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    A Dutch Organization Is Providing Free Abortions For Women In Zika-Affected Regions

    "We want to make sure that every woman who wants to have an abortion can have one safely."

    The Dutch nonprofit Women on Web will provide free medical abortions to women in countries affected by the Zika epidemic where access to abortion is restricted.

    John Vizcaino / Reuters / Via

    Women on Web is a reproductive health group founded 10 years ago that provides health information, consultations with doctors, contraceptives, and safe medical abortions at little to no cost.

    A medical abortion is a non-surgical option for terminating a pregnancy in the first trimester. It involves the use of medications mifepristone and misoprostol and has been shown to be effective in pregnancies up to nine weeks.

    The Zika epidemic in South and Central America was recently declared a global health emergency as it coincides with a rise in babies born with microcephaly.

    Leo Correa / AP / Via

    Microcephaly is a condition where a fetus' brain stops growing so the baby is born with brain damage and an abnormally small head.

    Scientists believe that infection with Zika at some point during a pregnancy may be to blame for the birth defects, and in response, the CDC issued an alert warning pregnant women traveling to 28 countries.

    Health officials in some countries are even urging women to avoid pregnancy altogether for up to two years.

    Nyvltart / Getty Images / Via|No%20People|99907|NumberOfPeople/f=CPIHVX/s=DynamicRank

    However, many women in Zika-affected countries have little access to family planning and abortion services to prevent unwanted pregnancies due to legal or financial barriers.

    As a result, Women On Web plans to mail free medical abortions to women who are less than nine weeks into a pregnancy and have a Zika infection.

    Salvador Melendez / AP / Via

    "After the news about Zika and the connection with microcephaly, we noticed there were increased consultations from affected countries," director and founder of Women on Web, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, told BuzzFeed Health. However, many of the women affected by Zika do not have the money to cover the usual 70 to 90 euro suggested donation.

    "It's a public health emergency and finances should never be an obstacle to prevent an unwanted, risky pregnancy," Gomperts said.

    In a statement, Women on the Web said it would offer free medical abortions to pregnant women who send in their laboratory result indicating Zika infection.

    If a woman is eligible for a medical abortion, Women on Web's partner pharmacy will send a package from the Netherlands to the woman's home, containing the pills mifepristone and misoprostol.

    Women on Web / Via

    First, the women will fill out a detailed questionnaire about their pregnancy and have an online consultation with a doctor. The questions are aimed to cross-reference dates so the doctor can confirm how many weeks along the woman is in her pregnancy.

    Gomperts said the woman can also send proof of a positive pregnancy test if they have it, and about 8% have sent in results from a previous ultrasound.

    Since the packages can take up to five weeks to ship, the women need to seek out a consultation as soon as possible. According to ACOG, the efficacy of medical abortions decreases significantly after nine weeks of gestation, and later surgical intervention could be necessary.

    According to Gomperts, Women on Web informs women of the potential risks and follows up with them to ensure that they're getting the care they need.

    Mailing the packages is legal because they are only sent to countries where access to medical abortion is restricted, but not illegal..

    Women on Web / Via

    The packages containing medical abortion pills are only sent to countries where abortion is restricted – either legally, financially, or culturally — but not illegal, such as in Brazil (which they cannot ship to). Often times the law in these countries is that abortion is only legal if it is intended to save a mother's life.

    The organization can currently ship to these countries in Latin America with current Zika outbreaks where abortion is restricted: Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Paraguay, Venezuela, Argentina, Surinam, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Haiti, Dominican Republic. However, Women on Web will also send free packages to affected countries where abortion is legal but cost might be a barrier, such as Mexico, Barbados, French and English Guyana, and other Caribbean Islands.

    A major goal of the campaign is to prevent women from resorting to unsafe methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies, which is common in countries with abortion restrictions.

    Jorge Saenz / AP / Via

    Many women in Zika-affected countries don't have access to medical abortions because they are too expensive or require a prescription. If women can't afford the pills, they may resort to unsafe alternatives.

    According to the WHO, an estimated 68,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions, and the majority of these procedures occur in South America. "When abortion is made legal, safe, and easily accessible, women’s health rapidly improves," the WHO reports.

    "We want to make sure that every woman who wants to have an abortion can have one safely," says Gomperts.

    Inti Ocon / AP / Via

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