Head of UN Women: Expand ‘Reproductive Rights’ in Zika-Affected Countries ‘Not Only Because of Zika’ But It’s the ‘Right Thing to Do’

Lauretta Brown | February 23, 2016 | 2:06pm EST
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U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told CNSNews.com Tuesday that “reproductive rights” of women in countries affected by the Zika virus must be advanced “not only because of Zika but also, because it’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s important to rethink the extent to which the rights of women in those countries, reproductive rights of women need to be advanced because it could provide us with the solution,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said, “not only because of Zika but also because it’s the right thing to do.”



Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., about the challenges faced by women to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by UN Member States in September 2015, and the new global roadmap by 2030.

CNSNews.com asked Mlambo-Ngcuka to comment on the difficulty in addressing the Zika virus given the Catholic culture in the countries affected by it and their opposition to “reproductive health services,” such as birth control and abortion.

She added that she is hoping a convincing case can be made to these countries’ governments, because “it’s a scientific fact that you do need to relax the laws in order for the disease to be fought effectively.”

The mosquito-borne Zika virus is causing a scare in Brazil and is suspected to be linked to a birth defect called microcephaly.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Nicaragua ban all abortions, while Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela allow abortion only to save a woman’s life.

These predominantly Catholic countries now face an ethical dilemma as health authorities are advising women to avoid becoming pregnant due to the Zika virus crisis.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly condemns abortion as well as the use of contraception, apart from natural family planning.

U.N. high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Latin American governments to expand access to “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services” including “emergency contraception – maternal healthcare and safe abortion services to the full extent of the law.”

“Laws and policies that restrict her access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations in order to ensure the right to health for all in practice,” Zeid said in a February 7th statement.

Brazil’s Catholic bishops said that despite the grave situation, there was no need for “panic,” and no justification for advocating abortion as a remedy.

They called for the “shameful” state of the country’s public health system to be addressed.

Pope Francis was asked Friday whether the church might regard the use of abortion to prevent the spread of Zika as “the lesser of two evils.”

“Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another,” the pope replied. “On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.”

The pope concluded that he “would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease.”

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