To briefly summarize: there is a hideous mosquito-transmitted (and less frequently, sexually-transmitted) blood borne virus that has the potential to cause profound birth defects in babies who are exposed in utero. There is no known treatment or inoculation, and the recommendation for travelers abroad is to avoid conception for 30-120 (or more, sources vary) days after potential exposure.
The news for the unfortunate inhabitants of the infected lands is much more grim: 2 or 3 years of postponing baby making. A harrowing prognosis for couples and families, many of whom, unlike many of their wealthier global neighbors, take great joy in welcoming new life into their homes.
Many poverty stricken societies, in a posture which is startlingly alien to the affluent and individualistic West, are far more welcoming to and desirous of children. (And when their children – no less loved or valuable than our own – do fall ill? We throw condoms at them, more often than not, failing to address the dignity of the human person.)
A Facebook friend pointed out the hypocrisy of holding developing countries to higher standards than our own, suggesting that allowing them to use DDT, an insecticide problematic in it’s own right, but for sure a lesser of two evils, could go a long way towards eradicating the virus itself.
The problem is, we’ve become so inoculated by the drumbeat of the catastrophic (and deeply xenophobic) myth of overpopulation, the actual lives of the persons affected are often second or even third fiddle to the Very Important Goal of getting condoms in the hands of every poor indigenous savage who couldn’t possibly be capable of abstinence in the face of lethal risks. Or clandestinely spaying women in hospitals and field clinics without knowledge or consent when they are at their most vulnerable, giving birth.
If I sound angry, it’s because I am angry.
We treat our brothers and sisters in the hotter, poorer parts of the world like the animals we believe them to be, and increasingly like the animals we ourselves behave as.
And when a gruesome virus builds to a pandemic level, we start moaning about the grim prognosis for those unfortunate, backwards countries without sufficient access to contraception and abortion.
Not about how to cure the virus.
Not about how to stop the spread of the disease.
Not about how to kill off the particular species of mosquito transmitting it.
No, we jump straight to the real enemy: the deformed, microcephalic baby. And that must be avoided at all costs.
But if that were really true, surely the prevailing message would be a universal plea for abstinence and respect for the human body – particularly for the female body. Surely a couple wanting to avoid parenting a child with profound special needs in an impoverished environment would be advised to avoid sexual contact at all costs, lest the inevitable method failure or human error in contraceptive use result in conception.
But no. We can solve that little problem with abortion, can’t we?
Better to have dead babies in stricken wombs then living, suffering babies whose parents were not properly vetted on the risks the virus posed to their prospective progeny.
I wish this story had a happier ending, but it doesn’t. Because at the end of the day, we’re exporting more than food and medicine to the developing world: we’re exporting an ideology. And our ideology here in the West is fundamentally rooted in the view of child-as-burden, and pregnancy as disaster.
Zika just allows us to draw clearer enemy lines.
St. Rose of Lima, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.