WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Republican senators are voting to allocate $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus with some going to Planned Parenthood.
On Wednesday September 28, Republicans ended seven months of congressional gridlock by giving in to the demands of Democrats. This is the fourth attempt by Democrats to get funding approved — and this time they attached other disaster relief to the bill.
Washington senator Patty Murray commented, "I am glad that Republicans finally agreed to set aside the extreme provisions that would have specifically blocked Planned Parenthood health care providers from accessing critical funding."
With over 324 million people in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that only about 23,000 people in the United States have contracted the Zika virus in 2016 — about 0.007 percent of the population. The CDC estimates about 2,000 pregnant women contracted the virus. Since it became a focus of the Obama administration and Democrats, only about 21 babies in the United States and Puerto Rico were born with microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby's head and brain are smaller than normal.
While Democrats are maintaining abortion and contraception are essential to the fight against the so-called epidemic, Republicans are focusing on relaxing EPA rules for spraying potentially Zika-infected mosquitoes. In February, Obama asked for $1.8 billion from Congress to fight the Zika virus, with some of that money going towards Planned Parenthood for abortion and contraception.
By June, senators came up with a $1.1 billion bill, but Democrats didn't like that the money came from unspent federal earmarks for the Obama administration's previous pet epidemic, Ebola, and from the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
At the beginning of September, Senate Democrats voted down federal funds to fight the Zika virus, blaming Republicans for wanting to cut Planned Parenthood funding. Republicans note that money for Zika-related abortions cannot go against the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funding of elective abortions, except "where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term."
It is expected that President Obama will sign the bill into law Friday.