In the Senate’s first vote after reconvening from August recess yesterday, Senate Democrats once again blocked the bill that would direct federal funds toward Zika-virus treatment and prevention. This is the third time that Democrats have voted against the bill, claiming that Senate Republicans will harm women’s health by excluding Planned Parenthood from the bill’s funding.
But as National Review reported early last month, nothing in the bill “attacks” Planned Parenthood or denies women necessary treatment. In reality, the Senate Democrats are refusing to pass the bill until Republicans add an earmark specifically designating a portion of the public-health funding — just one small aspect of the overall funding bill, most of which would focus on vaccine research and mosquito prevention — to Planned Parenthood.
In fact, according to the Daily Signal, Planned Parenthood clinics are not fully equipped to handle all of the possible complications that arise when a pregnant woman contracts the Zika virus. The federal health centers that would receive funding under the bill appear much more qualified to do so. But Democrats continue to mischaracterize the issue, repeatedly claiming that Republicans are putting their opposition to abortion ahead of the health of women and children. From Senate minority leader Harry Reid’s remarks on the Senate floor yesterday:
Earlier this year, Democrats tried in vain to bring Republicans to the realization that Zika was imperiling the health of all, but especially women of child-bearing age. Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the Confederate flag ― can’t make that stuff up; that’s really the truth ― than protecting women and babies from this awful virus.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell disagreed, blaming the stalemate on “partisan excuses” given by Senate Democrats. “It’s hard to explain why, despite their own calls for funding,” he said, “Senate Democrats decided to block a bill that would keep pregnant women and babies safer from Zika.”
Democrats argue that Planned Parenthood should receive funds from the bill to provide birth-control and abortion “services” because of the link between Zika and the birth defect of microcephaly. Yet this link is not nearly as conclusive as experts originally believed. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine surveyed 12,000 pregnant women in Colombia infected with the Zika virus and found that not a single one of them gave birth to a baby with microcephaly. The study, though still only preliminary, casts doubt on the initial hypothesis that the Zika virus itself is the cause of the escalating number of infant microcephaly cases. According to some scientists, there is strong evidence that the pesticide pyriproxyfen, used extensively in mosquito prevention, is actually the source of increasing microcephaly rates in areas afflicted with the virus.
Given the scientific uncertainty about the link between the Zika virus and infant microcephaly, it is absurd for Planned Parenthood and Democrats to insist upon earmarked funds being given to the abortion giant. At the very least, Senate Democrats should be honest about the fact that they are continuing to put their allegiance to “abortion rights” ahead of the health of mothers and children.