It seems like every year we face a new disease or virus that threatens our collective health. This year, the villain is played by Zika, a flu-like virus that can also cause birth defects in unborn children whose mother’s contract the disease. Zika is normally transmitted through insect bites, mostly mosquitoes, however there is another method by which it can be transmitted: sex.
Zika first arrived in the United States in Florida, specifically Miami-Dade County which has now become a hotbed for the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has issued travel warnings to those who are pregnant or may become pregnant to take caution while traveling in that area.
According to the New York Times, federal and state funding to fight the virus is starting to run short and private organizations are stepping in to fill in the gaps. One of those organizations is Planned Parenthood.
The Miami Herald reports that Planned Parenthood staffers are going door to door in neighborhoods with high populations of reproductive age women to inform them of the new dangers associated with pregnancy and the Zika virus. The canvassing will reach 25,000 people.
In addition to the information, Planned Parenthood will be providing kits for pregnant women that include insect repellent, standing water treatment tablets, condoms and educational materials in Spanish, English and Creole. So far, Florida Governor Rick Scott has ignored the CDC’s call to include family planning in the state’s Zika fight, instead he has directed all of the state’s resources to combating mosquitoes.
While there has been a bill put forth in Congress that would fund relief efforts for Zika, it has failed to gain partisan support in the Senate. Republicans have tacked on amendments that would ban federal grants to Planned Parenthood and other non-government agencies. Democrats will not support the bill unless these amendments are removed.
There is a time and a place for every debate. But Republicans in Congress must understand that this is not the time to try and continue their fight to defund Planned Parenthood. Florida (and soon all of the Gulf States) will face a serious public health crisis because of Zika.
The virus does not wait on Congress to act; it spreads every day. The $1.1 billion that is being tied up by political grandstanding could instead be put into action to control and limit the spread of Zika and to develop a vaccine.
Planned Parenthood already has the network to direct information on family planning and on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, which the Zika virus is considered. It would only make sense for them to receive funding to continue to help in the fight against Zika