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Due to Zika virus concerns, pregnant women in Latin American countries have increased their demand for abortion pills, according to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine.

With the exception of Jamaica, the seven other countries examined in the study experienced surges in demand that range from 35.6 to 108 percent for these pills. The highest demand surge has occurred in Brazil, home to the 2016 Olympic games.

According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus can cause microcephaly, a condition which leads children to be born with small heads, as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder that can cause paralysis and death. As of now, no vaccine exists.

“Latin American countries have some of the most restrictive reproductive health laws and policies in the world, particularly with regard to abortion,” states a report by the Center of Reproductive Rights. “In part this stems from not recognizing reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right.”

With little access to safe, legal abortions, many women in these countries have turned to Women on Web (WoW), an online non-profit organization that helps women all over the world access abortion pills outside of their home country. WoW served as the source of data for the NEJM’s study.

As reported by NBC, Dr. Thomas Gellhaus, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, stated, “The Zika crisis makes it impossible to ignore that women around the world do not have access to this basic health care need.”

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Elana Golub

Northwestern '18