An Open Letter to Rubio, Cruz, Trump: Respond to Zika Crisis Immediately

Dear Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz, and Mr. Trump,

The growing public health crisis posed by the spread of the Zika virus demands the urgent attention of leaders at all levels of government, including those who seek our nation's highest office. As the clear frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, you each have a responsibility to help advance a nationwide dialogue on how best to respond to this global health emergency. This response must acknowledge that women across America--from both political parties--are rightfully concerned about the safety and advisability of becoming pregnant during a viral pandemic that has been linked to a rare and potentially deadly neurological disorder in infants. That is why I am asking you to put aside your ideological objections and support universal contraceptive coverage until we better understand the Zika virus and can control its outbreak.

While I implore you to take action during this public health emergency, I understand that we may have very serious disagreements about how to improve the lives of women and families more broadly. NARAL Pro-Choice America believes that without access to the full range of reproductive health care and family planning services--especially contraception and abortion--millions of American women would be hamstrung and left without the tools to raise a happy and healthy family and to have a chance at achieving economic success. As candidates and lawmakers, you have attacked efforts to provide universal access to contraceptive coverage and stood against commonsense policies that empower women to make their own health decisions[1]. But the deadly reality of the Zika outbreak requires leaders to take bold action in the face of this public health crisis.

As you know, some pregnant women diagnosed with Zika have been bearing children with microcephaly, a medical complication that can be fatal within the first few months of a child's life. Every parent deserves the chance to put their family's health first and to choose when and how they want to raise their children. Unfortunately, right now millions of American women don't know whether it would be healthy to become pregnant with the spread of the Zika virus, and they deserve to have the ability to delay a healthy pregnancy.

While you have attacked universal contraceptive coverage in the past, I implore you to drop your opposition amidst this public health crisis so that women have the option to delay their pregnancy if they choose while we learn more about the threat posed by the Zika epidemic and how to contain it. I know that asking someone to re-examine their positions, no matter how ill-informed and dangerous they are, is a difficult ask. But I've seen it happen before in the face of a public health emergency. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit Indiana last spring, Governor Mike Pence dropped his long-held opposition to needle exchange because he knew he faced a public health crisis that could only be solved if he allowed this critical program to exist in the state. We're asking you to similarly put public health above partisan ideology and to take action to protect the health and safety of women and families across our country.

Without universal access to contraception, women lack a critical tool for planning a healthy pregnancy. That's why it's critical for you, as leaders in your party who each come from states where the Zika virus has been detected, to support universal contraceptive coverage for all women, at least until we learn more about this deadly virus and how to contain its spread. I hope that you will join me in standing up for American families as we grapple with this public health crisis.

Sincerely,

Ilyse Hogue
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

View original letter here.