Zika and the regulation of health emergencies: medical abortion in Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador


  • Dr Clare Wenham

    London School of Economics and Political Science

Project summary

Health emergencies expose fault lines in health systems. One such fault line is the regulation of medical abortion by using mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate pregnancy during the Zika outbreak and the effect this has on women's reproductive health in a time of uncertainty.

We will analyse the intersection of Zika, regulation and medical abortion using case studies from Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador. All three states have diverse regulation for medical abortion. It is legal in Colombia, criminalised in El Salvador and medical abortion drugs are prohibited in Brazil. In spite of regulation, women have been able to access medical abortion during the Zika epidemic, through civil society groups, pharmacies and the black market. We will analyse how the Zika outbreak affected the way women accessed medical abortion, and how national regulation affected women's choices and abortion service providers’ activity during this emergency.

Our analysis will contribute to a conceptual framework to help understand the regulation of abortion during health emergencies.