Saturday, 16 April 2016

Zika and Abortion

I've been a student of the fetus freaks for years now. On their sites, stories are limited to a few categories. Some sites specialize in particular types of stories. The Amateur Statistician does what you'd expect from my nickname for her. Another fetishizes "botched" abortions.

The SHRIEEEEEKY categories boil down to:
• Number of abortions! YUGE! (China figures prominently here.)
• Gruesome abortions! YUCK! (Fake photos here.)
• "Botched" abortions! ANOTHER AMBULANCE CALLED TO XYZ ABORTUARY! (They seem to have people stationed permanently at clinics to watch for such events.)
• Terrible abortion laws! (Any law that expands access, even a smidge.)
• Wonderful abortion laws! (I don't need to spell this one out.)
• Terrible/wonderful politicians! (Ditto.)

Then there are the "human interest" pieces. These fall into types too.
• Celebrity anti-choicers, B-, C-, or D-list celebs you've never heard of, who ardently support misogyny and patriarchy.
• "Heroic moms" reject abortion, suffer awful disease to give birth. (Usually die leaving grieving but grateful family.)
• "Miracle babies (type 1)" born very, very early and yet survive. Usually with understated health or development issues.
• "Miracle babies (type 2)" born, despite medical advice to terminate, with what sane people would call tragic handicaps but touted as "blessings."

In the last couple of days, there are been a spate of the last sort. For example, here's one about a woman who adopts a baby with "parts of brain missing." (Warning: very sad pictures of fucked-up baby.) And here's one about a baby born without eyes, despite advice to abort. But a beautiful blessing, nonetheless.

Then the reason for these stories struck me. The US Centers for Disease Control just confirmed a causal link between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly. (Full New England Journal of Medicine study here.)

A couple of months ago, we speculated that such a link might be a game-changer, much like rubella was, and foster sympathy and support for women with wanted -- but suddenly tragic -- pregnancies.

Zika too might change the conversation around abortion.

Aaand here it is. ‘In no way does this justify abortion’: Pro-life leaders react to study linking Zika, microcephaly.

The piece rightly assumes that this confirmation will cause women, families, and governments to reassess their stands on abortion.

So, what's the counter-argument?

Not much. They revert to "miracle baby -- type 2."
Gwen Hartley, who has two daughters with microcephaly, recently told the Washington Post, “I know the joy that can come from having these kids. I wouldn’t purposely want another child to be affected, but I’m happy that they’ll know what I know [about having a child with microcephaly]. I would not have chosen it prior to my girls, but I didn’t know what I was missing out on.”
Many countries where abortion and even contraception are pretty much illegal are being hit hard by the Zika virus and, as we now know, the attendant massive public health and social crises of a generation of brain-damaged children.

Who will care for them? Who will pay for them?

Who will tell frantic pregnant women that they MUST bear these blighted babies?

Will new -- inevitably understaffed and underfunded -- orphanages for unwanted children be built as in Ceausescu's Romania when abortion was outlawed?

Or, to fend off the enormous social and actual cost, will governments, in addition to increasing mosquito-control efforts and supporting research into a possible vaccine, allow women access to contraception and abortion?

Interesting times. . .

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