Buenos Aires Times

latin america BIGGEST SLUMP IN THREE DECADES

Birth rate in Brazil falls to 26-year low after Zika crisis

National statistics agency said on Tuesday there were 2.79 million births in 2016, a five-percent decrease from the previous year.

Tuesday 14 November, 2017
The birth rate in Brazil has fallen to a 26-year-low, new statistics have revealed.
The birth rate in Brazil has fallen to a 26-year-low, new statistics have revealed. Foto:AP-Felipe Dana

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The birth rate in Brazil has fallen by its fastest rate in nearly three decades after the Zika and microcephaly crisis of 2016, official statistics have revealed.

Brazil's statistics agency said on Tuesday there were 2.79 million births in 2016, a five-percent decrease from the year prior.

The birth rate fell by 10 percent in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, where the Zika crisis hit particularly hard.

The Zika virus is spread primarily through mosquito bites and causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and other severe brain defects.

Analysts from the Institute of Geography and Statistics believe the country's long economic crisis also contributed to the decrease.

Reproduction is on the agenda at the moment in Brazil. Thousands of women marched through the streets of Rio de Janeiro on Monday to protest a recent controversial congressional committee vote to make abortion illegal without exception in the country.

Many protesters carried their children in their arms or on their shoulders, shouting: "Our bodies are ours!" Some scuffles broke out between protesters and police when the march reached the Rio state legislature. Police fired tear gas, but calm soon returned.

Abortion is currently allowed in Brazil in cases of rape, a pregnancy that threatens a woman's life or a foetus with anencephaly, a birth defect involving the brain. But the congressional committee last week adopted a measure that would remove those exceptions, provoking widespread outrage though many Brazilians hold conservative views on abortion.

Rodrigo Maia, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, has said that any ban on abortion without an exception for rape won't pass his chamber. The measure is part of a constitutional amendment, so it would need a super-majority in both Congress' lower house and the Senate to become law.

The demonstration in Rio was one of several organised in cities around Brazil on Monday. Women in Rio carried signs reading "Secular uterus" and "I don't deserve to bear the child of my rapist." Others called for broader legalisation of abortion.

While Brazilian law severely restricts abortion, in practice wealthy women tend to have access to safe procedures in private clinics, while the poor often rely on risky ones. An academic survey partially funded by the Ministry of Health estimated that more than 400,000 women had an abortion in Brazil in 2015.

- AP

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