The Zika outbreak has highlighted the importance of access to high-quality, voluntary family planning in Latin America. USA Today spoke with the Council's Guatemala country director, Alejandra Colom, for context about access to family planning in the region.
Public health officials have warned pregnant women from traveling to Zika-affected countries. El Salvador's government has even told women to avoid becoming pregnant until 2018 to reduce the risk associated between Zika and serious birth defects. However, women throughout the region face severe restrictions in accessing family planning, safe abortion services and maternity care.
"'They are making these recommendations, as if this is something that is always a woman's choice,' said Alejandra Colom, who works in Guatemala for the Population Council, which studies family planning. 'These decisions are not necessarily in the hands of women.'"
Colom highlighted the region's challenges of contraceptive supply shortages and male-dominated cultures. However, she expressed hope that the crisis can prompt governments to prioritize women's health and access to family planning.
"Colom hopes the Zika virus outbreak — which Honduras declared a state of emergency Monday just hours after the World Health Organization called it an international emergency — will change conversations around contraception and lead governments to make birth control more available."