By Alexandra Sifferlin
Many states with a higher risk for Zika also have more abortion restrictions
Nearly 540 pregnant women in the United States and territories have Zika, which is proven to cause the devastating birth defectmicrocephaly and is suspected to cause other neurological defects, too. Health authorities strongly recommend that women of childbearing age take precaution against pregnancy or delay attempts at conception if they suspect they have contracted—or are at risk of contracting—Zika. For women in the U.S., where abortion is a legal medical procedure, those who contract Zika while pregnant will have to make the highly personal choice of whether or not to terminate their pregnancy.
“We don’t know how to prevent the Zika virus, but we do know how to prevent pregnancy,” says Dr. Chris Zahn, Vice President of Practice Activities for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “The Zika crisis makes it impossible to ignore the need for full access to safe, affordable and effective reproductive health care options for women—no matter where they live.”
Many of the states where Zika is most likely to hit—areas that are home to the aedis aegypti mosquito that transmits the virus—are places with major restrictions on abortion access. This map below shows where mosquitoes that could spread the Zika virus are present, according to the CDC, overlaid with state-by-state data from the Guttmacher Institute on abortion restrictions—such asextended wait periods or limits on when abortions can be performed—as well as the unintended pregnancy rate. Hover over each state for more information.