How many Americans have to be infected by the Zika virus — worse yet, how many fetuses have to be imperiled — before the slackers on Capitol Hill set aside their ideological obsessions and act in the public interest?
Or are the lawmakers, who meandered back to town yesterday after a six-week vacation, suicidally determined to drive their 18 percent approval rating down to single digits?
When President Obama asked the Republican-led Congress last February to pony up $1.9 billion to head off the looming public health emergency – citing dire warnings from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the mosquito-borne virus was hitting Puerto Rico and nearing the American mainland. Seven months later, with Zika on the mainland and 2,722 victims getting treatment (16,832 if you include all U.S. territories), Congress still hasn’t done jack.
Take a guess why.
Because congressional Republicans, obsessed as always with their hatred of Planned Parenthood, have been trying to use this health crisis as an opportunity to screw the group – and, as a result, the disproportionately poor, high-risk women that the group serves. Basically, the House GOP’s stance from late winter to late summer has been, “We’ll find the money to fight Zika – but only if Planned Parenthood is barred from helping out.” Go figure. In a crisis that requires all hands on deck, the GOP wants to jettison essential deckhands.
Which is why, when the long-in-limbo funding measure was floated again last night, Senate Democrats refused to swallow that poison pill. And no wonder. The GOP language, for instance, would block all Zika-fighting funds for ProFamilias, simply because that Puerto Rican health group is affiliated with the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Almost half of the group’s services are used by low-income high-risk women under the age of 25. At a time like this, with new cases being reported daily (seven new cases in Florida yesterday), what could possibly be the rationale for cutting Planned Parenthood out of the action?
Duh. Because Planned Parenthood performs legal abortions. Zika victims, and the women who are terrified of contracting the virus, and the nearly 50 percent of Americans who now say they’re wary of visiting south Florida, apparently need to understand that Republicans have their priorities. Politicking on abortion always comes first.
This Planned Parenthood thing of theirs got old years ago. I fondly remember Jon Kyl, a Republican who argued on the Senate floor back in 2011 that PP should be stripped of its modest federal funding because it was just an abortion mill. In his words, “If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” He was off by 87 percent; in factual reality world, abortions are three percent of what Planned Parenthood does. But no matter, Kyl’s flack simply explained that the senator’s remark was “not intended to be a factual statement.”
Not intended to be a factual statement….yep, the GOP was fertile turf for Trump long before he infected us with his virus.
Indeed, Republicans have long saved some of their best lies for Planned Parenthood. Lest we forget (and, blessedly, we have), primary season footnote Carly Fiorina got her 15 minutes of infamy by conjuring, from her wild imagination, a video that supposedly showed a fully-formed fetus writhing on a table at a Planned Parenthood clinic, supposedly for purposes of brain harvestation. (There was no such video.) And today Republicans are still playing politics with PP. Which is tragic, because, unlike Congress, pregnant women can’t afford to play politics with their health – or take a six-week vacation from fear.
What’s amusing – or would be amusing, if the situation were not so serious – is that Florida Republican lawmakers are pleading with Congress to fund Obama’s request with no strings attached, pronto. Their constutuents are imperiled; heck, their own re-election prospects are imperiled because they’re the ones supposedly in charge. It’s amazing how a health crisis can sweep away the ideological hangups about Planned Parenthood. As Miami GOP congressman Carlos Rubelo recently told the press, “I don’t care how (the money) gets passed, it just needs to get passed. Is there anything worse than exposing your unborh baby to some sort of birth defect?….For us, this is very real.”
There it is: This is very real. There’s virtually no federal money right now to fight Zika, and real people are being hurt; in the words of a Centers for Disease Control official, “The cupboard is bare.” So it’s past time that the ruling congressional Republicans stash their ideological toys. How loud does this crisis clock have to tick before they agree to legislate like grownups?
ProFamilias is an important provider of sexual and reproductive health care in Puerto Rico and reaches populations that others do not. ProFamilias has two clinics in San Juan, both of which offer gynecological services, HIV testing and counseling, and sexual health counseling. One of these clinics is funded by the Title X program, the U.S’s only dedicated federal source of family planning, for low-income and uninsured women. In addition, ProFamilias provides sexual health services and education in community centers in other areas of the island. They have launched an education campaign specifically around the Zika virus and was the first organization on Puerto Rico to publicly discuss the connection between Zika and sexual and reproductive health.
In 2015, ProFamilias provided 146,691 services.
Almost half of services were provided to individuals under age 25, reflecting the organization’s focus on adolescents and young adults.
The total number of contraceptive services in 2015 was 88,536, or 60 percent of total services the network provides