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Zika and Latin America’s War on Women

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As we discussed the other day, we don’t really know what the heck is going with the Zika virus. We do know that it is causing a variety of health problems in different places that are very bad. The most prominent is microcephaly, where babies are born with exceptionally small heads. If this is as real as it seems it might be, this could be a generational-defining virus. Several Latin American nations are advising women not to get pregnant. Oh, OK. Among the other problems here, such as placing the entire burden for this on women, is that abortion is illegal in almost all Latin American countries, often with harsh punishments involved. This includes Brazil and El Salvador, both of whom have made this recommendation to women. In Brazil, it seems that there is a push to use this as a way to weaken the nation’s harsh anti-abortion laws, with at least one judge saying he’d make exceptions in this case. But in El Salvador, no.

And some countries, like El Salvador, forbid abortion in all cases, even when the mother has been raped or her life is at stake. Despite the public health recommendations to avoid pregnancy, deputy health minister Eduardo Espinoza told Buzzfeed News that the government will have to uphold the anti-abortion laws, “whether we like it or not,” but noted the public health crisis may trigger a debate that could revise the law. But experts seem skeptical that the anti-abortion laws, which have been repeatedly passed by mostly-male governments in Catholic countries, will be changed any time soon.

Human rights organizations condemned the government recommendations to avoid getting pregnant, saying that it’s unfair for poor women to have to assume such an enormous public health responsibility in the face of laws that make it impossible for them to do so. “You’re asking women to make a choice that sounds logical from a health perspective, but it’s not a real choice,” says Tarah Demant, senior director of the Identity and Discrimination Unit at Amnesty International. “It’s putting women in an impossible place, by asking them to put the sole responsibility of public health on their shoulders by not getting pregnant, when over half don’t have that choice.”

Of course since these laws are about punishing women for sex, contraception is hard to come by as well. So I guess those sluts will just have to care for their shrunken head babies for the rest of their lives. Serves them right for opening their legs. This, sadly, is an accurate summary of how many in Latin America will feel about the situation.

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  • BiloSagdiyev

    So if it’s just God’s will, why did he unleash this virus on us? Maybe he’s a bastard. I am not equipped to make sense of that whole religious ball o ‘wax. There’s some real S&M stuff going on here.

    • Dennis Orphen

      Spaniards and Mexicans?

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Sithrak‘s the one in charge. It explains a lot, like the look on that kids face.

    • “If there is a God, he is a malign thug.”

  • carolannie

    Not only that, but the married sluts are supposed to provide sex to their spouses to avoid having the men fall into temptation. Lovely

  • efgoldman

    If this is as real as it seems it might be, this could be a generational-defining virus.

    I thought immediately of thalidomide, but that was a man-made disaster.

  • So I guess those sluts will just have to care for their shrunken head babies for the rest of their lives. Serves them right for opening their legs. This, sadly, is an accurate summary of how many in Latin America will feel about the situation.

    It’s an accurate summary of how anti-choicers in general feel about the situation, unfortunately. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them start praising God for the Zika virus before long…

    • AlanInSF

      I was going to say…it’s how many in U.S. America feel about the situation too, including, it seems, every Republican candidate for President.

    • evodevo

      Yes. this. At least two of my fundie Xtian co-workers (neither are Catholic, by the way) have said this out loud during a discussion about abortion rights. It’s a common sentiment here in Ky among evangelicals…right up until it’s THEIR daughter/niece/female relative’s life on the line…then it’s OK.

  • patrick II

    uch as placing the entire burden for this on women, is that abortion is illegal in almost all Latin American countries, often with harsh punishments involved. This includes Brazil and El Salvador,

    If the pictures/movies of Brazil’s Carnivale or their beaches in any way representative, it would seem that telling them not to have sex is even a more lost cause than it would be in most places. How could a country be so schizoid?

    • tomstickler

      The latest government advice to Brazilian women is to avoid kissing.

      • Marek

        I saw that movie! Julia Roberts, right?

      • Karen24

        I suppose men can kiss anyone they want to?

  • Nick never Nick

    Strange that this post receives so little comment — Zika might turn out to be an excellent example of how the ‘public’ is normally much more important than the ‘health’ when it comes to developing good strategies. HIV is the classic case, where the gross hillariousness of a disease that killed gay men prevented effective prevention policies at a time when its spread could have been limited (in America); other factors prevented its prevention in Africa. Obesity is another good one.

    Anyway, the first emergence of a new health issue is always chaotic, we’ll know in a few years what we’re looking at.

    • Strange that this post receives so little comment? Perhaps it receives little comment because there is nothing new under the sun. The abuse of women, and of the poor, and of pregnant poor women, will never cease until the end of days. The fact that there is a proximate massive public health problem and human tragedy ongoing doesn’t change this rather obvious reality.

      • Steve LaBonne

        Yeah, this is one of those Loomis posts where there really isn’t anything to say except “what he said”.

      • Nick never Nick

        Everything on this blog is about things that are not particularly new under the sun: employer abuse of labour, industrial abuse of the environment, Sturm und Drang between two Democratic nominees. That doesn’t change the rather obvious reality that intelligent public health responses can have an effect on the sum of human suffering, and are worth discussing.

        And there are new things under the sun — for example, the Zika virus in its current incarnation. I’m sure that the families that have been affected by it, or find themselves potentially affected by it, would disagree with you that it is simply part of the ongoing tenor of their lives.

    • Brett

      There’s not much grounds for disagreement, to be honest. Pretty much everyone here thinks it’s reprehensible for Latin American countries to be making these recommendations when they clearly have no intention of following through with enhanced contraception and abortion access (especially El Salvador).

      Of course there’s a class divide on it, as usual. From what I’ve heard, tons of abortions happen in the country’s private hospitals for rich and middle-class women, and I assume the same will happen if any of them get Zika-pregnancies.

  • Telling pregnant women to avoid places where people congregate, which Brazil has done, is almost as bad. Combine that with the new CDC guidelines and all women will have to be barred from public places unless they have the implant or are on the pill.

    • Nepos

      Hello, Gilead!

      Actually, that would make one heck of a conspiracy theory…

      • Karen24

        I tried collecting quotes from antifeminists and comparing them with quotes from “The Handmaid’s Tale” by the Commander. I stopped because it was too depressing.

    • Nick never Nick

      Well, the wisdom or stupidity of this recommendation depends somewhat on the actual transmission potential of the Zika virus.

      • Indeed, if it’s as bad as they’re saying it might be now, that recommendation is woefully inadequate.

    • Nobdy

      Say what you will but Saudi Arabia does not have any reported cases of Zika as far as I know.

    • Thirtyish

      Especially when you consider that there’s considerable evidence–prepare to be shocked now–that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurs in much lower rates, and involves factors other than maternal alcohol consumption to occur, than outfits such as the CDC would have people believe. It’s not that FAS is not potentially very debilitating when it does occur, but it’s almost as if public health campaigns intended to terrify women about the risks of FAS are more about attempting to control the behavior of all women of child-bearing age through moralizing injunctions.

      • To be fair, if you drill down to the recommendations for health care professionals, they use the same burdensome logic they apply to patients:

        Isn’t it excessive to stop drinking entirely before conception when there’s no evidence harm would result otherwise? Wouldn’t you do anything to save your baby?

        Isn’t it unreasonable to expect gynecological providers to evaluate patients’ drinking habits and encourage them to join AA? Isn’t it a small effort to help save babies?

  • kayden

    “And some countries, like El Salvador, forbid abortion in all cases, even when the mother has been raped or her life is at stake.”

    It’s terrifying that our own Republican politicians have this mindset and are moving in that direction. It’s also puzzling that forced birthers are often anti-contraception. You would think that Rightwingers would push contraception as an alternative to abortions. But that is not the case.

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/01/march-life-organizers-think-birth-control-same-abortion

    • Nobdy

      It’s not puzzling that they hold that perspective.

      As explained in the post, the position of most anti-choicers is that the sin of sex carries the just and proper punishment of having to have a baby. It doesn’t matter whether a woman prevents herself from paying this price by abortion or hormonal birth control, it’s still against god (condoms are less problematic because good Christian men need them to protect themselves from whores.)

      If anti-choicers cared about babies they would support a number of policies, including government sponsored pre-natal medical care.

      I mean forget contraception for a second, look at how many anti-choicers are also against food stamps and WIC.

      • heckblazer

        The interesting thing is that 40 years ago opposition to abortion and contraception was a weird Catholic thing, to the point where the Southern Baptist Convention was originally supportive of Roe v. Wade.

      • JonH

        “As explained in the post, the position of most anti-choicers is that the sin of sex carries the just and proper punishment of having to have a baby.”

        Yeah that always seemed weird to me. After all, the Bible says the wages of sin is death, not the wages of sin is life.

      • Brett

        I’ve heard the Catholic Church actually brought it up for discussion among the Cardinals in the 1960s about whether to revise the church’s open opposition to any form of non-procreative sex. You can thank the future John Paul II for helping to shut that down.

        The whole “it encourages people to have non-child-bearing sex” is the one I hear from anti-choicers most often. It’s strongest among the Catholic anti-choicers, but even the evangelicals are moving in that direction (or at least conveniently expanding their definition of abortion to include every form of effective contraception since the beginning of the sexual revolution).

  • ProgressiveLiberal

    “What you do, moms: put your clothes on, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, obey the commandments of God and pray for mercy. Remember, God can/will send worse.

    God sent Zika, praise God!”

    So I guess Westboro Baptist Church isn’t out of the mainstream for religions anymore…

  • And when I said something about this, it was immediately reblogged by the Department of Homeland Security. Why does that make the hair on the backs of my arms stand up?

    https://sledpress.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/pronatalism-bringing-the-stupid-once-again/

    • JonH

      I don’t know who reblogged your post but it’s not the Department of Homeland Security. DHS doesn’t use a .com domain, and their pages aren’t all spammy ads.

  • JonH

    I was somewhat relieved to know that, at least in some cases, a person with microcephaly can have a pretty normal, high-functioning life, at least if they can get the numerous surgeries that may be necessary.

    The BBC ran a post by a 24 year old woman in Brazil, who was born with microcephaly. She plays violin, works as a journalist in some fashion, and has a blog.

    I’m sure only a small fraction of people born with the condition are so fortunate, especially if you take the medical care into account, but it’s still somewhat of a relief given that I’d thought it always resulted in significant cognitive impairment.

    Here’s her piece: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35461429

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