Like other mosquito-borne viruses, Zika thrives in areas with substandard sanitation and infrastructure—which are directly linked to state failures to ensure the basic human right to an adequate standard of living. Until recently, the Zika virus was thought to be relatively harmless, usually only causing mild symptoms.

But in October 2015, Brazil reported a concurrent increase in the number of babies born with unusually small heads, a condition known as microcephaly. Almost immediately, governments and public health officials began to ask women to delay their pregnancies, seemingly without considering the ethical or practical implications of such advice, and with hardly any effort to bolster sexual and reproductive health policies and services.