Washington, DC -- Planned Parenthood this week thanked women’s health champions in Congress for reiterating the need for family planning and maternal health in any response to the Zika virus. Planned Parenthood also joined 28 organizations in calling on the U.S. government to have a swift and robust response to the Zika virus that addresses gaps in reproductive care in affected areas.
The groups write:
“We know there is still much to learn about Zika virus and the response will be complex and require coordination at the global, regional, and national levels. While the response to Zika virus may evolve, one thing is clear: the U.S. government must prioritize access to comprehensive reproductive and maternal health care services in its response to meet the needs of women and families during this health emergency and beyond.”
A copy of the full letter can be found here.
Following the release of the White House’s emergency supplemental request to respond to the Zika virus at home and abroad, multiple government agencies testified before Congressional committees this week, including the Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.
Statement from Dana Singiser, Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Planned Parenthood is grateful for the work of pro-women’s health members of Congress who have pressed the administration and Congress to support a comprehensive response to the Zika virus that includes maternal health, family planning, and reproductive care.
“Women’s rights advocates from Latin America, many members of Congress, the White House and a growing number of organizations agree that we cannot address this growing public health crisis if we ignore women’s ability to plan if and when they become pregnant, as well as provide critical maternal health services. As one of the leading providers of women’s health care in the U.S., Planned Parenthood believes strongly that to meet the needs of women, the government must work closely with global partners on the ground to support women in making their own health care decisions.
“Planned Parenthood calls on Congress as a whole to support access to contraception and maternal health care services as part of any Zika response and approve funding for this public health crisis.”
The White House’s supplemental request asks for urgently needed funds and includes access to voluntary family planning information, services, and methods as part of their proposed global response. Further details are needed about how the U.S. will support partners like UNFPA, who are uniquely well positioned in the field to deliver maternal and reproductive health care services in Zika-impacted countries, and how family planning will be part of the domestic response. As we continue to learn more about the possible health implications of contracting Zika virus, it is clear that U.S. agencies need to have increased funding for the ongoing efforts to understand it, prevent its spread, and support women and families who are impacted by it. During hearings over the past week, pro-women’s health champions strongly supported family planning services to be part of a comprehensive response to the Zika outbreak.
106 Members of Congress signed a letter calling on Republican leaders in Congress to “bolster women’s access to family planning services to support women in Zika-impacted countries and here in the U.S. as part of immediate preventative measures.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee: “We need to educate health care providers and families about this virus, and improve health care services for low-income pregnant women in areas where Zika poses a risk. According to the CDC and the Pan American Health Organization, women in many Zika-affected countries face barriers to reproductive health care, as well as high rates of sexual violence. I believe it’s critical that in Zika-affected countries, we do everything we can to ensure women have access to the full range of reproductive health care, including access to family planning services.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “The Zika virus may soon touch nearly every country in the hemisphere, and the connection between Zika and the birth defect microcephaly creates even greater urgency. We should prioritize awareness efforts, including the risk of sexual transmission, and meet the needs for contraception. Women need the right tools and information to choose whether and when to have children, particularly with this virus running wild.”
Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA-07): “One thing — as a physician — we know and very much so are recommending if you’re pregnant, if you’re of reproductive age to take all precautions. Obviously, the one thing that we do know making access to full family planning services available in areas where we know there’s endemic Zika, and within USAID’s purview within the $1.8 billion request...Again, the one thing is empowering women of childbearing age to have full family planning support services whether that’s birth control, we’re seeing increasing cases of sexually transmitted Zika virus as well, so I would be curious and would want to make sure we’re providing the full resources in these endemic countries.”
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ranking Member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “...we must work diligently to assess every available control measure and adopt the most effective policies to prevent the virus from entering the mosquito population in the continental United States. Equally important in light of what appears to be the Zika virus’ capacity to cause severe birth defects we must also provide safe, effective and affordable contraception to individuals living in areas of risk for Zika transmission. This includes taking action to strengthen health care services in areas where mosquito populations are already carrying Zika such as Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) and Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA-35) Joint op-ed: “As women Members of Congress, and staunch advocates for a woman's right to make her own health care decisions, we urge the global community to join us in calling for improved access to family planning resources, including education and contraception. Women and men facing the risk of Zika infection need the resources and information to make voluntary, informed choices on family planning—not anti-women's health policies that leave them without viable options.”
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With over 650 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
February 26, 2016