Zika is coming to a site near you – if it isn’t already there. The facts:
— As per Think Progress: “Cases of the mosquito-transmitted disease have now been detected in 45 states and all three U.S. territories… .”
—Two million potentially pregnant women in the United States are at risk of becoming infected.
–In Missouri 69,783 women are estimated to be be at risk this summer (i.e. now).
–Zika is now conclusively known to cause microcephaly in up to 13% of children borne by infected mothers.
–Microcephalic babies suffer mild to severe development impairment, potentially affecting intellectual capacity, motor skills and nervous systems.
–Republican congressmen are unwilling to act on the President’s request for supplemental emergency funds to ameliorate the impact of the Zika virus in the U.S.
–Republicans prefer to quibble about what the money is to be used for, if they can steal money allocated for other emergencies for Zika, or if it is even appropriate for congress to address health disasters. .
What does this mean for us? We’re on the verge of prime mosquito season, a potentially catastrophic mosquito borne virus is rapidly moving north, and our legislators, whom we expect to have our backs, are twiddling their thumbs.
It gets even worse. GOPers fretted about what they termed a potential “slush-fund” in President Obama’s emergency funding request, which they believed to be hidden in monies that could be redirected so that health agencies could ostensibly have the flexibility necessary to deal with unforeseen events. One big GOP bogeyman was the conviction that “the money could go on abortions for infected women.”
And Bingo! Just like that we’re on the latest front of the war on a woman’s right to choose. Before we were even wrestling with the specter of Zika, Republican anti-abortion zealots were trying to make it illegal to abort a fetal child suffering from birth defects. Here in Missouri Sen. David Sater (R-29) introduced a bill, SB 802, that, had it been enacted, would have made abortions based on prenatal screening illegal. Missouri is not alone in pursuing this restrictive strategy:
… .North Dakota has outlawed abortions based on prenatal diagnosis of mental disabilities, and Arizona has banned abortions based on the race or sex of the child. At least four other states have legislation pending against abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports abortion rights.
The irony, of course, is that the more pregnant women who contract Zika owing to the failure to fund a public health response, the greater the pressure to make abortions more easily available. Same goes for contraception – the access to which has been seriously curtailed by the GOP war on Planned Parenthood.
So there you have it. Thanks to our tight-fisted and addlepated Republican lawmakers, more American women will run the risk of contracting Zika and giving birth to a child suffering from microcephaly. Meanwhile, many of the same lawmakers who can’t be bothered to fund a public health emergency are busy trying to insure that those very Zika-infected women will have no ability to chose whether or not to accept the challenge of a child with birth defects.
Edited for clarity. Last sentence omitted.