RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new poll shows most Americans approve of late-term abortion if a woman’s fetus is threatened by the Zika virus.
According to the new STAT-Harvard poll, six in 10 respondents thought women should have the right to end a pregnancy after 24 weeks if testing shows a possibility the fetus has a birth defect caused by the mother’s Zika infection.
Microcephaly, the condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads,is typically diagnosed past the 24th week of pregnancy. Virginia is one of the many states that limit abortions after 20 weeks.
“Sometimes it’s a little closer to late pregnancy that you can see the sequelae on ultrasound,” said Ronald Ramus, M.D.
By the time some women learn what Zika has done to the fetuses they are carrying, their access to legal abortion could be blocked. Chris Freund with the Family Foundation said he opposes late-term abortion, even for Zika-infected women.
“Certainly unborn children with a disability deserve the same protection as anyone else,” Freund told 8News.
Pressure is growing to allow late-term abortions in cases of Zika-related defects as the number of infections among pregnant women in the United States continues to rise.
“It’s very variable, and we’re terrible at predicting prenatally the severity of the neurodevelopmental outcome postnatally,” said Ramus.
In worst-case scenarios, the effects of microcephaly can be life-altering.
“(The patient) might need help to perform their activities of daily living,” Ramus told 8News. “It might be something where someone would not be able to be out on their own. They would need help for the rest of their life.”
Even though the Harvard poll shows high support for late-term abortion in Zika cases, Freund and others said no exceptions should be made after 24 weeks of gestation.
“We’d love to see the day where abortion isn’t just illegal in Virginia but it’s unthinkable,” he said.
Infection during the first trimester can trigger devastating damage in developing fetal brains. Infections can also lead to brain damage in the second trimester.
Since Florida announced it had discovered two people who had possibly contracted Zika locally, the number of cases in the outbreak has swelled to 16.