A Dutch NGO said on Tuesday it has launched an international programme to offer pregnant women infected with the Zika virus free pills to trigger and abortion. Women on the Web hopes that its efforts will stop women rushing towards unsafe abortions."The Zika virus is now spreading to most of the countries where abortion is very restricted," Rebecca Gomperts, founder and director of Women on Web said. "We are extremely worried that this might cause increasing unsafe abortions. We really care about women’s health and lives and we want to make sure that women have access to a good medical abortion."
The World Health Organisation on Monday said a surge in serious birth defects in South America was "strongly suspected" of being caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus and constituted an international health emergency. It comes amid a regional surge in cases of microcephaly - a devastating condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain.
Gomperts said women who feared their unborn child might be affected could contact the service on www.womenonweb.org for a free online consultation. If there is no reason to think an abortion would be unsafe, then a package of pills to abort the foetus with instructions for use would be mailed to their home address.
Many of the nations worst affected by Zika have heavy restrictions on abortion, if not outlawing it altogether.
A "medical abortion" is a combination of two different pills to trigger a non-surgical termination and can be used up to the 12th week of pregnancy, Gomperts said.
Women on Web was set up in 2005 to support access to safe abortions around the world, and currently answer about 10,000 emails a month from women seeking advice on a variety of issues.
Gomperts did not want to reveal how many medical abortion packages are sent each month, but she brushed aside any criticism saying: "Our goal is to save women’s lives."