The Brazilian Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to legalise abortions of unborn children who may have disabilities after their mothers contracted the Zika virus.
In Brazil, abortion is currently classed a “non-punishable crime” in the case of a risk to the mother’s life, anencephaly or rape.
However, activists were attempting to expand this to allow abortions for mothers infected with the mosquito-borne virus. The virus is believed to be connected to conditions such as microcephaly, which results in babies being born with unusually small heads and a chance of delayed brain development.
But Raphael Câmara, an obstetrician at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that as few as 1 in 20 unborn children of infected mothers may be affected, and even then the majority have only mild problems.
He also highlighted a recent CDC study showing that “73% of Brazilian labs have a low accuracy rate for diagnosing the Zika virus, so the request is meaningless because we cannot talk about someone ‘infected with Zika’, but rather ‘maybe infected by Zika.’”
In 2016, a poll conducted by the Datafolha Institute found that 58 per cent of Brazilians did not agree with abortion in the case of a mother’s infection with the Zika virus, and most rejected abortion on the grounds of microcephaly.
In the same year, a Brazilian journalist with microcephaly said she felt “offended and attacked” by activists who wanted abortion to be allowed for the condition.
Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist
Ana Carolina Caceres criticised the campaign, saying that people need to “put their prejudices aside and learn about this syndrome”.
When she was born, doctors said that Ana would not walk or talk and would be in a vegetative state until she died.
But she said: “I survived, as do many others with microcephaly. Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist”.