A pro-abortion rights group is using the Zika virus to pressure leading Republican presidential candidates to shift their stance on reproductive health.
Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, sent a letter to Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, who are all running for president, asking that they at least temporarily "support universal contraceptive coverage" until the country has a better understanding of the Zika virus.
"As the clear frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, you each have a responsibility to help advance a nationwide dialogue on how best to respond to this global health emergency," Hogue wrote in the letter. "This response must acknowledge that women across America ... are rightfully concerned about the safety and advisability of becoming pregnant during a viral pandemic."
The group argues that opposition to expanding access to reproductive healthcare and groups such as Planned Parenthood is dangerous because the Zika virus has been linked to birth defects.
Hogue added in her letter that "I know that asking someone to re-examine their positions, no matter how ill-informed and dangerous they are, is a difficult ask." But she said that they should reexamine their positions with the Zika virus being detected in their home states.
The letter comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the first case of the Zika virus being sexually transmitted had been reported in Texas. The United States has had dozens of other Zika cases, including in New York and Florida, from individuals who recently traveled to Central or South America.
Concern over the virus is growning in Congress, with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell expected to brief senators next week.
Rubio previously sent a letter to Gil Kerlikowske, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to ask what steps are being taken to prevent and prepare for a potential Zika outbreak. Cruz also told Hugh Hewitt last month that "we need to increase our public health approach."