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The Politics of Zika

[A] vile insect that has risen up in contempt

against the majesty of Heaven and earth.

Johnathan Edwards, The Justice of God . . . . (1734

It turns out it didn’t make all that much difference, except for the 1,700 newly confirmed cases of individuals who contracted the Zika virus during the time Congress was on holiday whose fetuses may suffer life altering birth defects as a result.  (Members of Congress do not refer to their time off as holiday.  They call it “the district work period” a description that fools no one but makes members feel a lot better about being gone.)

When Congress went on vacation on July 14, 2016, it left many matters unattended to. One pertained to the right of individuals to fly the Confederate Flag in federal cemeteries, an important issue to be sure.  It was an issue because in May a Bill was passed in the House that provided that confederate flags could no longer be flown in federal cemeteries.  The provision restoring the right to fly the flag was part of the even more important issue of providing $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus.  There were no consequences for failing to act on the issue of the confederate flag.  There were dire consequences for failure to provide funds to fight the Zika virus as health officials had warned Congress there would be.

Of the 1,700 new cases of people infected by the Zika virus,  Florida got a share.  When the House left Washington in July, Florida had four reported cases of Zika infection that were believed to have been caused by members of the local mosquito population as distinguished from having been imported from outside the United States.  While members of Congress were enjoying their seven-week vacation, the mosquitos in Florida and elsewhere were enjoying a vacation from whatever actions those seeking to control its activities might have implemented had funding been provided by Congress. By the time Congress got back to Washington after its vacation, there had been a 13-fold increase in the number of locally transmitted cases of Zika in Florida.  The new victims were, of course, distressed at their plight, but members of Congress, like the uncontrolled mosquitos in Florida, had enjoyed a care free seven weeks during which they could conduct themselves as they saw fit.

If the Zika bearing mosquitos thought that, with the return of Congress to Washington in early September, their days free from federal interference would come to an end, they did not need to have been concerned. Congress has, as of this writing, been back in session for almost two weeks and there is no sign it will provide funding to combat the mosquito, pay for research on potential vaccines or develop ways of quickly identifying those infected by Zika.  In the case of Florida, however, that does not mean nothing is being done.

When in early August it became apparent that there had been four home grown cases of Zika, Governor Rick Scott announced that Zika prevention kits paid for with state funds would be distributed by the Florida Department of Health in order to curb the virus. Since this was Florida, however,  Planned Parenthood clinics were exempt from the state sponsored  distribution.  They have not received any of the kits even though they serve a segment of the population that is low income and lacks the ability to get the kits for themselves. Planned Parenthood clinics did not receive kits from the state because, among other things, some Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortion services.  When it comes to a question of whether (a) to help the mosquito by not providing state kits for Planned Parenthood to distribute to fight the Zika virus or (b) distribute kits to help Planned Parenthood fight the Zika carrying mosquito, Governor Scott has come down on the side of the mosquito.  He favors the mosquito even though the funding for Planned Parenthood to help fight the Zika virus is to be used to pay for Zika testing and kit distribution and has nothing to do with providing abortions.  Planned Parenthood is distributing its own kits through a door to door campaign in areas with high populations of women of child bearing age.  The effort is being funded with funds provided by the national Planned Parenthood organization.

Here is what the foregoing tells us.  For some members of Congress and Governor Scott, taking a stand against Planned Parenthood makes sense because some Planned Parenthood clinics provide abortion services that end the life of the fetus.  Those people care about the lives of the unborn. They do not realize that failure to fund the fight against the Zika virus increases the chance that some children will be born with distressing birth defects. Someone should tell them.

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