The Zika virus garnered international attention in 2015 after areas of Brazil noted a spike in cases of the birth defect microcephaly – a condition marked by abnormally small heads, brains, and developmental delays – following a recent outbreak of the virus in areas of northeastern Brazil.
Research on the virus suggested a link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and severe neurological birth defects, including microcephaly and incomplete brain development.
However, some experts criticized what they described as technical and scientific flaws of the premise behind ADI 5581.
The Union of Catholic Jurists of Rio de Janeiro issued an official statement arguing that a causal relationship was never established between Zika virus and the microcephaly outbreak that occurred in Brazil.
Raphael Câmara, an obstetrician at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said that when an attempt was made in 2016 to allow abortion in Zika cases, little was known about the virus.
"Since then, we have answers to many of the issues raised in ADI-5581 in support of allowing abortion," Câmara said. "The first fact is that recent studies show that fetuses of infected mothers are affected only 5 to 14% of the time, with the majority having mild problems, as shown by research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
"In addition, a study recently released by the CDC showed that 73% of Brazilian labs have a low accuracy rate for diagnosing the Zika virus, so the request is meaningless because we cannot talk about someone 'infected with Zika', but rather 'maybe infected by Zika.' Is it based on this inaccuracy that we will kill fetuses?" the obstetrician continued.