Throughout latinamerica, many countries ban abortion under any circumstance, an historic artifact of the states' close relationship with the Catholic Church. This ban on abortion has always put women's lives at risk, but with the threat of Zika virus, the dire situation has turned urgent, and widespread.
Though the UN has called upon nations to allow women to choose whether to bear foetuses, the Catholic Church has remained merciless, with Pope Francis declaring abortion to be a human evil.
Women on the Web is a Canadian activist group that suppiies RU-486, a medically safe abortion drug, to women in territories where abortion is banned or restricted. They report that they've received more than 1,000 emails from women in latinamerica, begging for abortion drugs, terrified at the thought that they are bearing foetuses that will gestate into children with microcephaly and a life of severe disability.
The group says that the 1,000 emails represent the tiny fraction of affected women with access to the Internet and say that far more are living under threat but without any chance to speak out.
The scenario is reminiscent of "Are you for 86?" a classic Bruce Sterling story about RU-486 smugglers.
"I am [name redacted]," begins one email. "I contacted Zika 4 days ago. I just found out I'm about 6 weeks pregnant. Today. Today, I found out I'm pregnant. I have a son I love dearly. I love children. But I dont believe it is a wise decision to keep a baby who will suffer. I need an abortion. I don't know who to turn to. Please help me ASAP."
Many of the pregnant women said they had tested positive for Zika but were unable to travel or obtain pills to get an abortion.
"I contracted Zika and cannot leave the country!" wrote one woman who asked to be sent abortion pills. Another woman said she was able to get Misoprostol on the black market but was unsure how to take the abortifacient.
Others said they were uncertain if they had contracted the virus. Some said they hadn't been tested, while a few said they simply didn't trust their doctor's diagnosis.
"How do I know if I am infected?" wrote one woman who said she had come down with a flu five months earlier. "Can you please let me know what should I do? What kind of exam do I need to tell the doctor they should do to me?"
With abortion banned in Zika countries, women beg on web for abortion pills
[Michael E Miller/Washington Post/Tico Times]