Abortion Rights and Zika Virus: 5 Reasons to Chat About it


In A Rush?

Abortion beliefs and decisions involve personal, medical, socioeconomic, and religious variables. How can we stamp reproductive rights with a “one-size fits all” rule? With that (looking at you Marco Rubio), I give you five reasons why we need an open chat about abortion restrictions and Zika-related microcephaly.

Our Policymakers Have No Idea what “Microcephaly” Really Entails

What does the GOP know about microcephaly? Can they even spell it? Marco Rubio stated: “Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with” Obviously Marco, obviously. Go spend a day or ten in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Overall, it’s a pretty rare condition, affecting about 2 babies per 10,000 births. By now, everyone has probably Wikipedia’d “microcephaly” and learned it literally means “small-headed-ness” (New Latin: microcephalia). If you want to seem smart at work, you can name-drop diseases like Cri-du-chat, or Smith-Emli-Opitz syndrome, or Menke’s disease. But unless you’re a parent of a microcephalic child or a medical professional, it’s hard to grasp the condition. Some children go on to live quality lives while others can face a constellation of seizures, blindness, hearing loss, and more. There’s microcephaly and then there’s severe microcephaly; it varies and should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Politicians Aren’t Pregnant Mothers

Yet they speak for them. A recent poll showed that 60% of Americans would consider an abortion, at any stage, if a baby had signs of microcephaly. Whether this is based on unjust fear or not, it warrants an open discussion.

It’s impossible to fathom what it must be like to find out, in a second-trimester, that your baby has microcephaly. You can’t speak for these women and say: “well, I’m pro-life so yep.” Some families can embrace the challenge while others can’t and may inadvertently lead disabled children into a difficult life. Harsh reality and this leads me to my next point… 

“Pro-Life” versus “Quality of Life”

We should always maintain that children are individuals – not numbers and not defined by a disease. Some children with microcephaly go to school, have hobbies, and live life to the max. I have so much respect for Viviane Lima, a 34-year-old mother raising two teenage girls with microcephaly in Brazil, who created a WhatsApp support group for moms of children with microcephaly. Moms like her are taking a stand to support other fear-stricken moms.

But if you lack support, live in poverty, and cannot afford healthcare, life may pan itself out a little differently; especially if your child has severe microcephaly. Everyone loves their children but healthcare access is a cruel, unemotional foe for many. In Brazil, some dads to microcephalic children straight abandoned their families. All aboard the scumbag express.

Questions to ask a wise person: 

Is it selfish to lead a child with severe microcephaly into a life with inadequate resources? An adoption is a viable choice for some but how will these children fairWill this lead to more dangerous abortions? Why is “quality of life” left out of this debate?

Healthcare isn’t Free.

It feels callous to consider the “cost” of diseases but our healthcare spending ridiculous and we need to. If visiting an emergency department for a broken bone can run you thousands of dollars, imagine the cost of all the procedures, treatments, appointments, and therapies for a child with severe microcephaly. I wish all children could get top-notch, timely, care but that simply isn’t our reality. So who’s going to pay?

A baby with microcephaly can run a healthcare tab of about $2 million dollars in the first few years of life. Multiply that by the 5000 cases Brazil is dealing with.

We Don’t Have a “Zika Virus” Crystal Ball

Aedes mosquitoes are the Kardashians of the insect world. They’re famous and these little bastards are enjoying it. They’re remarkable at transmitting disease, breed like it’s prom night, and have a wide geographical range.

Brazil already has nearly 1800 cases of microcephaly. Puerto Rico has about 5600 cases of zika, including 672 pregnant women, and recently had its first zika-related microcephaly case (get that country some birth control). How are we doing in the United States? We have about 500 pregnant women with zika and have already had a few cases of associated birth-defects.

Is it time to panic? No, aside from the routine prevention strategies, it’s time for pregnant women to avoid unnecessary travel to zika-affected areas.

What’s My Point?

Check out this interactive map and look closely at the Southern states; there’s a trifecta of abortion restrictions, a greater than 50% unintended pregnancy rate, and plenty of places for Aedes to party. Whether you want to admit it or not, the zika-abortion argument may be headed our way.



1 Response

  1. Netaniela@comcast.net'
    Nancy Alexander Koff

    Alok – Thank you for this straight forward and compassionate discussion. I appreciate your inclusion of the implications of Zika relative to societal, cultural, and political issues….availability of health care, health care costs, impact on family structure, individual rights to make health care decisions…you give your readers the opportunity to consider this issue from a myriad of perspectives.
    I’m proud to consider you a friend. Please continue to share your wisdom!