(PRESS RELEASE) Today U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led 27 of their Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Republican leaders asking to increase funding to support women’s access to contraceptives at home and abroad in response to the Zika virus.
In the open letter, the Senators ask U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to push for “increased funding and support” for leading U.S. and international agencies to improve “maternal and child health and access to reproductive health care services, including family planning, in Zika-impacted areas,” as well as increase funding for domestic women’s health programs that provide access to birth control, counseling, and information.
The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international health emergency and estimates the outbreak could infect up to 4 million people in the Americas. To date, the governments of Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador—where the abortion laws are restrictive and there is limited availability of contraceptives—have called on women to avoid pregnancy to curb the virus.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The global response to this virus cannot rest on the shoulders of women alone. Governments in Zika-affected areas must find ways to combat this very serious health crisis while ensuring women’s rights to control their fertility, health and lives.
“Women must have access to the full range of reproductive health services and information available in order to make informed choices about pregnancy and parenthood that are the best for them.
“We applaud Senators Blumenthal and his Senate colleagues for serving as champions for women’s health here in the U.S. and focusing their efforts on this international health emergency. We call on Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell to act quickly to ensure women worldwide are not denied the reproductive health services they desperately need.”