Outbreaks

UN says Zika virus should spark review of birth control access

In this Jan. 29, 2016 photo, Tainara Lourenco smiles as she chats with neighbors from the entrance of home at a slum in Recife, Brazil. Unemployed and five months pregnant, 21-year-old Lourenco lives in a slum at the epicenter of Brazil’s tandem Zika and microcephaly outbreaks, the state of Pernambuco. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

In this Jan. 29, 2016 photo, Tainara Lourenco smiles as she chats with neighbors from the entrance of home at a slum in Recife, Brazil. Unemployed and five months pregnant, 21-year-old Lourenco lives in a slum at the epicenter of Brazil’s tandem Zika and microcephaly outbreaks, the state of Pernambuco. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

LONDON (AP) -- The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says laws and policies that restrict access to birth control services must be repealed amid the explosive outbreak of the Zika virus in the Americas, which has been linked to an increase in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.

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In a statement issued on Friday, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the advice of some governments to women to delay getting pregnant "ignores the reality" that many women have little control over the circumstances in which that happens.

To date, the mosquito-borne virus has spread to more than 20 countries in the Americas, including some where sexual violence is rampant, Al Hussein said. He called for laws restricting access to sexual and reproductive health services to be urgently reviewed.