Tell House Republicans: Stop playing politics with the Zika crisis
The rapidly spreading Zika epidemic has come to the United States. Zika causes microcephaly, an incurable neurological disorder, as well as other fetal brain defects. The risk to mothers and their children is so great, and, as yet, so hard to detect, control, and treat, that some countries are advising women not to get pregnant at all as a way to fight the disease.1
In February, The White House and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) asked Congress to fund a $1.9 billion Zika response plan. But instead of taking action, Republicans in the House are playing politics with women’s and children’s health.
After stalling for months, House Republicans finally passed a funding bill to respond to Zika which provides only one-third of the amount the CDC requested.2 Last week, they took their partisan game-playing to another level when they rammed through sham Zika “control” legislation that would weaken EPA rules protecting our water from pesticide exposure.3
You’d think that Republicans, who claim to stand for “family values,” would want to move quickly to stop this outbreak in its tracks — especially with the summer mosquito season about to begin. Instead, they are using this crisis as an opportunity to undermine clean water rules in a give-away to the pesticide industry.
Tell House Republicans: Stop playing games with women's and children’s health and do what is required to fight the Zika virus.
Until last week, the House's Zika "control" bill was called the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act. It's one of the pesticide industry's top priorities and Republicans have been attempting to pass it for years. It’s crass political opportunism for them to seize on the real threat posed by Zika in order to advance their long-running goal of dismantling EPA clean water regulations. Supporters of the bill deceptively claim that removing the need for permits will allow emergency responders to deal with Zika outbreaks, when in fact responders already have the authority to apply pesticides without permits in cases of emergency.4
Meanwhile, by failing to pass real legislation to address this crisis, Congressional Republicans are opening a new front on their war on women. They have already been waging a relentless campaign to deny women access to reproductive health care across the country — from trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act and its contraceptive mandate, to undermining sex education, to restricting abortion access. In the face of Zika, it’s essential that all women have access to up-to-date information, appropriate, affordable birth control, and abortions. But after years of anti-woman attacks at the state and national level, those services are almost impossible to access, especially for many women of color, women in rural areas, and women living in poverty.
Tell House Republicans: Stop punishing women and children. Fight the Zika virus.
Ronald Klain, who headed the Obama administration’s effort to combat Ebola in 2014 and 2015, recently wrote a chilling editorial in the Washington Post where he makes clear the stakes of Congress’ inaction:
Zika is not 'coming' to the United States: It is already here...It is not a question of whether babies will be born in the United States with Zika-related microcephaly, it is a question of when and how many. For years to come, these children will be a visible, human reminder of the cost of absurd wrangling in Washington, of preventable suffering, of a failure of our political system to respond to the threat that infectious diseases pose.5
Last week, 150 medical experts called for relocation or postponement of this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil because of the Zika threat.6 In February, Pope Francis suggested that Catholic women at risk of Zika could be permitted to use birth control.7 Republicans’ refusal to do what’s necessary to stand up for the women, children and families who will be impacted by this disease, is clearly craven, dangerous and inappropriate. It’s time for them to be held accountable.
Tell House Republicans: Stop playing games with women's and children’s health and do what’s required to fight the Zika virus.
Thanks for taking action today.
- Azam Ahmed, “El Slavador’s advice on Zika virus: Don’t have babies, New York Times, January 25, 2016.
- Christine Grimaldi, “House, Senate Divided on Zika Funding Levels While U.S. Infections Climb,” Rewire, May 18, 2016.
- Michael Hiltzik, “Congress exploits Zika to loosen pesticide regulations (but won't pay for an anti-Zika program),” LA Times, May 25, 2016.
- Ronald Klain, “Zika is coming, but we’re far from ready,” Washington Post, May 22, 2016.
- Juliet Spies-Gans, “125 Health Experts Call For Rio Olympics To Be Relocated Or Postponed,” Huffington Post, May 27, 2016.
- Jodi Jacobsen, “Pope Francis Suggests Contraception May Be Acceptable for Catholics Fearing Zika Virus, Rewire, February 18, 2016.