El Salvador: Protect Women and Families in the Face of the Zika Virus

As the Zika virus, which likely causes severe birth defects, spreads across Latin America, governments such as El Salvador’s are telling women not to get pregnant for the next two years. But many women there have no choice—access to birth control is limited, and abortion is banned under all circumstances.

The policy isn’t just futile; it will actively worsen the public health crisis. More women seeking clandestine abortions means more lives at risk.

Tell El Salvador’s Ministry of Health: Lift the total abortion ban in the face of this public health emergency. The health and lives of millions of women are at stake.

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Protect Women and Families in the Face of the Zika Virus

Dear Minister of Health Menjívar and Vice Minister of Health Espinoza Fiallos,

We're writing to encourage meaningful action in the face of the Zika virus, which likely causes severe birth defects for babies born to infected mothers. To adequately protect themselves and their families, Salvadoran women are in need of access to the full range of reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion. We urge you to call on the Salvadoran Congress to take immediate steps to lift the total criminal ban on abortion.

Without providing women and families full access to the reproductive health services they need to prevent, plan and safely end pregnancies, your recommendation to postpone pregnancy for two years is meaningless. In fact, inaction at this critical time will only worsen the public health crisis, with more women seeking clandestine abortions that will put their lives and health at risk.

Currently, women in El Salvador have little to no control over whether and when they get pregnant. Lack of sexual education and inadequate access to contraceptives - in addition to high rates of sexual violence and abuse - contribute to the staggering rate of unplanned pregnancies in the country. Furthermore, the total abortion ban and imprisonment of women for obstetric emergencies makes it impossible for women to follow your recommendation.

The government of El Salvador must do more to protect women and families from the onslaught of the Zika virus, first and foremost by lifting the total criminal ban on abortion. The burden of fighting the virus can't be placed solely on women, especially when they're prohibited by law from accessing the reproductive health care they need to survive.

[Your Name]