American Journal of Public Health
September 2017 107(9)
Zika and Reproductive Rights in Brazil: Challenge to the Right to Health
Pablo K. Valente
107(9), pp. 1376–1380
The Zika virus epidemic rapidly spread across Brazil and Latin America, gaining international attention because of the causal relationship between Zika and birth defects. The high number of cases in Brazil has been attributed to a failure of the state to contain the epidemic and protect the affected people, especially women. Therefore, the public health crisis created by Zika exposed a stark conflict between Brazil’s constitutional right to health and the long-standing violation of reproductive rights in the country.
Although health is considered to be a right of all in Brazil, women struggle with barriers to reproductive services and lack of access to safe and legal abortions. In response to the epidemic, women’s rights advocates have filed a lawsuit with Brazil’s supreme court that requires the decriminalization of abortion upon the diagnosis of Zika virus.
However, the selective decriminalization of abortion may lead to negative social consequences and further stigmatization of people with disabilities. A solution to the reproductive health crisis in Brazil must reconcile women’s right to choose and the rights of people with disabilities.