- The Washington Times - Friday, February 26, 2016

The Zika virus isn’t transmitting within the U.S., but pregnant women who contracted the virus elsewhere had abortions or miscarriages upon their return, scientists reported Friday, signaling the virus is striking close to home even as congressional Republicans warned the United Nations not to let “opportunistic” advocates roll back abortion laws abroad.

The Centers for Disease Control said it confirmed Zika infection in nine pregnant women who had traveled to hard-hit areas, namely Latin America and American Samoa.

Among them, two are still pregnant without complication. Yet two women opted for abortion, two had miscarriages and three gave birth, with one of the newborns displaying “severe” microcephaly.

Scientists have tied microcephaly, in which babies have abnormally small heads, to skyrocketing rates of Zika transmission in Brazil and dozens of other Latin countries with ardently pro-life policies.

As a result, the epidemic has reopened debate about a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy if her fetus might be born with severe disabilities.

Several Latin countries that restrict access to contraceptives or abortion have urged couples to defer pregnancy, with El Salvador going so far as to ask women to try and wait until 2018.

Even Pope Francis has weighed in, suggesting the use of contraceptives to avoid Zika-related defects is not an “absolute evil,” though abortion would still be forbidden.

>Sensing a threat to anti-abortion laws abroad, House Republicans took their concerns straight to the U.N. on Friday, saying they were alarmed by a top official’s suggestion that safe abortion services were part of an international standard for women’s reproductive health, as dozens of countries grapple with Zika.

“We implore you to clarify your statement to make clear you are not lending your voice to efforts to capitalize on this disease to promote a politically motivated pro-abortion agenda. We hope that your recent remarks do not favor abortion as a public health tool to tackle the Zika virus, and would appreciate a response with your clarification,” Rep. Blake Farenthold, Texas Republican, and 50 other lawmakers said in a letter to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N.’s high commissioner on human rights.

They said the U.N. risked mimicking advocates who have already targeted pro-life laws in El Salvador and other countries.

Meanwhile, Democrats are heading in the opposition direction, urging Congress to approve President Obama’s $1.9 billion request to fight Zika and then promote a “full range” of family planning services in affected countries.

“Democrats are going to continue urging bipartisan work to ensure women everywhere have the ability to plan their pregnancies, especially in light of this virus,” Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, said at a Zika hearing last week.

As it stands, the mosquito-borne Zika virus is transmitting locally in Puerto Rico, but not the U.S. mainland.

The CDC’s latest case study, however, suggests the disease is already impacting pregnant women on American soil.

In one case, a woman in her 30s reported she had traveled to a Zika-affected country during her pregnancy and then developed symptoms of the virus.

Imaging showed evidence of the virus in her amniotic fluid and severe brain atrophy in her fetus.

“After discussion with her health care providers,” the CDC said, “the patient elected to terminate her pregnancy.”

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