Mothers pose babies who were born with microcephaly in Brazil, February 18, 2016. Abortion is illegal in Brazil. According to the CDC, some pregnant American women contracting the zika virus, which has been linked to microcephaly, have decided to abort their pregnancies after the fetuses showed signs of brain deformations. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Of the 9 confirmed cases of zika among pregnant American women at least two have had abortions to avoid giving birth to a child with cerebral disorders possibly linked to microcephaly, the Center for Disease Control says. The women made the decision after doctors identified “brain abnormalities” with medical imaging technologies. Additionally, two of the women with confirmed cases of zika have suffered from miscarriages. The news comes as Latin American women grapple with an epidemic of zika a mosquito-borne virus that has been linked to microcephaly, an uncommon birth defect that leaves children mentally disabled for life.

Health officials in Brazil and Colombia have urged women to avoid pregnancy. However, artificial contraceptives are difficult to access in both countries, where Catholic taboos against birth control predominate. Terminating pregnancies is illegal in most Latin American countries. But despite the ban and the concern from officials, women who give birth to babies with microcephaly receive little help. Anecdotal reports suggest that mothers receive little support from the state and are sometimes dumped by baby daddies who don’t want to care for a disabled child. One victim told NPR that her boyfriend wanted her to get an abortion, but she refused. Then he dumped her.

Despite being illegal, abortion is still available in Brazil, especially for those who can afford to pay black market rates. With fears mounting in the wake of zika, the Brazilian government is considering a bill that would increase the penalties for abortion. In Brazil, babies born with microcephaly are likely to end up in an orphanage. Local reports of microcephaly babies given up to state care have already been reported from Recife to Rio De Janeiro. The country is gearing up for a larger wave of abandoned babies as the number of zika and microcephaly cases continues to grow.

The U.N. has called on Brazil and other countries to review abortion restriction laws. Some U.S. politicians who oppose abortion have disagreed, supporting existing regulations that ban the procedure.

Listen to the full NPR story, below.

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