Combatting the Zika virus, which causes severe birth defects and abnormalities, is the sort of thing that should transcend politics. The disease is rapidly spreading, and its effects on pregnant women are tragic. Several countries in Latin America have advised women to avoid pregnancy for up to two years — not an easy instruction to follow in countries that ban abortion and don’t make contraception affordable and accessible. Ah, the “pro-life” conundrum of supposedly valuing life while actively imperiling lives.
Fortunately, in the United States, we have the resources to help those countries where Zika is fast becoming an epidemic before it becomes an epidemic here at home. We can help those women unfairly tasked with stopping the spread of the disease but denied the resources to do so. If we were so inclined.
And yet, as former White House Ebola response coordinator Ronald A. Klain writes, the House and Senate only now are getting around to passing funding bills that President Obama requested months ago. Not only are they late, but they’re also inadequate:
Moreover, the House bill provides only one-third of the response needed; pays for this limited, ineffective response by diverting money allocated to fight other infectious diseases; and necessitates a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate bill, meaning we still do not know when any money will finally get through Congress to fund the response.
What’s the rush, though, right?
Of all the things that Congress could be truculent about, fighting an epidemic is the worst imaginable. Zika is not “coming” to the United States: It is already here. Hundreds of people who caught the disease abroad are in the country; more than 250 cases of pregnant women in the United States and its territories with Zika have been logged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Soon, as summer arrives, the Aedes aegypti mosquito will become active in Southern states, and the disease will spread there.
Meanwhile, some Republicans have convinced themselves that Zika isn’t that bad, nor is the microcephaly showing up in babies born to infected mothers. It’s not bad enough that they should act immediately. It’s not bad enough that these “pro-life” legislators should be concerned about a generation of babies born with severe defects. It’s not bad enough that they should support family planning aid, as recommended by the United States Agency for International Development, in those countries where women have been explicitly told to avoid pregnancy. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in the position of encouraging family planning, after all!
Pregnant women in South and Latin America who contract Zika, a rapidly spreading mosquito-borne virus linked to severe birth defects and deformities in babies, should not have access to abortion, Republican House leaders said Wednesday.
“This push for more abortion access is heartbreaking, especially since there are different degrees of microcephaly,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said at a hearing about the virus.
Yes, it’s certainly worth jeopardizing the health of an entire nation, and its future generations, to save the babies who will suffer from the terrible effects of this disease. And really, how much does someone with an underdeveloped brain suffer? Not enough for House Republicans to be worried about it.
House Republicans running the Zika virus hearing avoided the issue of contraception and family planning access for women in endemic countries and instead urged women to welcome babies born with microcephaly. Duncan acknowledged that “many women do not have the luxury of simply choosing to wait” to get pregnant, but added that abortion access is not the answer, because many babies born with microcephaly “go on to lead very normal lives.”
OK. Here’s hoping all those babies born with defects — many to women who lack the resources to provide the necessary care to children with special health needs — go on to lead those very normal lives. Because that would make our “pro-life” legislators feel so much better about screwing over women.
Or, crazy idea, we could actually follow the advice of the experts and several health organizations and do everything in our power to stop the disease from spreading. Immediately. Yes, it means giving President Obama what he’s been asking for, and yes it means helping women control their reproduction so they can stop the spread of Zika, but you’d think those who love “life” oh so much would be in favor of doing that.
Here’s this week’s good, bad, and hideously ugly:
- What an unexpected surprise from Oklahoma. And for once, it’s the good kind! Last week, uber-conservative anti-choice Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the legislature’s bill to criminalize abortion, by convicting anyone who performs an abortion — including licensed and trained medical and imprison anyone — of a felony and imprisoning them for up to three years. Sure, that sounds blatantly unconstitutional. Because it is. But when has that ever stopped anti-choice legislators? Thankfully, even the state’s Republican governor was able to recognize what a mistake it would be to enact such a law. Not because she suddenly supports women making their own reproductive decisions, of course:
Sources familiar with the governor’s thinking told CNN that the decision to veto the bill “weighed heavily” on the anti-abortion rights governor, but that the “hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees” faced by the state from a near-certain Constitutional challenge to the bill eventually led to her veto.
So, she would have loved to criminalize abortion in her state, but since the state is facing a serious budget crisis, she knows the state literally cannot afford such a law. If only unconstitutional attacks on women’s rights weren’t so expensive.
- What pay gap? This pay gap:
Union: At WaPo, female columnists make $23,000 less than male columnists
— Danielle Paquette (@DPAQreport) May 23, 2016
But wait! There’s more:
Male reporters make, on average, $7,000 more. Male columnists make $23,000 more than women doing the same jobs. Male foreign correspondents make about $8,000 more. For producers, the disparity is about $4000. For photographers, it’s about $6000. Even male editorial aides make $7000 more than their female counterparts.
But the pay gap is just about women’s choices, right? The women who work at the Washington Post simply choose to make less than, say, George Will. And you’ll be shocked — shocked! — to know that the pay gap isn’t limited to gender:
“In 9 of the 12 job titles we looked at, white employees earned more (often significantly more) than their non-white colleagues,” the bulletin notes. Assistant editors who identify as people of color make about 15 percent less than their white counterparts.
Guess the Post has an awful lot of editors who just like making less than their white male colleagues. How lucky for the Post.
- On Monday, Ohio’s new law to defund Planned Parenthood, signed by virulently anti-choice Republican Gov. John “Look at me, I’m soooo moderate” Kasich,” went into effect. And about a minute after that, a federal judge issued a temporary reprieve for Ohio’s low-income men and women who depend on Planned Parenthood for their health care:
Judge Michael R. Barrett of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Monday issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state from enforcing the law, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. John Kasich in February.
In his ruling, Barrett said allowing the law to take effect could cause irreparable harm to Planned Parenthood and its programs. Without the state funding, Planned Parenthood would be forced to stop providing services such as pap smears and other cancer screenings, tests for HIV/AIDS and tests and treatment for other STDs, infant mortality prevention programs and sexual health education programs.
Conversely, Barrett found, the state of Ohio would not suffer substantial harm if it were blocked from enforcing the law.
No freakin’ duh, right?
- Jon Ralston, the de facto king of political reporting in Nevada, wrote a beautiful post about his transgender son, and you should read it.
- Contrary to conservative talking points, women have been using public restrooms without fear of being harassed or assaulted by men. (At least, no more than we live in fear of being assaulted by men anywhere in the world, amirite ladies?) But now, to prove that equal rights for transgender women are a threat (spoiler: they’re not), women are being harassed and assaulted in bathrooms — and not by transgender people but rather, just your run-of-the-mill cisgender bigots who assume women with short hair don’t belong in the women’s bathroom. Neat, huh?
- The National Center for Education Statistics reports that black women are now the most educated segment of America’s population. While they still earn less than their white and/or male colleagues (see above re: Washington Post, cough cough), an increasing number of women of color receiving advanced degrees could ultimately mean more equal representation in positions of power and influence — in academia, politics, and the corporate world. We’re not there yet, but it’s a start.
Join us next Wednesday for another round of reporting. Unless we’ve won the war by then.