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For Mother’s Day, act to protect women and babies from Zika

This weekend, as families show appreciation for all that mothers do, Republicans in Congress are unfortunately falling much shorter than forgetting to buy flowers. Theyare refusing to work with Democrats to address a public health threat mothers across the country are concerned about: the Zika virus.

There is a lot we still need to learn about Zika, but we know this virus can have tragic, long-term impacts on fetal brain development—and the Republican-controlled Congress shouldn’t wait any longer to act. 

{mosads}We are mothers and grandmothers ourselves. We know how frightening it is to wonder whether your baby is at risk. And to be clear, families are certainly frightened. In fact, a recent survey showed that 40 percent of adults in the United States see Zika as a reason to delay having children.

That’s why we are issuing a call to action to those in the House and Senate who prefer partisan bickering to protecting women and families from this virus: let’s get to work. 

There are already more than 1000 reported cases of Zika in the United States and the three territories, including 92 expectant mothers. Public health experts have repeatedly made clear that as we get closer to the summer and to mosquito season, we need to put emergency resources into controlling mosquitos that carry the Zika virus, as well as raising awareness, expanding access to family planning services, and accelerating development of a vaccine.

For months Democrats have urged Republicans to work with us on President Obama’s $1.9 billion emergency funding proposal, which would support each of these priorities—but Republican leaders have refused to even consider it. Instead, they’ve found reason after reason to delay. 

After leaving the Administration with no option but to rob Peter to pay Paul by taking funding from the ongoing Ebola response and using it to fight Zika, Republicans in Congress insisted they didn’t have enough information about the President’s emergency funding proposal to act on it.

But after 48 hearings where questions about Zika have been raised, after multiple briefings by senior Administration officials—and although the Administration’s 25-page spending request is available online for all to see—it’s difficult to imagine what questions justify delaying action that could prevent children from being born with severe brain damage.

And that’s not all. Other Republicans have suggested allowing funding for Zika response to move through the regular appropriations process, opening the possibility that no funding would be available until as late as next year. Still others are insisting that any money spent to prevent and treat the Zika virus—a true public health emergency—be fully paid for with cuts to other programs before moving forward.

Congressional Republicans may feel they have time to spare when it comes to the Zika virus—but women and families across the country do not.  The choice Congress will make when it comes to Zika is not whether to deal with this virus, but how. We can address it now and help keep children and families from harm, or we can deal with the consequences of inaction.

Republicans, join us in making the right choice—the one that honors and supports mothers across the country—and let’s get this done as soon as possible.

Patty Murray (D) is the senior United States Senator from Washington. Rosa DeLauro (D) is the U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s 3rd congressional district.

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