It’s been a ‘heartless’ week for women’s health care
Lawmakers in Missouri set the tone for a dark week in health care reform for women. On Tuesday, the House sent a bill to the state Senate that, if passed, will infringe on the rights of women seeking abortions, and hamper the work of abortion providers.
The most alarming amendment to the bill, backed by Republicans, aims to roll back a St. Louis ordinance that protects women from housing and employment discrimination based on whether they use birth control, have an abortion, or are pregnant. In other words, if the bill succeeds, Missouri women could be fired for making any of these constitutionally protected choices. (The state’s full Senate is expected to consider the bill after July 4.)
What happened in Missouri’s legislature turned out to be a precursor to the U.S. Senate’s big reveal on Thursday of the 142-page plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and fulfill Trump’s promise to overhaul the health care system.
The Better Care Reconciliation Act is seen by many to be a thinly veiled attack on low-income Americans who rely on Medicaid. It would cut taxes that contribute to affordable health care for those who earn more than $200,000 per year, and allow insurers to cover a smaller percentage of health care costs, resulting in greater out-of-pocket expenses and higher deductibles for the insured.
Beyond that, however, the bill—which was written by 13 men—can also be seen as an attack on women. Two-thirds of the adult population currently covered by Medicaid consists of women, and nearly half of all births in the U.S. are paid for by the program. In 17 states, women on Medicaid also have coverage for abortion procedures. Under the Senate’s proposed bill, the 14.1 million women who rely on Medicaid will ultimately have less health care coverage, and their access to reproductive services will be reduced.
The bill also targets organizations that provide abortion services other than those deemed medically necessary or in cases of rape or incest. Though Planned Parenthood isn’t explicitly named, its reproductive health care and family planning services render it ineligible for federal support for one year. Planned Parenthood doesn’t just provide abortions, it also offers a range of health care services including cancer screenings and basic check-ups. Thousands of women would lose access to care if the bill is passed in its current form.
“Slashing Medicaid and blocking millions of women from getting preventive care at Planned Parenthood is beyond heartless,” said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in a statement, noting that one in five women rely on the organization for health care.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a president who has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women would have a hand in this kind of legislation. But as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushes for a vote on the bill as soon as next week, there is little time to debate the origins or intentions of a health care plan that blatantly disregards low-income Americans and women in favor of reducing taxes for the rich.
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