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Could Zika disease change abortion laws in Malaysia?

UPDATE [2/9/2016]: A while ago, we reported that Singapore has recorded its first Zika case (see below)… now Malaysia has recorded its first case!! A 58-year-old woman from Klang has been infected with the virus after visiting her daughter in Singapore. Her daughter also was confirmed as being infected.

*Untuk baca artikel ni dalam Bahasa Melayu, sila tekan sini!

UPDATE [18/05/2016]: Singapore recorded its first imported Zika case on 13th May when a 48-year-old man developed fever and rash, after having travelled to Sao Paulo, Brazil. He’s recovered already and been discharged from the hospital. But there won’t be a ban from travelling to Singapore, and 90,000 individuals entering Malaysia through Singapore were screened, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Hilmi Yahaya told Bernama.

There’s a disease now that’s shaking up Malaysia’s stand on abortion. Zika.

Everybody’s talking about Zika, yet there is so little we understand and recent articles still call this disease a mystery. So what DO we know about Zika? Here are some key facts from the World Health Organization (WHO):

  1. It’s caused by a virus in Aedes mosquitoes (da zebra belang one).
  2. Outbreaks in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, but Brazil’s been the hardest hit country. Malaysia is Zika-free so far.
  3. Symptoms (mild fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, etc.) normally last 2-7 days.
  4. There is NO specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
zika facts WHO Screenshots of video from Washington Post

Fast facts with screenshots of video from The Washington Post

But WHAT does a mosquito disease have to do with Malaysian abortion laws??

 

Because Zika could cause under-developed brains in foetuses

Getting bitten by infected mosquitoes is the main way this virus spreads, but besides that, it can spread through blood transfusions, sexual contact, and….during pregnancy.

In most cases, Zika symptoms are pretty mild and in less than a week they’re gone. 80% of victims never even know they have it! WHO reported there have been no deaths related to Zika, so the worst thing about it right now is something ugaiz have probably read many, many times in the news – babies with MICROCEPHALY.

baby zika microcephaly schlitzie pinhead freaks movie

On the left is a baby with microcephaly and on the right is Schlitzie, an adult with microcephaly, who was famous for the movie Freaks (back in the day when people had no ethics).

MICROCEPHALY is a rare neurological condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than normal, because the brain developed abnormally in the womb or didn’t grow as it should after birth.

baby at 28 weeks abortion zika Image from WebMD

Image from WebMD

But ONLY microcephaly that has been inherited genetically can be detected through ultrasound and only during the THIRD trimester (7-9 months). Wait, 7-9 months still can abort meh??! Actually it’s still possible using two methods – induction abortion or dilation and extraction. Howeverrrr, it must be mentioned that by third trimester, babies are able to survive outside the womb, which is why this is a moral debate. Could your conscience allow you to get rid of a living baby?

What happens when a baby is born with microcephaly? Looking different is one thing, that’s roughly 15% of cases – however for the rest, children could have mental retardation, dwarfism, seizures and others (depending on severity). Generally, there’s no treatment so the best thing to do is to give them supportive therapies to help them through life.

Although there’s no concrete proof to blame Zika for microcephaly, scientists say the evidence is growing stronger. Brazil documented 167 microcephaly cases in 2013 and 147 cases in 2014. By 2015 as Zika spread, 2,782 cases were reported – that’s a 1,792% increase year-on-year! Virologists believe this is “indirect evidence” linking them both. It’s their best bet atm, though there is one argument that pesticides are causing microcephaly.

 

What everyone can agree on are the struggles of raising a child with microcephaly

It’s a heavy commitment physically, as well as financially. From the word of two mothers (from the US) with experience, you will realise the depths of love you are capable of. 😥

brazil baby therapy exercise Image from Business Insider

Baby Lucas gets physiotherapy at Brazil’s first center for microcephaly. Image from Business Insider

As much as we hate to break the encouraging train of thought, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) wants Malaysian mothers to be fully informed of what they sign up for, if they raise babies with neurological conditions when they spoke to The Malay Mail Online. “Malaysia is not ready to support families with infants who have microcephaly,” said MMA President Dr. Ashok Philip. Similarly, the rise of microcephaly cases has sparked abortion debates in Brazil.

This study shows there is a lack of human resources in the neurological field, so the specialized care these kids need is not given. Not only are they under-represented medically, but the national education system for special needs children is lacking too. Did you know a school principal has the power to say yes or no if a special needs kid wants to enroll in school? Ultimately the MMA said it should be the woman’s choice.

“The question is, will a doctor undertake the risk of performing a non-life threatening abortion and face prosecution from the authorities?” – Dr. Ashok on The Malay Mail Online

 

NAH, BACA:
This Malaysian mom almost kena cheated into buying a baby. But how?

Actually… abortion is LEGAL in Malaysia!

abortion clinic short film

Still of ‘The Woman Upstairs’ a short film on abortion. Click to watch

Yep, you read it right, it is allowed under Section 312 of the Penal Code, BUUUT only under these circumstances:

  1. Risk of life or injury to the PHYSICAL health of the woman.
  2. Risk of life or injury to the MENTAL health of the woman.

So who assesses whether the pregnancy will cause harm physically or mentally to the woman? It has to be a doctor registered under the Medical Act 1971. Aaaaand the operation MUST also be performed by a registered doctor – not some random quack running some back alley “clinic”. You can check any doctor’s registration here.

In 2002, the government considered tweaking the law abit to let rape and incest victims to have abortions, but WAO said these victims can be considered under “mentally injured” anyway. So in all respects, our abortion laws can say boleh tahan la… on paper.

penal code section 312 miscarriage abortion exception

Click to read Penal Code

Malaysia is in Category 3, which means abortion allowed due to reasons we mentioned above. There are only four categories, the 4th being abortion allowed upon request, while Category 0 means no abortions allowed at all. Sounds quite liberal aldy right? But mostly abortions are not allowed once the foetus is over 5 months old.

However, even for women who meet the legal criteria, getting access to affordable and safe services is a different matter! According to the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM), gomen hospitals have no proper policy on abortion services, so you can’t really depend of them to actually do the procedure. How does RRAAM know this? Through feedback from the women who went to them for help.

Ok how bout private sector? RRAAM stated that though private doctors claim to provide this service, it’s sometimes difficult to really do it because of stigma. Socially and religion-wise, abortion is still frowned upon in this country and because of this, a lot of women are at risk of being exploited:

“It was reported recently that several obstetrics and gynaecology clinics in the Klang Valley, upon request for an abortion, charge between RM1,200 and RM2,500.” – Dr. Choong Sim Poey, Co-chair of RRAAM

Yikes!

 

But you know, an abortion doesn’t have to be the last resort

woman contemplate abortion Image from

Another still from ‘The Woman Upstairs’. Click to watch

It’s surprising to learn the Malaysian government has set up a proper – almost liberal even – framework on abortion to protect the mother, but if we’re gonna have a law then at least implement properly la.

Globally, 68,000 women die every year because of unsafe abortions (we couldn’t get Malaysian stats on this). RRAAM estimated there are 240 clinics nationwide offering abortion services… but not all of these clinics are vetted for quality or safety! Since there are no safe avenues, people end up going to dodgy, kaki lima clinics, and we personally know of two cases (friends of friends) who had abortions, and said they were so scared and felt like they were doing something illegal.

Screenshot from ASAP short animation abortion

Click to watch Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP) video

It stinks that women are being exploited of their money and on top of that they dunno they’ll even make it out of the operation alright. And TBH, if we allow abortion for babies with microcephaly, we should think about where we draw the line? Babies with Down Syndrome? Heart defect? Visual impairment? Or even some small disfigurement?

We screencapped the short film ‘The Woman Upstairs’ right, it’s a meaningful story about a woman who’s gonna abort her baby, but just as the doctor is about to start, there’s a power outage. So the woman and doctor talk. The conversation leads to the doctor saying things don’t last forever…including how she feels right now. Then the woman asks the doctor about what it’s like to have children. He just smiles. That was the turning point for her as the power comes back on. She chooses not to abort her baby.

Alternatively, there are ways to leave abortion out of the equation! Plan A, how bout adoption? There are couples out there who wanna have kids but can’t for whatever reason and they would love to adopt children. 

adoption rather than abortion Image from cloakunfurled.com.

Image from cloakunfurled.com

Wait, don’t get us wrong, we don’t mean dump your kid in an orphanage and ciao! We meant consult your doctor if they know of any couples looking to adopt, then you can arrange a meet-up and start the legal process to adopt. Click here to find out more about legally adopting.

Ok so carrying a baby to term may not be ideal for EVERYONE, especially teen or unwanted pregnancies, so there’s Plan B, contraceptives (not the restaurant 😛 ). Tengku Jaafar Hospital gynaecologist Dr. Krishna Kumar suggested birth control pills be made available to reduce chances of getting pregnant and ultimately abortions.

Or Plan C, sex education. We.can’t.stress.this.enough.

Sex ed mean girls coach. Image from senecaneverfalls.wordpress.com.

HAHA wuut? Scene from Mean Girls movie

And finally Plan D……… KILL ALL THE MOSQUITOES! MUAHAHAHA!!!

ghostbusters beam proton kill mosquito aedes Images from gbfans.com and carrentals.co.uk.

Images from gbfans.com and carrentals.co.uk

 

nah read more ugaiz

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