Monday, May 7, 2018

Guest Post: A Year Ago, House Republicans Voted to Repeal Obamacare. How Have Their Policies Affected Women Since?

Kate Harveston is a political writer from Pennsylvania. Her favorite topics are feminist-focused, but she writes on a wide variety of social and cultural issues. If you enjoy her work, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

Donald Trump made it clear on the campaign trail that one of his number one priorities was to throw people off of their health insurance, which many had for the first time in ages under the Affordable Care Act, as well as to make it next to impossible for women to access the critical reproductive health care they need. A year and a half later, Trump and his cronies have made good on their promise. Already, just months into 2018, 4 million Americans have lost their health insurance. And that's only the beginning if you happen to be female.

Sabotaging Birth Control and Maternity Care

To say that Trump, Pence and co. are anti-choice is perhaps the understatement of the year. Which makes their positions on birth control, as well as their attacks on maternity care, a study in hypocrisy: they're all for protecting the fetus, but couldn’t care less about the mother and child.

The United States already boasts the dubious distinction of having the highest maternal death rate among all the developed nations of the world. That's right: the nation that brags about being the richest in the world nevertheless leaves countless mothers to die. This is a national embarrassment, and anyone who truly espoused the values of being “pro-life” would take immediate action to reduce the numbers of moms dying giving birth, not increasing their chances of dying.

Yet, by stripping away the Essential Health Benefits (EFB) requirement of the ACA to cover things such as maternity care and mental health care, the Trump admin has made it possible for insurers and employers to decline maternity care. This comes at a time when the average birth in America costs more than it did the British Royal family to give birth to Prince Louis.

Lest this seem like some sort of macabre Machavellian plot to make sure only the wealthiest Americans can afford to give birth, fear not. The Trump administration has been hard at work making it all but impossible for women to avoid getting pregnant in the first place by stripping away at the birth control protections enacted with the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump Administration created The Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. Initially created to protect health care workers who refuse to perform abortions on religious grounds, the scope of this new division of the Department of Health and Human Services has expanded its scope greatly. Not only are physicians and hospitals protected from liability if they fail to perform even a medically necessary abortion to save a woman's life, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom has expanded this protection to health insurers and employers.

As a result, not only may a woman's employer refuse to cover her birth control, whether or not she is taking it to prevent pregnancy or for another health reasons. Her health insurance company has the same right to deny her access to birth control or to remove birth control products from prescription coverage so that women are once more forced to pay for them out of pocket. This has a devastating impact, especially among poor women, who can't afford to pay out of pocket for birth control.

In addition, the Trump administration, in its rush to repeal Obamacare without any sort of replacement, voted in the Senate to allow states to deny reimbursing Planned Parenthood with Medicaid funds. This further limits access to affordable birth control especially for poor and middle class women. Vice President Mike Pence himself cast the deciding vote. This would not only deny abortion care to women in need, it would keep them from accessing affordable birth control as well.

A Global Impact on Women

Sadly, the Trump administration's actions do not only affect women in the United States, but around the globe. The Trump administration has expanded the global gag rule preventing health care providers in other nations that receive any American funds from even discussing abortion as an option for women in need. With the arrival of Zika and other diseases that attack the fetus and lead to severe birth defects, this is unnecessarily cruel, not only to the women denied abortion services and forced to carry a non-viable fetus to term, but for the child, who may be born only to suffer and die.

In addition, the Trump administration ceased the donation of American funds to the United Nations Population Fund. This fund, which helps exploited women and also helps in areas of humanitarian crisis, has helped numerous women around the globe plan their families wisely and afford economic freedom. With the loss of US funds, fewer women will be helped, and more will be left to bear the burdens of large families they simply cannot support.

Through both word and deed, the Trump administration has spelled disaster for the health of women in the US and around the globe. Barring a drastic change, countless women will continue to suffer and die under this administration's antediluvian rules. It is imperative for all Americans eligible to vote to get registered and to show up en masse to vote in the midterm elections to voice our displeasure at the ballot box and to hopefully regain some sense of a true health policy for women everywhere.

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