Congress must fund Zika virus prevention
Nearly 3,000 Zika cases have been reported in the United States, including 32 in the Bay Area.
“This is why people hate Congress.” Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine perfectly summed up the frustration over the Senate’s continued failure to pass a bill allocating $1.1 billion to fight the growing Zika virus threat.
Congress should not play games with public health. Period.
Nearly 3,000 Zika cases have been reported in the United States, including 32 in the Bay Area, and at least two Zika-related birth defects already have been reported in California. All signs warn of a full-blown public health crisis, certainly in the eyes of potential parents hoping to start families.
But Republicans, taking the war on women to a new level, refused again last week to pass legislation unless it has assurances that Planned Parenthood’s affiliates will not receive additional funding to help fight the virus.
This is insane. Planned Parenthood uses no federal dollars for the 3 percent of its work that involves abortions. It is, however, one of the key safety-net public health centers across the nation, playing a crucial role in educating people about the virus — for example, spreading the word that Zika can be spread by sexual contact, not only by mosquitoes.
Most important, Planned Parenthood is by far the major provider of access to contraception for low-income women — which even Pope Francis has said is permissible in this crisis, despite the church’s opposition to most forms of birth control. The World Health Organization recognizes the extent of the threat. It is encouraging women in nearly 50 countries to delay pregnancy.
The U.S. Senate passed the $1.1 billion allocation in May by an 89-8 vote. But House Republicans added riders not only restricting Planned Parenthood, but — this is really outrageous — also allowing Confederate flags to be be flown at veterans’ cemeteries and weakening the Clean Air Act.
Senate Democrats had to resist those demands. Even if they were reasonable, they have nothing to do with the danger of children being born with severely underdeveloped brains — Zika’s trademark.
The Zika funding would pay for research to develop a vaccine and for mosquito-control programs. President Obama in April allocated $347 million left over from Ebola prevention needs, but the Centers for Disease Control said it will burn through that money by the end of September. Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease say they’re making good progress toward developing a vaccine, but slowing or halting their work could exponentially delay success
Congress has to just get this done. Place public health first. Fight this insidious disease that afflicts the unborn — which means funding Planned Parenthood programs, the nation’s front line for reproductive health. Do it this week, so progress toward a vaccine doesn’t have to miss a beat.
And take up the fight for honoring the Confederacy, if that’s the GOP’s new priority, another day. — San Jose Mercury News,
Digital First Media
Congress has to just get this done. Fight this insidious disease that afflicts the unborn — which means funding Planned Parenthood programs, the nation’s front line for reproductive health.