The top UN Human Rights official has called on countries with the Zika Virus to make available sexual and reproductive health counselling to women and uphold their right to terminate pregnancies.
Zeid Al’Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on Monday in Geneva that laws and policies that restrict women access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations.
He said that this has become necessary in order to ensure any affected woman the right to health for all in practice.
The virus has been linked to microcephaly, a condition that leads to babies being born with small heads and birth defects. The United States of America Centre for Disease Control & Prevention states that microcephaly is linked to
- Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
- Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
- Problems with movement and balance
- Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
- Hearing loss
- Vision problems
His Spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, said there are some Countries like El Salvador, Malta, Poland and Liechtenstein amongst others that criminalise abortion.
She explained that as a result of such law, the commission was asking those governments to go back and change those laws.
Pouilly said it has become so urgent to change the law because such countries cannot ask the affected women not to become pregnant.
She said such countries must make available first information and also the possibility to stop their pregnancies if they wish so.
The current outbreak of Zika Virus, a mosquito-bourne virus has spread around South America. Thousands of people including pregnant women have been infected.
Brazil is investigating the potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly.