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In this memo:

  • Continued Attacks in Congress on Family Planning

  • What you Need to know About Senate Republicans Failed Zika Bill

  • Public Health Experts Have Spoken

  • Who are ProFamilias, the Puerto Rican Health Clinic Under Attack

  • Planned Parenthood Raises Awareness of  Zika in Florida

Congress is set to return today without a path forward on Zika emergency funding and as the Centers for Disease Control are nearly out of usable funds to address the crisis. This is after having voted 9 times in this Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, taking 24 anti-women’s health votes, and pushing to end funding that 4 million Americans rely on for access to contraception and other family planning services.  These are the very same services the CDC recommends as the primary strategy to reduce the Zika-related pregnancy complications.

Yet, the same misguided and irresponsible agenda being set forward by the majority in Congress is only frustrated by years of attacks we have seen in the very same states that are now seeing an increase in cases of the Zika virus.  New data in Texas shows maternal mortality rates in Texas have doubled in the past two years -- coinciding with stringent funding cuts for women’s health care and defunding Planned Parenthood. And over the last month in Florida there have been 47 cases of locally transmitted Zika this summer and a multitude of attacks on their providers. Texas, which has already seen one Zika-related death, has seen a near 200% increase in abortion in one county and a doubling of pregnancy related deaths.

Despite the growing body of evidence showing the damage politically motivated attacks can have on health outcomes, Congressional attacks against women’s health continue as we anticipate another attempt to jam through the same failed bill that underfunds the response needed and disqualifies the family planning providers uniquely suited to care for the most at-risk populations and cuts hundreds of millions from the Affordable Care Act.

Continued Attacks in Congress on Family Planning    

In addition to blocking family planning providers from emergency funds, a budget deadline is rapidly approaching and House Republicans remain poised to pass a bill that will end the funding that 4 million Americans rely on for access to contraception and other family planning services by eliminating funding for the Title X program. Planned Parenthood health centers provide preventive care to approximately 1.5 million people served by the Title X family planning program, — roughly a third of the people served by the program. ProFamilias is also a recipient of Title X funding.

What you Need to know About Senate Republicans Failed Zika Bill:

Zika virus can be sexually transmitted and can especially harm pregnant women, making reproductive health providers all the more central to the response. Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe brain problems. It is also associated with impaired fetal growth, hearing loss in infants and other complications for pregnant women, including miscarriage.

But the bill that Congressional Republicans have failed to gain bipartisan support makes unnecessary and harmful changes to important federal programs that provide family planning and maternal health. The legislation also excludes qualified providers, like ProFamilias in Puerto Rico, simply because of their affiliation with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Public Health Experts Have Spoken:

The public health community has spoken with one voice: family planning --- including birth control, condoms, and education --- must be part of combating Zika. Family planning is the primary strategy recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce Zika-related pregnancy complications.


  • The World Health Organization Director General has said, "the response now requires a unique and integrated strategy that places support for women and girls of child-bearing age at its core."

  • The president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said plainly: “Immediate efforts to improve access to contraception and prevent pregnancy will help us to avoid the long-term effects associated with the Zika virus.”

  • ACOG continued: “The Zika virus outbreak is a stark reminder that birth control is essential preventive medicine, and is one of our most effective weapons in our war on Zika.  Congress should treat Zika like the emergency it is and swiftly enact a bill, free from tradeoffs and offsets.”

  • Peter Shin, MPH, a public health professor at George Washington University said:  “When they’re taking money away from Planned Parenthood, they’re basically taking it away from young, high-risk women.”

Who are ProFamilias:

ProFamilias is an important provider of sexual and reproductive health care in Puerto Rico and reaches populations that others do not. ProFamilias has two clinics in San Juan, both of which offer gynecological services, HIV testing and counseling, and sexual health counseling. One of these clinics is funded by the Title X program, the U.S’s only dedicated federal source of family planning, for low-income and uninsured women. In addition, ProFamilias provides sexual health services and education in community centers in other areas of the island. They have launched an education campaign specifically around the Zika virus and was the first organization on Puerto Rico to publicly discuss the connection between Zika and sexual and reproductive health.

  • In 2015, ProFamilias provided 146,691 services.

  • Almost half of services were provided to individuals under age 25, reflecting the organization’s focus on adolescents and young adults.

  • The total number of contraceptive services in 2015 was 88,536, or 60 percent of total services the network provides

But if Congressional Republicans had their way, this important community-based health care provider would be excluded from emergency funds to fight Zika – that’s the last thing we should be doing in a public health emergency.

Americans Agree Zika Response Needs to Include Family Planning:

Americans agree that this is not the time for politics. A new poll released in July from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the majority of Americans are following the outbreak of Zika closely and most also want reproductive health care to be part of the solution.

In May, Senator Patty Murray of Washington state led a bipartisan compromise that passed the Senate.  Unlike the current bill that recently failed, this bill did not limit the types of providers who could assist during a public health crisis. Republicans actively added new, unnecessary restrictions to a traditional funding mechanism, the Social Services Block Grant,  that would restrict family planning providers, like Planned Parenthood, who are uniquely suited to help in this crisis, from receiving additional funds.

Planned Parenthood Raises Awareness of  Zika in Florida

In spite of the political attacks, Planned Parenthood remains committed to educating the public about the risks of Zika. Canvassers with Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida’s (PPSENFL) are spending the next six weeks educating Miami communities — especially women of reproductive age in medically underserved areas — about the Zika virus, mosquito transmission, sexual transmission, travel-associated risks, and prevention of Zika. The canvass will reach approximately 25,000 doors in predominately Latino and Haitian neighborhoods. Materials will be available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.


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