Zika Virus Spread Renews Focus on Abortion Debate

BN-PM594_ABORT0_J_20160821185233

Source: The Wall Street Journal

By ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES and DAN FROSCH

MIAMI—For the dozen or so pregnant women infected with the Zika virus in the care of Christine Curry, an obstetrician and gynecologist here, the joy of pregnancy has become a wrenching exercise in risk evaluation.

“Some women will say, ‘This is nature. Whatever the world or God brings me, I will deal with,’ ” said Dr. Curry, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami. “Other people have less tolerance of risk … They will choose to end this pregnancy because the unknowns are too severe.”

The continued increase in the number of pregnant women possibly infected with Zika—which reached 529 in the states and the District of Columbia as of Aug. 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—is focusing renewed attention on the controversial issue of late-term abortions.
It comes as many state legislatures are tightening restrictions on such procedures. Some of the most active efforts are in the South, one of the regions most vulnerable to the spread of Zika by mosquitoes.

A nurse practitioner uses a fetal heart monitor on a patient who is in her first trimester of pregnancy at a medical center in Miami this month.

While the virus might not infect the fetus, if it does, it can cause birth defects including microcephaly, an abnormally small head associated with improper brain development. The fetus may appear healthy in early ultrasounds, only to display signs of birth defects late in the pregnancy, or after birth. Yet as more time passes, abortion becomes less of an option because of state restrictions on the procedure, especially late in pregnancy.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, whose home state of Florida is grappling with the continental U.S.’s first known cases of Zika virus transmitted by mosquitoes, drew impassioned responses when he said this month that he opposed abortion for pregnant women infected with the virus. “I’m going to err on the side of life,” he told Politico.

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