The Proposed Zika Funding Bill Does Nothing It’s Supposed To And Would Hurt Women The Most
Here’s the thing about the Zika virus: it only really, really affects pregnant women, their babies, and women of child bearing age, which is why the proposed Zika funding bill does absolutely nothing and is basically a slap in the face (yes, another one) to women everywhere from the Republicans in Congress. While Zika was still just something no one really knew about, President Obama asked for $1.9 billion for research, initiatives to start spraying insect repellant around like wild to eliminate the risk, and healthcare for affected women.
The Senate is going to take up the bill, for just $1.1 billion, when they get back from their summer vacations for the July 4 holiday (why they get two weeks to celebrate one fucking day is beyond me, but that’s besides the point), which is almost a billion less than requested and has no connection to the reality of the situation.
It’s not even new money — they’re pulling from emergency Ebola funding — but they added measures that block access to birth control and Planned Parenthood. Obama, because he is a rational, critical thinker, along with Senate Democrats, included $50 million in funds for maternal and child health in the requested $1.9 billion. Because that’s who Zika affects. Women and children.
The Republicans would rather bicker about Planned Parenthood and family planning services than take care of women who could be infected and carrying children that could have serious birth defects, like microcephaly and other neurological disorders.
Zika is actually pretty “safe” for people who aren’t trying to get pregnant. There are mild symptoms and it passes within a week. But it can be sexually transmitted by a male partner, which is why even some Olympic athletes are skipping the games this summer to protect their wives. If a pregnant woman is infected, it’s likely to end in a miscarriage or chronic illness for the baby. So just approving funds to eradicate mosquitos does nothing.
The Zika mosquito is already here. If a woman is infected, she should have the right and the freedom to seek options like abortion, which many women are doing in Latin America already. Birth control, along with insect repellants, should be part of the public health awareness campaign. It’s just common fucking sense. But not when it comes to how much Republicans hate Obama and women’s right to choose. They would rather do nothing.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a press briefing, “It is clear that once again, Republicans have put political games ahead of the health and safety of the American people, particularly pregnant women and their babies.” He added, “This plan from congressional Republicans is four months late and nearly a billion dollars short of what our public health experts have said is necessary to do everything possible to fight the Zika virus, and steals funding from other health priorities.”
President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it hits his desk as is, and while that’s also a political maneuver, he should. I don’t want millions of babies with microcephaly to be born. Not because they aren’t going to be sweet people, but because it’s traumatic and terrible and, let’s just be real here, will end up being another, preventable public health cost in the long run that we’ll have to fight Republicans to take care of.
There are already 820 cases of travel-related Zika cases in the States and 1,860 in U.S. territories, mainly Puerto Rico. Some of those cases have even led to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is temporary paralysis that, even though it goes away, leads to serious health issues afterwards. Zika is a big deal, and it’s gross that Republicans would rather bicker about birth control than take it seriously.
Now that Obama has just months left in office, he’s been a little bolder and finally tapping into some of his frustration with the current state of Congress and Republicans blocking every goddamn move he makes — even if it’s asking for them to nominate a Supreme Court justice or approve funding for a possible health epidemic. Those are simple things that government should be able to do, so we can tackle bigger and more complicated issues (like gun reform or whether or not Donald Trump will need an in-house barber in the Oval Office if he gets elected).
He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who wouldn’t care, but Obama should veto that bill. Because it’s useless and signing it so that Republicans can say, “We did one thing!,” is bullshit. The Zika funding bill doesn’t have anything actually useful in it, except to show that Republicans are seriously stubborn assholes. And we already knew that.