RIO DE JANEIRO — Across Latin America, calls to loosen some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world in the face of the Zika virus outbreak are gaining momentum but encountering strong and entrenched opposition.
In El Salvador, where abortions are banned under any circumstance, the health minister has argued for a revision of the law because of the dangers the virus poses to fetal development.
In Colombia, an organized movement to lift restrictions on abortion has gained allies in the government but has run into determined opposition from religious authorities. The same is happening in Brazil — and some doctors say that as a consequence, illegal, back-alley abortions are on the rise.
Nearly everywhere in Latin America, including in those countries hit hardest by Zika, women who wish to terminate their pregnancies have few legal options. But as U.N. health officials have projected as many as 4 million infections in the Americas this year, activists are pressing lawmakers to act as swiftly as possible to ease rigid restrictions.
Several governments in Latin American nations have responded to the crisis by urging women to postpone pregnancy. But the availability of contraceptives is limited, especially in rural Latin America, and church authorities in the heavily Roman Catholic region oppose their use.