Pro-abortion advocates are attempting to use the birth risks associated with the spread of Zika virus to advance a murderous agenda. Christians must use this crisis to demonstrate the compassion of the Lord Jesus.
The Zika Epidemic
The Zika virus has been in recent news since its accelerated growth in Latin America, prompting international concern due to the risk of global expansion, especially as athletes and tourists were exposed to the virus at the Olympic Games in Brazil. The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease which originated in Uganda, and is now spreading to people in the Americas through infected mosquitoes, or through sexual intercourse with a Zika-infected person. Although the illness itself is mild in comparison to dengue or yellow fever, the infection can cause a serious brain defect in unborn children called microcephaly, “a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age.”
The effects of microcephaly in newborn children can range from relatively minor complications to constant pain, seizures, blindness, deafness, the inability to flex body muscles, the inability to move, crawl or walk, and even premature death. According to science journalist Donald McNeil Jr., Zika is the only “mosquito-borne virus that routinely crosses the placenta to kill or cripple babies…when other mosquito-borne viruses like dengue, yellow fever, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis almost never do.”
The reason the Zika virus has also been a concern for pregnant mothers in North America is because the mosquito that transmits the virus (Aedes aegypti) lives in 30 U.S. states, and according to a recent discovery, “a related mosquito that might transmit it, Aedes albopictus… is found in almost every state – its range in the hottest summers touches parts of Maine and Minnesota.” This invasive species has prompted concern that home-grown mosquitos can likewise carry the Zika virus and pose problems for pregnant mothers and their babies.
The Pressure to Legalize Abortion
Zika experts have been advising women who live in peak-infected areas to delay their pregnancies, as communicated by Brazil’s epidemic response chief, Dr. Claudio Maierovitch. This was likewise requested by the Colombian, Ecuadorian, Jamaican, and El Salvadorian governments, all whom have urged women to wait up to two years before considering pregnancy.
The cultures of Central and South American nations are predominantly Roman Catholic, and the archbishops in many countries have agreed that there was “nothing wrong with ‘practicing self-discipline,’ to prevent the birth of a deformed child. But…abortion was, of course, out of the question” for those infected. Pro-choice advocates have been lobbying for the legalization of abortion in Latin America for years, and these groups are using the Zika crisis as an opportunity to enhance the public image of their murderous desires.
Colombia, for example, permits abortion services under particular circumstances, but according to Monica Roa, chief of strategy for a Madrid-based women’s rights group, Women’s Link Worldwide, abortion isn’t easily accessible enough because it’s not available on demand. In Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, abortion is “illegal under any circumstances.” And although Brazil makes certain exceptions, lawmakers are now working to tighten existing abortion laws, sentencing women who abort their babies with microcephaly up to 4.5 years in jail, a “counter-reaction to a petition asking the Brazilian court to allow women with microcephaly-affected fetuses to terminate their pregnancy.” However, Roa regards these laws as “offensive to women and even… ridiculous,” while the Citizen’s Coalition for the Decriminalization of Abortion argues that the practice is a necessity in Latin America for those who experience unwanted pregnancies.
We shouldn’t be surprised that pro-choice advocates are taking advantage of the Zika epidemic. In fact, there is “a historical precedent for using epidemics to win reproductive rights.” Before Roe v. Wade, the rubella epidemic of 1964 played a role in the American abortion debate, as the epidemic “damaged 20,000 babies,” and by 1968, “four states had passed laws permitting termination of a pregnancy if a serious birth defect was suspected.” The growing epidemic of the Zika virus has brought increased pressure on Latin American countries to legalize abortion.
Biblically, abortion is murder, a violation of God’s law (Ex. 20:13). When abortion is legalized at the national level, it can be considered “systematic” murder, because of its sanction by politicians and healthcare providers. However, just because this murderous practice is legalized, either by the courts or by Parliament, does not make it morally permissible. Murder approved by democratic consensus is no less abhorrent, or unlawful, than murder under any other circumstance. Man has here asserted his moral autonomy, determining for himself what is right and wrong, redefining the parameters and meaning of the law without reference to God and his Word, on which the laws of Western nations were largely founded.
In an effort to gloss over the realities of abortion, Western society has declared, on its own authority, that the baby in the womb is not really a “person” but rather just a fetus, a blob of flesh, up until the moment of birth. Contrast this sentiment with God’s commission to the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jer. 1:5).”
This text, among many others, implies that God regards the unborn as a “person” from the very moment of conception. How could God have consecrated and appointed a “non-person” as a prophet to the nations? Other biblical passages likewise speak of God’s active role in our creation and formation in the womb, the affirmation of our personhood, such as Psalm 139:13-16. The fact that God prescribes the death penalty for someone who causes the death of a baby in the womb (Ex. 21:22-25) tells us that God views abortion as the murder of one created in the Imago Dei – the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).
Essentially, pro-choice lobbyists are saying that children with disabilities or birth defects such as microcephaly are undeserving of life and should therefore be killed. They are deemed unfit to live or to reproduce in a Darwinian world. But God says that such people too are created in His image, irrespective of their disabilities, and also deserving of life.
The Church’s Response
McNeil Jr. is right to say that the church has been strongly resisting abortion in Latin America, protecting the lives of the unborn; this should instill hope that the North American church can likewise do the same. But in the midst of this epidemic, one of various diseases which are products of the curse (Rom. 8:20-21), the church must also be sensitive to those mothers who are Zika-infected and are expecting (or already have) babies with microcephaly. Families that are devastated with discovering that their children may never walk, move, see or hear throughout their lives, need comfort, love and social assistance from the church.
Historically, Christians often laid down their lives during times of plague and disease because, as the physician Dr. Carlisle Percival writes:
Christians believed that the grave is not the end, they were more inclined to put themselves at risk during epidemics and plagues… This Christian principle of caring for the weak, the poor, the outcast, those who would seem to be undeserving, has become institutionalized in our culture and is emulated by other cultures.
It is in such times of suffering and epidemics that we must remember the instruction of Romans 12:15, to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” The church must pray for the healing and comfort of those afflicted, and for the protection of those not yet touched by the epidemic, as well as demonstrating sympathy with actions of charity and compassion as “an important Christian virtue.” And in weeping with those who weep, we must proclaim the hope we have in the Gospel, of the One who “will wipe every tear from their eyes,” knowing that in the end, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4), the undoing of the effects of sin and the redemption of the created order.
 Taylor Umlauf and Youjin Shin, "How big a threat will Zika be at the Olympics?" The Wall Street Journal, last modified August 3, 2016, http://graphics.wsj.com/threat-of-zika-at-the-rio-olympics/.
 "Questions about Zika," Center for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified August 1, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/Zika/about/questions.html.
 "Facts about Microcephaly," Center for Disease Control & Prevention, last modified July 25, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html.
 Donald G. McNeil Jr., Zika: The Emerging Epidemic (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016), 18, 176.
 Ibid., 18.
 Ibid., 13-14.
 "Canadian mosquito spread of Zika untested," CBC News, last modified January 29, 2016, http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/Zika-mosquitoes-1.3426603.
 Luis Barrucho, "O Brasil vai encolher com a Zika?" BBC Brasil, last modified July 12, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-36682293.
 McNeil Jr., Zika: The Emerging Epidemic, 135-136.
 Pew Research Center, "Religion in Latin America," Pew Research Center for Religion & Public Life, last modified November 13, 2014, http://www.pewforum.org/2014/11/13/religion-in-latin-america/.
 McNeil Jr., Zika: The Emerging Epidemic, 136.
 See Women’s Link Worldwide, "Women’s Link," accessed August 10, 2016, http://www.womenslinkworldwide.org/.
 McNeil Jr., 137-138.
 Kuang Keng Kuek Ser, "Thanks to Zika, now we know Latin America has the toughest abortion policies in the world," Public Radio International, last modified February 27, 2016, http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-02-27/thanks-Zika-now-we-know-latin-america-has-toughest-abortion-policies-world.
 McNeil Jr., Zika: The Emerging Epidemic, 137-138.
 Ibid., 143.
 See Linda Long, "Abortion," The Canadian Encyclopedia, January 31, 2001, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/abortion/.
 BBC, "Ethics – abortion: When is the foetus “alive”?," BBC, July 20, 2006, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/child/alive_1.shtml.
 McNeil Jr., Zika: The Emerging Epidemic, 143.
 Jean Lightner, "Why did God make viruses?" Answers in Genesis, November 7, 2014, https://answersingenesis.org/biology/microbiology/why-did-god-make-viruses/.
 Carlisle Percival, “The Imago Dei in Modern Healthcare,” in Jubilee, Spring 2012, ed. Joseph Boot, 15.
 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans: 1988), 449-450.