Dear Senator Rubio,
I am an ob/gyn physician and would like you to know how your actions and words have greatly impacted my work and the life of my patients. Before the height of the mosquito season was upon us, congress had the opportunity to approve funding for Zika research and prevention. The best method of prevention is contraception. In low-income communities, the providers of health care and contraception often include Planned Parenthood. Due to the steadfast opposition to Planned Parenthood by Republicans, Zika funding was blocked and legislators left to enjoy their mosquito laden summer. I can see why this wouldn’t be important to many of you because you are either male or beyond the childbearing years. You have access to DEET to prevent mosquito bites and you can change your travel plans if needed. Pregnant women in your state, Florida, are not so lucky. They often need to use public transportation to get to their jobs, exposing them to mosquito bites during the day. When you are barely getting by, the expense of DEET is not an option.
And if all of that wasn’t enough of a burden on pregnant women, you recently made a blanket statement for all women who may be unfortunate to not only be exposed to Zika but to also find out that they are carrying a child with microcephaly. You do not believe that they should have the option to terminate a pregnancy, because YOU are strongly pro-life, even though you acknowledge that there will be a lifetime of difficulties.
Mr Rubio – let me tell you who will be shouldering the burden for that “lifetime of difficulties”. It is the mother. Many male partners/spouses in these situations find that the life of difficulties is too much to bear and leave the family. The overwhelming majority of the time it is the mother that is the primary caregiver and often needs to quit her job in order to care for a child who requires assistance 24 hours a day. Would you be willing to forgo your future in politics to provide all of the daily cares for a child who can’t speak, eat by himself or walk?
I also wonder where the outrage is against the men in Florida who are not using condoms, both to prevent spread of Zika and pregnancy. Free distribution of condoms would bypass the Planned Parenthood institution that you dislike and an education campaign on how and why to properly use condoms would take the burden of an unintended pregnancy off of women. We could also require by law that the father of a child with microcephaly needs to provide 50% of the lifetime cares.
Women are strong – we make babies, house them for 9 months and often provide the majority of daily cares for the next 18 years. We are also smart – we know when a “lifetime of difficulty” is something that our family is ready to face and when it may not be the best option. Women need to be in charge of the decision to continue a Zika infected pregnancy. Not you, Mr Rubio. And women and men need access to free contraception until we get this Zika problem figured out.
Fortunately, I live in Minnesota, where we have mosquitoes but also cold winters that kill the type of mosquitoes that carry Zika. Due to climate change and warming temperatures, which you have previously denied, this may only be the first of many tropical diseases that your state will be forced to deal with.
Leslee Jaeger, MD