The Real Threat to Reproductive Health

As the congressional battle lines over health care are drawn yet again, Republicans have been awkwardly coming to grips with the second half of their “repeal and replace” mantra.  Especially to the most right-liberal wing of the GOP, any replacement of Obamacare will look too much like it, simply by being a health care bill.  This can’t be a good starting point.

To be sure, it takes blind partisanship on the Democratic side to avoid noticing the ACA’s own serious flaws.  I have observed in my own occupational contacts with various health insurance situations that, while many people have indeed been helped by it, many others still fall through the cracks.  Unfortunately, rather than repairing those cracks, the pull of the would-be replacement AHCA only seems to be toward widening them further, by giving states more leeway to opt out of measures that actually help.  This has already been a problem under the ACA with some states declining to expand Medicare and Medicaid, leaving qualified people uninsured.  And now the AHCA as it currently stands includes an amendment that could allow states to have certain benefit requirements waived – including maternity care – and allow insurers to make premiums unaffordable for people with pre-existing conditions.

These are not separate problems but are intricately connected, which is why half of us are already charged higher premiums for the “pre-existing condition” of being female: we have the capacity to become pregnant and consequently to need prenatal care.  In the reductionism of American politics, “reproductive health” is often taken as shorthand for the avoidance of reproduction (even more so for “reproductive rights”), which only obscures a vital question: what about the right to health care for pregnant women carrying their babies to term?

It should not need to be pointed out, but unfortunately it does: for any individual or political party to claim to be pro-life, yet object to paying for coverage of maternal and fetal health, is staggeringly myopic.

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