Abor­tion pos­si­ble in Thai birth de­fect cases linked to Zika, of­fi­cials say

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Pre­dom­i­nantly Bud­dhist Thai­land will al­low abor­tion in cases with fe­tuses with proven birth de­fects linked to the Zika virus, health of­fi­cials said on Thurs­day, in keep­ing with ex­ist­ing guide­lines.

Thai­land last week con­firmed its first known cases of mi­cro­cephaly linked to the mos­quito-borne virus. The two cases of the birth de­fect marked by a small head were the first in South­east Asia, fol­low­ing Zika out­breaks in the Amer­i­cas. Health ex­perts who met this week to draft guide­lines for ex­pec­tant mothers with Zika con­cluded that abor­tions can be car­ried out at up to 24 weeks in case of se­ri­ous birth de­fects. “The dif­fi­culty with Zika is to de­ter­mine mi­cro­cephaly. It is usu­ally found later in preg­nancy,” Pisek Lumpikanon, pres­i­dent of the Royal Thai Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists, told Reuters. “Le­gal med­i­cal abor­tions can be done up to 24 weeks,” he added. “The rea­son is that at 24 weeks and after the baby al­ready has a good chance of sur­vival.”

Abor­tion is il­le­gal in Thai­land, ex­cept in cases of rape or to save a woman’s life or pre­serve her health, and if car­ried out in up to 12 weeks of preg­nancy. Beyond that time, hos­pi­tals must de­cide on a case-by­case ba­sis and can carry out med­i­cal abor­tions at up to 24 weeks, Pisek said.

“This is what can cur­rently be done in Thai­land in cases of Down syn­drome, for ex­am­ple,” he said.

There are no spe­cific tests to de­ter­mine if a baby will be born with mi­cro­cephaly but ul­tra­sound scans can iden­tify it in the third trimester of preg­nancy, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) says.

Thai­land has said it is con­sid­er­ing test­ing all preg­nant women for Zika. In­ad­e­quate screen­ing by health au­thor­i­ties across South­east Asia is likely to lead to sig­nif­i­cant un­der-re­port­ing of the spread of Zika, re­gional ex­perts say. Thai­land has con­firmed 392 cases of Zika since Jan­uary, with 39 preg­nant women among them, while the wealthy city-state of Sin­ga­pore has recorded 393 cases, in­clud­ing 16 preg­nant women. De­spite its lais­sez-faire rep­u­ta­tion among trav­ellers, Thai­land re­mains largely con­ser­va­tive, and Ther­avada Bud­dhism, the form of the religion prac­tised by up to 95 per­cent of its peo­ple, re­gards abor­tion as a sin. — Reuters

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