Since an outbreak of the Zika virus struck Brazil in early 2015, governments throughout the Western Hemisphere have begun developing response plans and allotting funds to combat the virus’s spread.
Because Zika poses the greatest threat to pregnant women, health officials have advised legislators that funding for reproductive health services must be a key component of these response plans.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion in funding to fight the spread of Zika in the U.S. In late June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a funding proposal drafted by members of the GOP that allotted just $1.1 billion toward efforts to fight the virus. In addition to cutting funding for contraception distribution, the proposal also prevents family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood from participating in the response.
Democrats in Congress have roundly criticized the cuts, particularly the elimination of $287 million for family planning and contraception, and an additional $101 million that was cut from teen pregnancy prevention programs. Instead of focusing on contraception and family planning, the GOP’s proposal devotes almost all of its funding toward mosquito control programs, vaccines and diagnostics. Prior to the House of Representatives’ vote on the proposal, the White House released a scathing critique of the bill as well.
“The 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,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest in a statement.
The funding cuts are an unfortunate – and all-too-familiar – case of partisan politics taking priority over women’s health. Short of a full-blown public health crisis, it’s unclear what it will take for members of the GOP to address reproductive health issues in a realistic and reasonable manner.