, which has laws that are strongly against abortion. The World Health Organization has already declared the Zika virus a global emergency, CBC News noted.

As of yet, the National Conference of Bishops in Brazil, the South American country hardest hit by Zika, has yet to release an official statement regarding the call of the U.N. to repeal laws on abortion. But, in an earlier statement, the bishops have somehow reiterated their strong conviction against terminating pregnancies by saying that the World Health Organization's declaration of Zika outbreak as an international emergency won't justify abortion.

Meanwhile, the U.N.'s prodding for the Latin American countries to change their laws in favor of women's rights was supported by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a US-based NGO. The organization believed that the burden brought about by the virus infection should not be shouldered alone by women.

"We agree with the OHCHR that these governments must fulfil their international human rights obligations and cannot shirk that responsibility or pass it off to women. This includes adopting laws and policies to respect and protect women's reproductive rights," said Charles Abbott, the group's legal adviser for Latin America & the Caribbean.

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