“What’s The Matter With Motherhood?”: Hey Conservatives, Health Coverage Including Maternity Care Is A Right-To-Life Issue
If you’re a conservative strongly opposed to abortion, shouldn’t you want to give all the help you can to women who want to bring their children into the world? In particular, wouldn’t you hope they’d get the proper medical attention during and after their pregnancy?
This would seem a safe assumption, which is why it ought to be astonishing that conservatives are positively obsessed with trashing the Affordable Care Act’s regulation requiring insurance policies to include maternity coverage.
Never mind that we who are lucky enough to have health insurance end up paying to cover conditions we may never suffer ourselves. We all want to avoid cancer, but we don’t begrudge those who do get it when the premiums we pay into our shared insurance pools help them receive care.
Yet critics of Obamacare apparently think there is something particularly odious when a person who might not have a baby pays premiums to assist someone who does. It’s true that men cannot have babies, although it is worth mentioning that they do play a rather important role in their creation. In any event, it is hardly very radical to argue that society is better off when kids are born healthy to healthy moms.
Yet the conservatives’ ire over this issue knows no bounds.
“And so what if a health policy lacks maternity care?” wrote Deroy Murdoch on National Review’s Web site , the italics on that impatient “so what” being his. “Not all women want to bear more children — or any children at all. . . . And how about lesbians who do not want kids, and are highly unlikely to become pregnant accidentally?” It’s touching, actually, to see such concern for lesbians in a conservative publication. Behold the miracles Obamacare already has called forth.
On “Fox News Sunday” this month, host Chris Wallace was very worked up as he pressed Zeke Emanuel, a former health-care adviser to President Obama, over how unfair it is that a single woman with a 24-year-old son would be forced to pay for such coverage. “She’s not going to have any more children,” Wallace said with great certainty. “She’s not going to need maternity services.”
Writing on the FreedomWorks Web site, Julie Borowski declared, unhappily: “Maternity coverage will be mandatory — even for men. . . . Adding coverage for things that some people do not want will only increase insurance costs for everyone .”
Well, not exactly. But you get the drift. Who knew that supporting motherhood was suddenly controversial?
All of which ought to present members of the right-to-life movement with a challenge. In the name of consistency, they need to break with their conservative allies and insist that maternity coverage be included in all health-care plans. Shouldn’t those who want to prevent abortion be in the forefront of making the case that a woman will be far more likely to choose to have her baby if she knows that both she and her child will get regular medical attention?
For too many politicians on the right, what they say about abortion is at odds with what they say about so many other issues. They speak with great concern and compassion for the unborn, and I respect that. You don’t have to support making abortion illegal to think that there are too many of them in the United States.
To their great credit, some right-to-lifers really do follow the logic of their position and support expanded health coverage, food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children feeding program and other measures that help parents after their kids are born. This reflects a consistent ethic.
But many other conservatives would make abortion illegal and leave it at that. Thus we have the spectacle in Texas of right-wing politicians trying to make it as difficult as possible for a woman to obtain an abortion while proudly blocking the state’s participation in the expansion of Medicaid to cover the near-poor. Does it serve the cause of life to keep more than 1.8 million Texans from getting health insurance?
President Obama apologized last week after all the criticisms of what’s happening in the individual insurance market. But where is the outrage over governors and legislators flatly cutting off so many lower-income Americans from access to Medicaid? The Urban Institute estimates that 6 million to 7 million people will be deprived of coverage in states that are refusing to accept the expansion.
If health coverage — yes, including maternity care — isn’t a right-to-life issue, I don’t know what is.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 10, 2013
“Old Time Crackpot Patriarchy”: Behind The Right’s Crazy Crusade To Make Women Pay More For Health Insurance
In a sane world, when Rep. Renee Ellmers asked rhetorically last week “Has a man ever delivered a baby?” she would have been arguing not against, but for the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that men and women pay the same insurance premiums. After all, the special physical burdens borne solely by women to ensure the life and health of the next generation obviously benefit both genders, right? Healthy men today can thank their mothers for eating well and getting good prenatal care; likewise fathers are grateful to the mothers of their children for the same. (Michael Hiltzik runs down the case for sharing those costs publicly here.)
But no, Ellmers asked that question of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in order to rail against the ACA’s equal premium requirement. She thought it was a clever “gotcha” moment, designed to show the craziness of requiring all insurance policies to cover maternity care and contraception without a co-pay. (The doofuses at Breitbart agreed, declaring “Ellmers brings her A game.”) Amazingly, Ellmers chairs the House GOP’s “women’s policy committee” – so how could she be so tone-deaf in attacking the way the ACA helps that increasingly elusive GOP constituency, female voters?
Because the right-wing base of the modern Republican Party is dedicated to restoring men as the head of the household, and the nuclear, husband-headed family as the principle social unit. From Rick Santorum railing against contraception and preaching the nuclear family as the answer to poverty in last year’s GOP presidential primary, to Rafael Cruz Sr. telling an audience that “God commands us men to teach your wife, to teach your children—to be the spiritual leader of your family,” today’s right-wing Republicans are increasingly comfortable with open displays of old-time crackpot patriarchy. This week Sen. Ted Cruz Jr. courts the right-wing preachers of the South Carolina Renewal Project, which is thought to be a key stop on his way to the GOP nomination in that early-primary state.
Let’s face it: The only way charging women more for health insurance and healthcare makes sense is if they have a partner who either shares that burden or shoulders it entirely. As in … a husband. Then it’s clear that the male of the species is doing his part to keep the species healthy and reproducing itself. A woman who doesn’t have a husband to play that role? Well, there shouldn’t be women like that – and certainly if there are, they shouldn’t be having children anyway, or even having sex, so they don’t need maternity care or contraception.
That’s the only way I can explain the GOP’s willingness to openly endorse an enormous transfer of wealth from women back to men by not only advocating the repeal of the ACA but specifically railing against its equal-premium provisions. But don’t worry, gals: You’ll get that wealth back once you get yourself a man!
I got a glimpse of this mind-set from an otherwise open-minded Republican, former RNC chair Michael Steele, last year, when he argued against the ACA’s contraception without a co-pay provision on “Hardball.” As Steele told me:
The problem is that you have effectively absolved the male of any responsibility in the relationship with this woman, whether it’s a sexual nature or beyond that. It’s not just about giving women access to contraception. It’s about the responsible behavior that goes with that access. It’s nice for Barack Obama to tell women, ‘I got your back. Here, have a pill.’ Men have a responsibility here … It’s this other piece that doesn’t get talked about in terms of the responsibility of fathers, or potential fathers, in this relationship.
I tried to reassure Steele that men could continue to be responsible to the women in their lives, even if they got contraception without a co-pay, but he wasn’t having it. I saw the uneasiness with female autonomy that’s at the heart of modern Republicanism, even if Steele himself handles that anxiety better than folks on the far right.
The father of the man who led the crusade to shut down the government over Obamacare, Rafael Cruz Sr., is quite clear about his belief that women must be subservient to men. As David Corn revealed in Mother Jones, Cruz told an Irving, Texas, mega-church last year:
As God commands us men to teach your wife, to teach your children—to be the spiritual leader of your family—you’re acting as a priest. Now, unfortunately, unfortunately, in too many Christian homes, the role of the priest is assumed by the wife. Why? Because the man had abdicated his responsibility as priest to his family…So the wife has taken up that banner, but that’s not her responsibility. And if I’m stepping on toes, just say, ‘Ouch.’
Ouch. I’m waiting for mainstream reporters to ask Cruz whether he shares his father’s beliefs – including his claim that President Obama should “go back to Kenya.” Rafael Cruz is a leading surrogate for his son, and has played a core role in his political rise. I don’t think it’s unfair to ask how much their views overlap, especially as Cruz courts the extremists in the South Carolina Renewal Project.
Right now those extremists matter more to key GOP leaders than ordinary women do. But if Ken Cuccinelli loses the Virginia governor’s race to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, as polls indicate is likely, he’ll do so because of the women’s vote. Republicans can’t win women because they’re still fighting a culture war to restore men to their “rightful” place as the head of the family and society. They’re profoundly uncomfortable with women’s autonomy – and that makes women voters increasingly uncomfortable voting Republican. Making Renee Ellmers the face of the backlash won’t help.
But I don’t expect a Cuccinelli loss to sober up the GOP either. Already right-wingers are telling reporters that McAuliffe is winning because the stridently antiabortion lieutenant governor didn’t campaign hard enough on culture-war issues. Antiabortion activist Marjorie Dannenfelser, who leads the Susan B. Anthony List, told Politico that Cuccinelli bowed to a GOP establishment-mandated “jobs, economy, that’s all that matters script.” Dannenfelser says “that script didn’t work in the presidential with [Mitt] Romney, who is not viewed as conservative as Ken is, and it has been problematic in this gubernatorial race. Sometimes, when it gets to social policy, everyone gets in the fetal position on the Republican side.”
Democrats have to hope the GOP listens to Dannenfelser heading into the 2014 midterms.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, November 5, 2013
Question: How do you get politicians to pay attention to issues that matter to women?
Answer: Get them elected — or defeated.
A month from now, voters in two states will go to the polls to elect a governor. In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe; and in New Jersey, Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono is running against Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Both campaigns know they can’t win without strong support from women.
According to the National Journal:
In New Jersey and Virginia — the two states with gubernatorial elections this year — women made up more than half of the 2009 turnout (52 percent in Virginia and 53 percent in New Jersey), ensuring an intense competition for their votes in 2013. These battles will be closely watched as the national Republican Party seeks to boost its appeal to women and to lay a positive foundation for the 2014 midterm elections.
If the Republicans sweep the 2013 contests, you’ll be reading blog posts here and seeing pundits on TV saying that the GOP and the Tea Party have gained valuable momentum for 2014. That’s why the financiers of the Republican war on women are doubling down in Virginia and New Jersey today.
As I wrote in Politico back in June,
The anti-abortion rights group that calls itself the Susan B. Anthony List has announced plans to make this year’s statewide elections in Virginia a “template” for rolling out national strategies in 2014. It plans to spend $1.5 million to elect Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli governor and political gadfly E.W. Jackson lieutenant governor.Would Susan B. Anthony agree with Cuccinelli, who frequently attacks Planned Parenthood, charging that they have “an open willingness to participate in human trafficking?” Or that the “homosexual agenda … brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul?”
Would Susan B. Anthony stand by Jackson, who called Planned Parenthood “more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was?”
I know about Susan B. Anthony. Susan B. Anthony is a hero of mine. This List is no Susan B. Anthony.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the race is between a tireless champion for women’s rights, Barbara Buono, and Chris Christie, the first anti-choice governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade
Chris Christie cut $7.5 million in funding for family planning service, and used his veto pen on marriage equality legislation, equal pay laws and a minimum wage increase while signing off on a record $1.57 billion in corporate tax cuts.
Like Barbara Buono, Terry McAuliffe is providing a clear contrast to a candidate with a record of attacks on women’s rights.
A New Republic article headlined “Ken Cuccinelli’s Record on Women’s Issues Is As Bad As Ever” says:
Cuccinelli does not support a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. He does not see the need for the state to fund Planned Parenthood — which provides services as wide-ranging as HIV testing, prenatal care, and adoption referrals for thousands of women living in the Commonwealth.He has supported legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to provide emergency contraception if it violates their conscience, and feels employers should be able to dictate whether the health insurance plans they offer cover contraception. He pushed legislation that would have banned third-trimester abortions in Virginia, even in emergencies that endangered the life of the mother.
Four years ago, he had the opportunity to help amend Virginia law in a way that would make sex with minors a more serious offense; he opted instead to defend the statute lawmakers were trying to replace, an unconstitutional state ban on sodomy. He is silent on whether he supports equal pay legislation.
Cuccinelli demanded that Virginia institute a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, which has rightly been characterized as state-sponsored rape, is a zealous proponent of TRAP laws designed to shutter abortion clinics, and even supported a law that would have criminalized later-term abortions including those necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life.
Ken Cuccinelli was one of only three state attorneys general to refuse to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. His relentless focus on restricting women’s health care caused the Washington Post to call him “the most overtly partisan Attorney General in Virginia’s history.”
Elections matter in this country for a wide range of reasons. They codify our values and priorities as a society and help determine our future. They put the breaks on destructive policies and fuel the progress of urgently needed solutions.
My message to women in Virginia and New Jersey is that these elections are doubly important, because not only will they set the path that these two states will follow, but they will also deliver a verdict on the politics of division and sexism that Republicans think is a winning formula for 2014, 2016 and beyond.
Your vote is your voice. Use it!
By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women; The Huffington post Blog, September 25, 2013
According to The New York Times, GOP leaders—all men—are strategizing on how to push through a Senate bill that would ban abortions after twenty weeks. Senator Marco Rubio is quoted as saying, “Irrespective of how people may feel about the issue, we’re talking about five months into a pregnancy. People certainly feel there should be significant restrictions on that.”
Well, count me as one of the many people who don’t. Before I had my daughter, anti-choicers frequently told me that once I became pregnant—once I saw an ultrasound or felt a kick—I would be against abortion. But being pregnant and becoming a parent only made me more pro-choice.
I’ve written about my fraught pregnancy elsewhere—about how I got sick and nearly died when I was twenty-eight weeks pregnant, and the subsequent struggle with my daughter’s health and my own well-being. Despite all that, I was lucky—I am fine, my daughter is fine. But if I had gotten ill a few weeks earlier, I could have been faced with ending my pregnancy to save my life. It would have been an awful, but clear, choice.
I cannot imagine being in a hospital room—devastated, frightened and confused from medication—and being told that I had to jump through legal hoops in order to get the care I needed. If you think this would be a clear-cut case—I was fatally ill—you’re wrong. At what point is a woman sick enough to qualify for one of the “exceptions” Republicans so valiantly include? Would I have needed to have eclamptic seizures first? Waited until my liver completely failed and gotten a transplant? Women have already died in this country because of laws that trump fetuses’ rights over women’s personhood—it could happen again easily.
My story is hardly unique. Women get ill, fetuses are unviable or too sick to continue with a pregnancy. And yes, some women need abortions past the twentieth week for reasons that have nothing to do with health circumstances. We live in a country that makes procuring reproductive care as difficult as possible: we give young people inaccurate and dangerous information about sex via ideologically driven abstinence-only education; 87 percent of counties in the US have no abortion provider; we deny financial assistance to the most in need and put up obstacles for younger women; one-third of women seeking abortions have to travel more than twenty-five miles to obtain one, and crisis pregnancy centers routinely lie to women about far into their pregnancy they are. Not to mention that we provide nothing in the way of support to parents—no mandated paid parental leave, no universal preschool or subsidized child care.
The Republican war on reproductive justice is directly responsible for women’s seeking later abortions. It’s easier for anti-choicers to perpetuate a myth of callous women who cavalierly decide to end their twenty-two-week pregnancy than to admit that their cruel and punitive policies are why women don’t get the care they need earlier.
The Republican leadership may see polls on what Americans think of later abortion and think they have a winning issue here. But they’d be wrong. The GOP is so out-of-touch with what pregnancy actually looks like—how complex and nuanced women’s lives really are—that they don’t see the stories behind the numbers. They’re going to make the same miscalculation they did last year by underestimating women and the way their experiences shape their vote. Our reproductive stories are not black and white, and they’re certainly not something that can be mandated or restricted by policy. Not at two weeks, not at twenty weeks, not ever.
By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, July 29, 2013
Some 5,000 orange-clad men and women invaded the Texas capitol in Austin on Monday in an emotional and enthusiastic show of support for reproductive rights. They faced off with Republican lawmakers still resolved to pass SB 5, the very bill limiting abortion access that was defeated last week after Senator Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster. Yesterday, nearly 2,000 people showed up to testify against the bill as it was considered by the Texas House Affairs Committee, which approved it 8-3.
This latest effort to roll back women’s rights in Texas has met fierce opposition and resolve from Texans and other Americans who recognize the value of women’s health care. “When you silence one of us, you give voice to the millions who will continue to demand our lives, our choices, our independence,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, reminded us at Monday’s rally.
It has also highlighted the deep gulf between the lived experiences of women in Texas, particularly low-income women, and lawmakers who have inserted themselves into decisions that should only be made by women and their physicians.
Monday’s protest took place as Texas lawmakers convened for a second special session called by Governor Rick Perry. The bill they’re considering would make abortion after 20 weeks illegal, impose onerous requirements on abortion providers, and demand that all clinics meet costly and burdensome building requirements. If passed, 37 of the state’s 42 abortion providers will be forced to close their doors. This despite the fact that 79 percent of Texans believe abortion should be available to a woman under varying circumstances, while only 16 percent believe abortion should never be permitted.
This is just the latest in a seemingly never-ending assault on Texas women. In 2011, lawmakers decimated the Texas family planning program with a two-thirds budget cut that closed nearly 60 family planning clinics across the state and left almost 150,000 women without care. Soon after, they also barred Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health clinics defined as “abortion affiliates” from the Women’s Health Program (WHP), a state Medicaid program on which thousands of poor women rely. Governor Perry insisted that former WHP patients could find new providers and claimed there were plenty to bridge the gap, but that simply is not the case. Clinics across Texas have reported a sharp drop in patients, and guess that former WHP clients are receiving no care at all.
To suggest so cavalierly that women simply find new providers is evidence that Republican lawmakers simply don’t understand – or don’t care about – the socioeconomic realities that shape women’s lives. Otherwise, they would recognize the absurdity of forcing women to navigate an increasingly complex health system to find new providers and then traverse hundreds of miles to receive basic care and services. This is a stark illustration of the privilege gap that exists between policymakers and the people they represent.
After it became clear that the warnings of public health experts – who testified that such policies would impose a heavy economic toll on the state, result in negative health outcomes, and increase the demand for abortion – were becoming reality, lawmakers last month restored family planning funding to the 2014 budget. While this is certainly good news, returning to pre-2011 funding levels still leaves nearly 700,000 women without access to care and so far has enabled only three of the nearly 60 shuttered clinics to re-open. And even before the 2011 budget cuts, only one-third of the state’s one million women in need of family planning services received them through the state program. A provider shortage will persist for the foreseeable future; it is no easy task to reopen a clinic once it has shuttered its facility, released its staff, sold all its equipment, and sent its patients’ files elsewhere.
If the current legislation were to pass, nearly all the state’s abortion providers would be forced to close. The majority of those are clinics that not only offer abortion services, but also provide contraception, STD testing, and cancer screenings for poor women. Many of those clinics are located in areas that are already bearing the brunt of family planning clinic closures (see map below). The few clinics that would remain open in Texas are located in urban areas, leaving women in rural Texas with even fewer health care options than they currently have.
What are women—especially poor women—to do? Women in Texas already face heavier burdens than women in many other states. Texas has one of the nation’s highest teen birth rates and percentages of women living in poverty. It has a lower percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester than any other state. It also has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation and provides the lowest monthly benefit for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recipients (an average of $26.86 compared to the national average of $41.52). And soon the majority of women may not have access to abortion care at any stage of their pregnancy.
Governor Perry’s policies have marginalized women who already bear the heavy weight of so many inequities. His latest efforts will only marginalize them further.
This anti-abortion legislation will not prevent women from getting abortions. It will simply push them across the border and into unsafe facilities like those operated by Kermit Gosnell. Its passage will add to the fury that has escalated over the past three years as women have lost access to breast exams, birth control, and abortion services while being told it is for their own good. These lawmakers fail to understand that the full range of reproductive health services, including the ability to access an abortion, is absolutely central to women’s ability to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives – an ability that is itself essential to the strength of families, communities, states, and our nation.
On Monday, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards reminded the crowd in Austin of the old adage that you can measure a country by how well it treats its women. The same is true for Texas. “We settled the prairie. We built this state. We raised our families,” said the ever-feisty daughter of former Texas governor and progressive icon Ann Richards. “We survived hurricanes and tornadoes, and we will survive the Texas legislature, too.”
By: Andrea Flynn, The National Memo, July 3, 2013