Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Laws of Eve: Zika and Ja abortion laws

Published:Monday | April 18, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Mosquitoes

By now, we all know that the Zika virus has been linked to birth defects, such as mycrocephaly, but more questions remain than answers. We also know that the fear of contracting the Zika virus during pregnancy is causing many pregnant women to contemplate having abortions.

I recently discovered that in many South American countries where Zika is prevalent, such as Brazil and Venezuela, pregnant women who are unable to travel are attempting to import abortion pills from organisations such as womenonweb.org. This is a digital community of women who support abortion rights. On request, they supply abortion pills to women who wish to procure abortions.

In a very interesting article on independent.co.uk, there is reference to several emails that Women on Web received from women begging for help to terminate their pregnancies.

In Jamaica, sections 72 and 73 of the Offences Against the Person Act make it illegal for a pregnant woman to attempt to abort her foetus or for any other person to attempt to do so. However, under the common law, it may be lawful for an abortion to be performed (in some circumstances) for the purpose of preserving a life.

 

COMMON-LAW EXCEPTION UNLIKELY

 

The current state of the law, given the fact that mycrocephaly is not said to be life-threatening to the mother or the foetus, means that it is unlikely that the common law exception would avail a Jamaican women who is contemplating an abortion because she contracted the Zika virus.

If abortion is not a feasible solution, what then should women know about the Zika virus?

The following recommended precautions should be noted:

1. Avoid travel to an area with Zika.

• Until more is known, special precautions should be taken by pregnant women.

• If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your health-care provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.

2. Take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

• Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out.

• Use approved insect repellents that are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

• Remove or stay away from mosquito-breeding sites, like containers with standing water.

3. Take steps to prevent contracting Zika through sex.

• Until more is known, pregnant women with male sex partners who have lived in or travelled to an area with Zika virus should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy.

• If a pregnant woman is concerned that her male partner may have or had the virus, she should talk to her health-care provider.

• Women trying to get pregnant should talk to their health-care provider before travelling to areas with Zika.

4. See a health-care provider.

• Pregnant women who have recently travelled to an area with Zika should talk to a health-care provider even if they don't feel sick.

• It is especially important that pregnant women see a doctor if they develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes during their trip or within two weeks after travelling to an area where Zika has been reported.

• Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Please send questions and comments to lawsofeve@gmail.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.