It started last year. Reports of an unusual rise in the number of Brazilian babies born with microcephaly—an unusually small head and brain, accompanied with severe mental and physical defects—caused understandable concern.
By April 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) had concluded that the cause was the Zika virus, transmitted via mosquitos (and to a lesser extent sexual contact).
The pro-life community has long been passionate defenders of the unborn. And I believe we may be on the cusp of a public health crisis that will test the integrity of our convictions and will require us to act beyond the voting booth to save unborn lives.
The Summer Olympic Games are proceeding as planned in Brazil, despite ongoing public health concerns about Zika. The virus has already hit our shores, with more than 300 confirmed cases of infection in Florida and the recent tragic death of an infant near Houston due to Zika.
Infections in Puerto Rico number over 5000, and the CDC estimates that Zika could affect 10,000 pregnancies there by year’s end. Many experts believe we are running out of time to take concerted action to prevent a larger epidemic, but our nation’s reaction has been relatively muted, and the Pro-Life Community has been fairly quiet as well.
Zika as a Pro-Life Issue
This should not be. I believe that the Zika virus represents a direct threat to what the Pro-Life Community professes to protect, so we as a community should be especially outspoken and engaged in preventing or arresting this crisis.
First and foremost, the Pro-Life community should care about Zika because the Zika virus is capable of inflicting permanent damage upon the unborn through lifelong birth defects or death. If we believe that these unborn lives are inherently valuable and deserve society’s protection, then it would be unconscionable for us to withhold our protection against this virus if we had the means to do so.
A concerted effort to stop the Zika virus would be consistent with our worldview that life in the womb matters—even if the attacker is not man but a pathogen.
The second reason is Zika will increase the demand for abortions. If it continues to spread, it will inevitably affect pregnant women in our country who will be forced with the excruciating question of what to do with their pregnancy.
Some will opt to not take any chances and abort as early as possible. Some women and families will hope for the best. However, microcephaly is not detected until late in the second trimester or early in the third trimester.
As a businessman, I often think about problems in terms of supply and demand, and a Zika epidemic will increase the demand for abortions. And even if the pregnancy is brought to term, some of those babies will be unwanted and given up. There will be no winners.
The truly compassionate approach is to proactively prevent mothers from facing this dilemma in the first place. Fighting Zika now is one way pro-lifers can make a practical difference for the unborn without having to wait for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.
Lastly, if we fail to defend the unborn from Zika, we may see a change in the tenor of our country’s conversation around the unborn—potentially swaying society away from a culture of life and towards an acquiescence with abortion due to the difficulty of bearing a child who may be a lifelong dependent.
We see Zika coming. We know what Zika does. And while we have our convictions, would we be in a position to condemn mothers knowing that we saw this freight train headed our way for a year now and we did not do our part to stop it?
So what can we do to protect the unborn, protect pregnant mothers from a terrible dilemma and promote a culture of life? We can get educated on what is already being done to fight this virus. We can get informed on the latest available avenues for mosquito control.
And for the long-haul, we can champion the accelerated development of a vaccine, likely supported by the public sector since the sad reality is that there is little profit for private corporations to develop vaccines for diseases that primarily affect the poor in this world.
To that end, both major political parties are in agreement that we should appropriate $1.1 billion in emergency funding to the CDC for Zika prevention and treatment as well as development of a vaccine. But the Senate could not come to an agreement on the latest version of the bill due to introduced riders (a key one involving the defunding of Profamilias, the Puerto Rico branch of Planned Parenthood).
Now, Congress is on summer recess until September 7th. What should’ve been a bipartisan slam-dunk has become an embarrassing failure in finding common ground—and the unborn will suffer for it.
Regardless of your political affiliation or who you think is to blame, I would urge you to contact your representatives and let them know that Zika funding is important to you. Please urge them to return back to Capitol Hill early to address this emergency by compromising with folks across the aisle and push funding through as soon as possible.
Once the Olympics are over, there is a good chance that Zika will spread across the globe.
For the sake of life, we must continue to invest in Zika prevention and ultimately develop a vaccine that would help the unborn—not only in our country, but also around the world. In the midst of this divisive election season, leading the fight against Zika is an ideal opportunity for the Pro-Life community to come together and exercise its passion and convictions in a practical way beyond voting at the ballot box.