The outbreak of Zika virus has prompted urgent debate on abortion rights in Central and Latin America as well as in the United States.
Pro-choice groups have been pushing GOP lawmakers to change their stance on reproductive health, citing severe birth defects, including microcephaly, caused by Zika. But Republican lawmakers are not budging — and their reasons are as preposterous as ever.
During a congressional hearing on the threats posed by the mosquito-borne disease, Representatives Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Christopher Smith of New Jersey raised concerns if the emergency budget requested by President Barack Obama to combat Zika fever could be used for abortions.
"This push for more abortion access is heartbreaking, especially since there are different degrees of microcephaly," Duncan, who is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, was quoted as saying by the Huffington Post.
He further stated abortion access wasn’t the right solution to fight the disease, because: "Each child is made in the image of God and has inherent worth.”
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Smith reiterated Duncan’s point of view, adding the U.S. needs to come up with a plan to "ensure that any child born with disabilities from this or any other infection is welcomed, loved and gets the care that he or she needs."
It goes without saying there are multiple problems with both Duncan and Smith’s statements.
Firstly, the problem at hand is not a political one — it’s a global health emergency, as declared by the World Health Organization earlier this month. By implying that the Zika outbreak is being used to gain access to abortion the Republicans are downplaying the troubles faced by affected families.
As Ami Bera (D-Calif.) stated during the hearing: "It's about making sure those women who are not planning on pregnancy have the ability to not get pregnant until we know what we're dealing with."
Secondly, associating the spread of a virus with religious beliefs is illogical and yet another way of completely ignoring the actual problem.
While both the Republican lawmakers had a lot to condemn and criticize, they didn’t really offer an alternative, viable solution — and there needs to be one, as soon as possible.