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Viruses and Reproductive Injustice

Zika in Brazil

Ilana Löwy

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Brazil's Zika outbreak revealed extreme health disparities and reproductive injustice across racial and socioeconomic lines.

Brazil's 2015 Zika outbreak led to severe illnesses for many and the birth of several thousands of children with severe brain damage. Even though mosquito-borne diseases such as the Zika virus affect people across society, these children were born almost exclusively to poor, and usually non-white, women. In Viruses and Reproductive Injustice, Ilana Löwy explores the complicated health disparities and reproductive injustice that led to these cases of congenital Zika...

Brazil's Zika outbreak revealed extreme health disparities and reproductive injustice across racial and socioeconomic lines.

Brazil's 2015 Zika outbreak led to severe illnesses for many and the birth of several thousands of children with severe brain damage. Even though mosquito-borne diseases such as the Zika virus affect people across society, these children were born almost exclusively to poor, and usually non-white, women. In Viruses and Reproductive Injustice, Ilana Löwy explores the complicated health disparities and reproductive injustice that led to these cases of congenital Zika syndrome.

Löwy examines the history of the outbreak in Brazil and connects it to broader questions concerning reproductive rights, the medical science behind understanding new pathogens, and the role of international health organizations in battling—or ignoring—public health crises. The explanation behind the strongly skewed distribution of cases among social classes was far from straightforward or obvious during the Zika outbreak. Löwy argues that the disproportionate effect of Zika on births among the poor is primarily a function of dramatic disparities in access to contraception and prenatal care, as well as Brazil's anti-abortion laws: only wealthier women have access to safe abortions. This is a book about the changing meaning of an infectious disease outbreak and a haunting demonstration that an epidemic is both a biological and a political event produced by the complicated entanglement of humans, viruses, and mosquitoes.

Reviews

Reviews

Viruses and Reproductive Injustice is a vital history of the Zika epidemic in Brazil. An impressively synthetic accounting of the biomedical investigations into the mosquito-borne virus and its inequitably embodied burdens on pregnant women and their children, the book is robustly empirically grounded, sophisticatedly situated in the historiographic literature, and politically searing.

For medical historian Ilana Löwy, Brazil's Zika epidemic is shadowed by prior health emergencies. She shows how poor women's continual lack of contraception, safe abortion, and anti-infection resources made microcephalic babies and "self-sacrificing mothers" highly visible, while those who wanted to end their pregnancies became invisible. This passionate and clear analysis of reproductive injustice champions reproductive justice for all.

Viruses and Reproductive Injustice is a riveting and luminous account of the powerful forces that redefined Zika in Brazil as a problem of care. With exceptional nuance, Löwy provocatively shows how authorities and scientists perpetuated "embodied injustice" by making privilege invisible. This is a must-read for anyone interested in what a collective response to injustice should entail.

A riveting exploration of the complex recent history of Zika epidemic in Brazil that only a scholar as intellectually versatile as Ilana Löwy could have written; it illuminates the fraught entanglement of emergent viruses, public health, reproductive politics, and social inequality in the 21st century, reminding readers of the spurious allure of tidy narratives about health and society.

Through erudite study of reproductive rights and the Brazilian history of control of vector borne disease, Löwy makes a significant contribution to how we understand Zika, perception of disease, and the interrelationship between governments and those infected and affected. A must read for those in public health, medical anthropology, medical histories, global health and beyond.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
296
ISBN
9781421447919
Table of Contents

Contents
Preface: A Forgotten Virus and Expunged Memories
Acknowledgments
Introduction. Framing an Epidemic
Chapter 1. Viruses and Mosquitoes: From Yellow Fever to Zika
Chapter 2. Fetuses: Women, Doctors

Contents
Preface: A Forgotten Virus and Expunged Memories
Acknowledgments
Introduction. Framing an Epidemic
Chapter 1. Viruses and Mosquitoes: From Yellow Fever to Zika
Chapter 2. Fetuses: Women, Doctors, and the Law
Chapter 3. Surprises: "I've never seen anything like this"
Chapter 4. Zika in Brazil: Producing Partial Knowledge
Chapter 5. Stratified Reproduction: Class, Ethnicity, and Risk
Chapter 6. Mães de Micro: Zika and Maternal Care
Chapter 7. After Zika: Open Questions, Complex Legacy
Conclusion. Embodied Inequality
Further Reading
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Ilana Löwy

Ilana Löwy (PARIS, FRANCE) is emerita senior research fellow at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. She is the author of Imperfect Pregnancies: A History of Birth Defects and Prenatal Diagnosis.