A number of Latin American pro-life leaders haver criticized a recent statement by the head of the Organization of American States, who is encouraging abortion access for pregnant women infected with the Zika virus.

The abortion push demonstrates the “eugenics mentality” of the international organization, according to one commentator.

In an April 26 statement the secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, described the Zika outbreak in various Latin American countries as “an opportunity for equal rights” and stated that in cases of infected  pregnant women, “the legal interruption of pregnancy would be justifiable.”

This justification, Almagro explained, is based on “the risk to the life of the mother from the perspective of her dignity, the material conditions of her life and existence, but above all, her ability to make autonomous decisions about her life and health and the future of her offspring and the nuclear family.”

The OAS is an organization of all 35 independent states o the Americas which aims to promote democracy, human rights, security, and development.

The first case of the Zika virus in the Americas was recorded in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, the virus has spread across Latin America and into the United States.

The Zika virus is most often transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Infection does not usually cause serious illness, but it is widely agreed that the virus is linked to microcephaly, a disorder in which children are born with abnormally small heads, and often delayed brain development. The infection appears to be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn child.

Speaking to CNA,  Jes√∫s Maga√±a of the Colombian citizen platform United for Life, said in response to the OAS secretary general's statement that “we're again witnessing the resurgence of a eugenics mentality.”

For Maga√±a, the OAS wants to take advantage of the Zika epidemic “not with a view to the health of the most defenseless and vulnerable populations, of the poorest women, but rather to destroy the children of the poor, to get rid of poverty through destruction, by aborting the poor.”

And Luis Losada Pescador, director of campaigns for the international pro-life platform CitizenGo, also criticized that the OAS “in its statement talks about 'taking advantage of the opportunity' for what they call 'equal rights.' That is to say, they recognize that it's a matter of an excuse to promote abortion in the region.”

“Where is the right to life recognized in Article IV of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights? Do the (member) states agree that this international organization can bypass the mandates, to follow an ideological agenda?” he questioned.

Marcos León, vice president of the Pro-Life Generation in Paraguay, called “a complete disgrace” the fact that the OAS secretary general is demonstrating adherence with those promoting “the abortion culture, and even more so, while he heads up an organization whose main objective is to defend people's fundamental rights.”

“It's intolerable that in face of a problem like Zika, whose the real solution is found in prevention policies and eliminating the vector mosquito based on educating the citizenry and raising their awareness, that the voluntary elimination of human beings again be proposed as a 'solution or palliation' of the evils caused by this illness,” he stated.

“You can't talk about the right to kill a human being just because it's temporarily in the mother's womb, who is so defenseless that it can't defend itself and needs us adults,” said Karla Martínez del Rosal de Rodríguez, of the Pro-Life Pastoral Ministry of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Guatemala.

For the Guatemalan pro-life leader, “ you can't talk about equality if your right to life is decided upon in an arbitrary fashion; life is the most fundamental of rights, recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ratified by the Pact of San José [of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights].”

Julia Regina de Cardenal, of the El Salvador Yes to Life Foundation, pointed out that the real figures disprove that the cases of microcephaly connected to Zika are numerous.

According to the BBC, it is estimated that one percent of women who had Zina during pregnancy will have a child with microcephaly. Brazilian doctors, however, “have told the BBC that as many as 20% of Zika-affected pregnancies will result in a range of other forms of brain damage to the baby in the womb.”

Regina de Cardenal charged that “The pro-abortion lobby is exploiting this health crisis to legalize the abortion industry,” and recalled that “the unborn baby has the right to life, even when it may have an illness or birth defects.”

Sara Larín, president of the VIDA SV movement in El Salvador, said that this “is not the first time the OAS is using fear tactics in order to  impose abortion in Latin American countries.”

“They did it with the overpopulation issue, and now with a great deal of opportunism they're using the health crisis surrounding Zika to instill fear concerning pregnant women,” she said.

The president of the pro-life platform ArgentinosAlerta, Martín Patrito, warned that “we're dealing with bad policy, a lot of ideology, and a little science on the part of international organizations like the OAS and the World Health Organization.”

“Microcephaly has numerous causes, there are a lot of other viruses that can cause it and the impact of a lot of pesticides has still not been studied. And in any case, you have to fight the mosquito, not the children.”

The Zika outbreak has also led to debate in the US over the Helms Amendment, which bars US government aid from funding abortions when given to overseas groups working with reproductive health.

A vaccine for Zika has yet to be developed, but there are suggestions that infecting mosquitos with a bacterium could help prevent them from spreading Zika.