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Just Say No? Oh, Okay

DodgertonskillhauseThe sweep of news on the mosquito-borne Zika virus is bringing to light a reproductive health issue that’s faced by people the world over- lack of choice. Lack of choice about sexual relationships. Lack of choice about pregnancy. The government in El Salvador has issued a statement that pregnancy should be avoided for the next two years. (Neighbouring countries are recommending the same, with their own timelines.)

Two years.

That’s right.

How in the heck is that supposed to be a realistic recommendation? The fact that women have few options for birth control (cost-wise and health care access wise) and abortion is illegal or unattainable, avoiding pregnancy seems unlikely. In a Mother Jones article, Paul Avila-Guillen, who works for the Center for Reproductive Rights points out that “Latin America has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and also of sexual violence. What is the government going to do about the women who get raped, if not provide them services and options?”

Little.

To suggest women should just say no to pregnancy is completely ridiculous. Many don’t have choices about if and when they have sex, let alone get pregnant. Zika highlights this in an excruciating way, with thousands of babies being born with developmental challenges.

Will these governments provide free birth control throughout their countries, tramping to the farthest villages to reach the people who need it? Will they consider abortion as the human right that the UN says it is? Will they address the cultural beliefs and norms that perpetuate violence against girls and women? Will they educate boys and men? Charge and prosecute them for violence?

Babies are just one consideration of this health issue. Perhaps Zika will be the push to further a more egalitarian agenda. Wouldn’t that be great?

 

Janet   |   @janet_madsen

 

Image: DodgertonSkillhause, MorgueFile

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