Baroness Tonge – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department for International Development

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Baroness Tonge on 2016-02-02.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they plan to take to help to ensure that women have access to safe and legal abortion services throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in the light of the spread of the Zika virus and its potential link to birth defects.

Baroness Verma

As the main public health threat of Zika is to the unborn babies of infected pregnant women in affected countries it is important that responses to Zika include vector and infection control with a focus on pregnant women or women of child-bearing age and strengthened reproductive and sexual health services (for women who do not want to get pregnant). The importance of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for all women is brought home by the emergence of Zika. There may be increased demand for voluntary rights based family planning from women in affected countries seeking to avoid pregnancy, and there is a risk of a rise in unsafe abortion in some countries. DFID has a track record of promoting rights based family planning and in highlighting the contribution safe abortion makes to saving women’s lives. We are in close contact with DFID-funded partners, including in the UN system and civil society, active in affected regions although DFID has not been asked to provide specific sexual and reproductive health and rights assistance to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by the Zika virus.

New guidelines covering maternal surveillance and neonatal health are being rolled out across the region, developed by the Latin American Centre for Perinatology, Women and Reproductive Health.