Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is using the words of Pope Francis earlier this year about the outbreak of Zika in Latin America in order to urge Republicans to vote to include funding for abortion giant Planned Parenthood in a measure that supposedly would help combat the mosquito-borne virus.
“Planned Parenthood is a primary health provider,” Kaine said, reports Roll Call. “This is really at the core of dealing with the population that has been most at risk of Zika.”
Kaine, considered to be a contender for vice president on the Democrat Party ticket, referred to Pope Francis’s statement that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil” when it comes to fighting Zika.
Following the Pope’s statement, however, in February the Vatican attempted to fend off media claims that he had spoken in favor of relaxing the Church’s ban on artificial contraception.
As AFP reported, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi explained Pope Francis had only been referring to birth control in “emergency cases.”
“That does not mean that this recourse is accepted and can be used without discernment,” Lombardi said.
AFP continued on the media’s salivating comments over the Pope’s statement:
“Francis says contraception can be used to slow Zika,” trumpeted the New York Times, while an online headline in Britain’s The Guardian said: “Pope suggests contraception can be condoned in Zika crisis.”
Vatican insiders said such interpretations were wide off the mark.
“You don’t change doctrine with off the cuff remarks,” said Monsignor Octavio Ruiz Arenas, a member of the Vatican department that guides Church teaching.
The Colombian archbishop emphasised that Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical outlawing the pill and other forms of artificial contraception remained the only Church statement that counts on the subject.
A pro-choice lobby within the Church also described Francis’s comments as signalling “little or no change”.
Though Planned Parenthood and its allies frequently claim that denying its funding causes delays in treatment and a decrease in health care services to low-income women, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) provide more comprehensive health care for low-income individuals without offering abortions.
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a member of the House’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives which has been investigating Planned Parenthood, explained last year, “For every one Planned Parenthood facility, there are 20 federally qualified health centers. Planned Parenthood is trying to put a message out there that if they went away, all these women wouldn’t have care.”
A report on Black’s website notes that FQHCs “provide women with the same preventative services offered by Planned Parenthood, plus the many things they do not offer: mammograms, prenatal care, treatment of diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, depression, etc.”
“In states where the state legislature has defunded Planned Parenthood, low-income women are still able to access the same preventative services offered by Planned Parenthood in addition to many others through these FQHCs as well as community health centers,” the report continues. “These health care providers far outnumber the number of Planned Parenthood locations, which are primarily located only in urban areas.”
Kaine claims to be a practicing Catholic even though he has typically voted in favor of abortion measures. He voted with Senate Democrats to block a $1.1 billion funding measure designed to combat the Zika virus because it stripped out funding for Planned Parenthood. Despite numerous statements by infections disease experts and doctors who have explained there is little known about the effects of Zika during pregnancy, Planned Parenthood claims to be able to deal best with the virus with birth control and abortion.
“We are the front line of defense when it comes to battling Zika,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said, criticizing Republicans.
Laguens said it was “shameful” for Republicans “to undermine the ability of family planning providers like Planned Parenthood to do what we do best in the midst of this rapidly spreading Zika virus, a public health crisis that directly targets women and children.”
Kaine said he predicts Republicans will fold and allow the funding for Planned Parenthood.
“They know what the vote’s going to be,” Kaine said. “They’re aware that it is a move on the chess board but not the last move on the chess board.
I think we’re going to get there. I think the Planned Parenthood thing was a little bit of saber-rattling and skirmishing, and I don’t think we ought to be doing that when we’re facing a public health emergency of this kind.”