Planned Parenthood Exec: ‘We Are the Front Line of Defense When it Comes to Battling Zika’

Lauretta Brown | June 30, 2016 | 6:12pm EDT
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(AP Photo, File)

( – “We are the front line of defense when it comes to battling Zika,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said Thursday at an event held to criticize Republican proposals to combat the virus.

Senate Democrats were joined by Laguens Thursday at a briefing that slammed Republicans for denying funding for Planned Parenthood in their $1.1 billion proposal to fight the Zika. The GOP proposal was blocked by Democrats Tuesday.

Laguens claimed that the GOP-drafted legislation “does not give money to the providers best suited to help the Zika virus, like Profamilias in Puerto Rico.”

Profamilias is the Planned Parenthood branch in Puerto Rico, where according to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,970 cases of local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus have been reported as of June 29.

Democrats charge that Profamilias is excluded from the funding proposal to combat Zika in Puerto Rico.

PolitiFact examined a claim by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and other Democrats that the Zika bill “limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus,” and rated it as only half true.

According to the fact-checking site, the GOP bill “provided funds that would potentially help clinics and hospitals in nearly every municipality on the island. There would be some pockets without services, but it is unclear that Profamilias would be positioned to fill those gaps.”

Laguens argued that the Zika bill proposed by the GOP “does not put the health of women and children first by making family planning and condoms as widely available as possible to prevent what is also a sexually transmitted disease.”

She said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “is allowing his party to undermine the ability of family planning providers like Planned Parenthood to do what we do best in the midst of this rapidly spreading Zika virus, a public health crisis that directly targets women and children. This is shameful.”

“Women in Puerto Rico, Latin America, the Caribbean and in many, many parts of the United States where Zika is expected to hit already face significant gaps in access to basic reproductive and maternal health services,” Laguens added.

“We know that in Latin America, the region hit hardest, already 23 million women have an unmet need for contraception and 55 percent of newborns do not receive the needed care for these kind of major health complications that can result from Zika.”

Laguens number of 23 million women having an “unmet need” for contraception originates from the Guttmacher Institute.

Guttmacher released a study Wednesday examining why these women who were attempting to avoid pregnancy in Latin America did not use a contraceptive method – and found that inability to access contraceptives was cited as the reason in just five percent of cases.

According to Guttmacher, “the most common reasons married women with unmet need cite for not using a method are concerns about side effects and health risks (26%), and the belief that they have sex too infrequently to warrant use (24%). A large share say that they are breastfeeding or have not resumed menstruation since their last birth (that is, they have postpartum amenorrhea) (20%). In contrast, the inability to access contraceptives is a relatively uncommon reason for nonuse (5%).”

The next steps in the battle over Zika funding in Congress are unclear as the Senate has just three working days next week, following their July 4 break, to pass legislation authorizing funding to combat Zika. Failing that, it will not be addressed until September.

Meanwhile fears that the Zika virus could hit the United States are growing as the Zika-carrying Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus mosquitoes are present in all but ten states.

According to the CDC’s latest count, 287 pregnant women in the U.S. and D.C. have laboratory evidence of the Zika virus. All of the cases thus far have been travel related, however.

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