The surging medical reports of babies being born with unusually small heads during the Zika epidemic in Brazil are igniting a fierce debate over the country’s abortion laws, which make the procedure illegal under most circumstances.
Legal scholars in Brasília, the capital, are preparing a case to go before Brazil’s highest court, saying pregnant women should be permitted to have abortions when their fetuses are found to have abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly that Brazilian researchers say is linked to the virus.
A judge in central Brazil has taken the rare step of publicly proclaiming that he will allow women to have legal abortions in cases of microcephaly, preparing the way for a fight over the issue in parts of the country’s labyrinthine legal system.
And here in Recife, the Brazilian city hit hardest by the increase in microcephaly and the brain damage that often comes with it, abortion rights activists are seizing on the crisis to counter conservative lawmakers who have long wanted to make Brazil’s abortion laws — already among the most stringent in Latin America — more restrictive.
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