When President Obama asked for emergency Zika funding earlier this year, it seemed like it would be an easy thing to get. That turned out to be an incorrect assumption. First, Republicans drafted their own request with a vastly lower amount. Obama had initially asked for $1.8 billion to prepare and prevent the spread of Zika virus this year, but apparently House Republicans thought it was too much. Instead, they drafted a request for $622 million, which also happens to take from Ebola funding and has some language in it that bars federal funding for abortions. Now, while many across the aisle are busy looking for a quick compromise, some Democrat women are objecting to the Zika funding bill for its limit on abortion options. Because, choice.
Although that kind of language is pretty standard in federal spending bills, it's hard to talk about Zika virus without at least opening the door to talk about a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. Zika virus is actually all about pregnant women. The symptoms are flu-like and pass within a few days for most people, but there's a direct link between Zika virus and microcephaly, as well as other "severe fetal brain defects," according to the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, according to their guidelines, women who think they could be affected should get early tests to determine if they have Zika and monitor the fetus more closely.
Zika is tied to pregnancy and to severe illnesses. Women should be allowed to make a choice about carrying their baby to term once they have been infected with Zika.
Of course, that will never happen for two reasons. The first is that, as previously mentioned, this kind of language in spending bills is pretty common, even if it is terribly discriminatory. According to The Hill, four congressional Democrat women, including Reps. Diana DeGette, Louise Slaughter, Jan Schakowsky, and Barbara Lee, wrote in a statement that,
By including Hyde language that denies access to abortions for women receiving Medicaid, women in the Peace Corps and military, federal workers and others, it continues discriminatory policies that deny women vital reproductive health care services based on their income, their insurance, and where they work.
Again, that's sort of par for the course when it comes to divvying out federal funds. But it doesn't make it any less awful.
The second reason that Democrats will probably have to step down and come to some sort of compromise is that we need a Zika funding bill to be passed. Like, very soon. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that it's "ridiculous" that Congress could be "haggling" over money while Zika mosquitoes make their way up into the United States. But this isn't just any old federal spending bill. This is money to prevent and help those affected with Zika virus. And that means giving women access to the healthcare that they deserve.
Whatever Congress does in the coming weeks to combat Zika, it's practically guaranteed that, because of partisan bickering, women will likely continue to get the short end of the stick. And that's a real shame.