Even in the face of a devastating epidemic, anti-abortion zealots want to shut down a woman’s right to choose.
Senator Marco Rubio made headlines when he announced that pregnant people infected with the Zika virus should be denied the right to have an abortion, even if the child would suffer from severe microcephaly and other birth defects. With the Zika virus already infecting almost 1,000 pregnant women in the US, medieval attitudes like that are hampering efforts to contain the virus and threatening the wellbeing of women who could be affected by it.
Zika causes babies born to mothers infected with the virus to have abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. Unfortunately, the brain damage can’t be diagnosed until after the second half of the pregnancy begins, or at about 20 weeks. Abortion after the 21st week of pregnancy is extraordinarily rare in the US, accounting for only 1.2% of abortions. 43 states have bans or restrictions on late-term abortions. Most states ban abortion after 24 weeks, with 13 banning it after only 20 weeks–before Zika-caused birth defects can be detected. Restrictions need to be loosened, not made more draconian like anti-abortion freaks want.
The cost for mother and child is enormous. Many children born with Zika-caused birth defects never learn to walk, talk, or feed themselves. Some will have to rely on feeding tubes. And life expectancy is dramatically curtailed. The CDC estimates that it could cost $10 million to care for a child with microcephaly over the course of his or her lifetime. And the nutcases pushing to deny abortion rights to people with Zika aren’t going to be stepping forward when those bills come due.
Luckily, the American people aren’t buying it. A new poll shows that 59% of Americans want to allow abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the woman has the Zika virus and doctors determine there is a serious possibility that the baby would suffer from microcephaly. If you take Zika out of the equation, the number of people who favor allowing abortion after 24 weeks drops to 23 percent.
We need to loosen restrictions on late-term abortions to deal with a public health crisis. We definitely don’t want to make the problem worse by doubling down on restrictive laws.