Congress must fund Zika virus pre­ven­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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