Before I get to the politics part, my take on Zika, which I’ve stated from when this first became a global concern, is that an outbreak is largely a political and social concern. In terms of loss of life (i.e., death), the numbers would be very, very small, compared to even a very mild influenza season. So this is mostly likely not the Andromeda Death Virus.
But politically and socially, Zika is explosive, since Zika can cause the birth defect of microcephaly. If rubella is any guide, it will weaken anti-abortion arguments:
In a sense, it’s analogous to rubella in the 1950s and 1960s. The rubella virus, when it infects pregnant women in the first six months of pregnancy causes birth defects. Usually this is deafness accompanied by vision problems and heart defects, though even more serious problems often occur including mental retardation. Today, abortion is recommended in those exceptional circumstances where it does happen. While rubella fortunately isn’t a concern anymore–it’s the “R” in the MMR vaccine–in the pre-vaccine era, it was a terrifying prospect and led to underground acceptance of abortion–it was the circumstance, even though rare, where most people would ‘allow’ an abortion…
Throughout Latin America, countries are being forced to confront more liberal contraception and abortion policies (along with the ridiculous suggestion that women delay childbirth until 2018).
So this from Ron Klain, former U.S. ‘Ebola czar’ (
I AM THE CZAR OF ALL EBOLAS) is disturbing (boldface mine):
Soon, as summer arrives, the Aedes aegypti mosquito will become active in Southern states, and the disease will spread there. Cases of sexual transmission will take place as well. It is not a question of whether babies will be born in the United States with Zika-related microcephaly — it is a question of when and how many. For years to come, these children will be a visible, human reminder of the cost of absurd wrangling in Washington, of preventable suffering, of a failure of our political system to respond to the threat that infectious diseases pose.
Moreover, once local transmission of Zika begins in a few weeks, authorities will face the hard question of whether women living in such areas — here, in the United States — should be instructed to delay becoming pregnant, and whether those who are already pregnant should be relocated. Domestic travel warnings also loom. And still, Congress fritters away precious time on a dispute over funding that amounts to what the Defense Department spends every seven hours.
Of course, Klain, writing in the Washington Post, can’t really mention the Procedure That Shall Not Be Named (boldface added):
As someone last night in the Mad Biologist’s Far-Flung Network of Correspondents noted, imagine if the only healthcare services a woman has access to–and in the era of healthcare consolidation, this is a real concern–is a Catholic-affiliated hospital. Or suppose, in light of the burdens many states place in the way of getting an abortion (and don’t forget the conservative efforts to push the limit in Roe v. Wade back to twenty weeks from twenty-four), that a woman ends up bumping up against the 24 week limit? What then?
Keep in mind, the health of the mother really isn’t an issue (or at least, not any more than most pregnancies). The issue revolves around the possibility of severe birth defects.
While one would like to appeal to Republicans’ basic humanity (STOP LAUGHING! STOP LAUGHING NOW!), one would think they would realize Zika could completely delegitimize their anti-abortion efforts. There will be a woman who will want a third-trimester abortion–or worse for Republicans, one who wants one in the fifth month (something Republicans have been trying to ban).