Zika is a small label from a tiny source that has world-shattering implications for families, for communities, for society and the economy.
It is also shorthand for everything that has been so absolutely wrong with the Republican-controlled Congress. It is no longer sufficient to describe it as “Do Nothing.” It is more appropriate to describe how their dysfunction, inaction, their idolatry to ideology has become destructive. Rather than a government with “limited power,” the right-wing ideology has intruded into our personal lives in such devastating.
Rather than treat Zika – a neurotropic virus that grows in target brain cells, literally destroying the fetal brain as it develops – as the public health crisis that it is, the Right Wingers who control Congress have wrapped it up with abortion as an excuse to derail a vote.
The party that purports to hold a lock on family values? Pregnancy is stressful enough, but instead of being excited and happy at a pregnancy, a woman would be consumed by anxiety, and even hatred for the fetus and the baby that emerges.
When Zika first came to the world’s attention in Brazil, I was thinking that Americans were luckier than the hapless Brazilian women, who were being told to defer child-bearing for four years, because while abortion is illegal in that Catholic country, it is a Constitutionally protected right here in the US – except that the Right Wingers have found ways to throw up so many obstacles to a woman’s reproductive freedom, even declaring that a mother is a mere “vessel” to incubate the fetus, rather than a person with the same rights of self-determination as men.
Meanwhile, there are now approximately 18,000 confirmed case of the Zika Virus in the United States and territories, including 1,751 pregnant women infected, and that number is rising daily.
Earlier this year, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan Zika funding measure by a vote of 89-8. Even Marco Rubio, now running for reelection to the Senate he demeaned during his run for the Presidency, who has said that birth defects should not be an “exemption” for an abortion, told his colleagues that Zika warranted setting ideology aside, but that was because of the harm it was having to Florida’s tourism industry.
But then Republicans changed course, packing the bill full of partisan political riders — like demanding a ban on funding to Planned Parenthood, undermining key provisions of the Clean Water Act, even allowing Confederate flags in cemeteries— and shut Democrats out of the debate.
Now, the money that had been available to the CDC, $292 million “ is out the door already and there are things we wish we could do but can’t because we don’t have the resources,” Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on “The Takeaway” on NPR. “The decisions made today, or not made, will have implications for decades to come.”
There is so much that is not known about Zika – funding is needed for research for a vaccine, to diagnose, on better ways to control its spread, to understand the impacts of development for infants that do not manifest microcephaly immediately (Hearing loss? Learning disability?) and whether there are latent impacts that could impact even adults (a connection to Alzheimer’s has been raised).
“We need the dollars and the legal authorities so that when there is an emergency, we can treat it as emergency.
“If get in early, can avoid problems – with an earthquake or flood you are providing assistance and picking up the pieces. But with an epidemic, if we can get there early enough, we can do the equivalent of stopping an earthquake…
“The long delay in providing additional supplemental funding makes it difficult to have robust response, and makes it more important to have an infectious disease rapid response fund so we can spend money quickly and effectively. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are on board with creating such a fund,” he said.
“Zika will be around for years to come, so it is important to invest now in better ways to stop it. The sooner we get the funding, we can embark on those projects,” he said.
The failure to act on Zika is part and parcel of the right wingers’ continued assault on abortion rights –– essentially a woman’s right to choose, to control her own body and her own destiny, a family’s right to protect itself and create the best environment for its children. They have gone so far as to block the use of an abortion pill that is safer and easier to use than surgical procedure, and even preventing doctors from using a safer regimen of the medication.
This is not about “life” – as we now see in Texas where their anti-woman, anti-choice ideological crusade has resulted in closure of dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics, with the result that the rate of maternal mortality has exploded.
“From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.
“No other state saw a comparable increase,” writes Molly Redden in The Guardian. Those rates put Texas on par with the Third World, where having a baby is the most dangerous thing a woman can do.
This is further proof that the right-wingers who control Congress do not care about “life” they care about control. This is about modern-day enslavement of women. They see a woman as a vessel, a vassal, not as a free person with the rights to make their own life’s choices. While they say they want individuals to be able to care for themselves, producing a generation born with microcephaly means they and their families will have to be dependent upon the state.
This cavalier attitude to life – particularly children – is also manifest in Congress’ failure to act on lead in the drinking water in Flint and other urban areas, likely impairing their normal brain development, contributing to learning and behavioral problems and lowering their IQ’s—and poor and minority children are unfairly at the greatest risk of lead poisoning. Half a million kids in the US already have elevated levels of lead in their blood and millions more are at risk.
The consequences for local school budgets – just as one example – to have to accommodate the special needs of children impacted by lead and now Zika-caused microcephaly – is mindboggling, making the challenge for school districts to keep Mylan’s overpriced Epipens on hand seem like small potatoes.
The Republican controlled Congress’ refusal to come to consensus and treat Zika as the public health emergency it is – no different than a terror attack – but instead, to hamstring it with poison pills that make it unpalatable to pass is not like the Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress hasn’t been doing mischief since its return from a 7-week vacation. This includes three bills designed to overturn Dodd-Frank protections of the financial system, a bill to neuter Obamacare, a possible impeachment of the IRS Commissioner, and a yet a new investigation, investigating the FBI investigators into Hillary Clinton’s emails (is that the 9th or 10th Congressional investigation?).
But let’s look at what the Do-Nothing-But-Harm Congress has done nothing about: gun violence prevention (No Fly, No Buy), the Flint water crisis, confirming Merritt Garland to the Supreme Court, and they are even dragging feet about adopting a Continuing Resolution in order to avoid yet another Republican government shutdown.
Congress needs to fund Zika programs and create an infectious disease emergency response fund, which, apparently is actually supported (at least with lip service) by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.
After his meeting with Congressional leaders on Monday, Obama expressed confidence there would be no government shut down and there would be funding for Zika.
Ah, President Obama, ever the optimist. We’ll see.