The Zika epidemic and abortion in Latin America: a scoping review

Glob Health Res Policy. 2018 May 3;3:15. doi: 10.1186/s41256-018-0069-8. eCollection 2018.


Background: Latin America presently has the world's highest burden of Zika virus, but there are unexplained differences in national rates of congenital malformations collectively referred to as Congenital Zika Syndrome (CZS) in the region. While Zika virulence and case detection likely contribute to these differences, policy-related factors, including access to abortion, may play important roles. Our goal was to assess perspectives on, and access to, abortion in Latin America in the context of the Zika epidemic.

Methods: We conducted a scoping review of peer-reviewed and gray literature published between January 2015 and December 2016, written in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French. We searched PubMed, Scielo, and Google Scholar for literature on Zika and/or CZS and abortion, and used automated and manual review methods to synthesize the existing information.

Results: 36 publications met our inclusion criteria, the majority of which were qualitative. Publications were generally in favor of increased access to safe abortion as a policy-level response for mitigating the impact of CZS, but issues with implementation were cited as the main challenge. Aside from the reform of abortion regulation in Colombia, we did not find evidence that the Zika epidemic had triggered shifts in abortion policy in other countries.

Conclusion: Abortion policy in the region remained largely unchanged following the Zika epidemic. Further empirical research on abortion access and differential rates of CZS across Latin American countries is required.

Keywords: Abortion; Congenital Zika syndrome; Latin America; Maternal and child health; Public health practice; Zika.