Protecting women’s rights in healthcare reform

Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973.  For many, it is alarming that the Supreme Court had to enforce the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting individual states from criminalizing women living through crisis pregnancies who would otherwise seek legal, medically appropriate services to terminate them.  It is no less alarming that, 37 years after the Supreme Court moved to ensure that the right to choose be exercised legally and safely, the U.S. Congress is about to let the mere potential of the exercise of women’s constitutional right to choose abortion keep 30 million Americans from receiving access to basic healthcare.

Nothing drives home the point that the still-male-dominated government doesn’t trust women, even to exercise a basic civil right guaranteed by the Supreme Court two generations ago, than a healthcare reform package that may well be derailed over what some Congressmen insist allows too free an exercise of that right under the government’s program.  Meantime, where was the vigorous debate over whether and to what extent federal money will be spent on pharmaceuticals that will enable men beyond the age or physical condition permitting a natural ability to fornicate from continuing to do it with medical intervention?  Forget whether or not his doctor believes that his life or health might be at risk from refraining from sex altogether.

The incarnation of the healthcare bill most likely to pass through the reconciliation process – if it comes to pass at all – is guaranteed to include cumbersome and excessive regulations that will require companies administering federal healthcare dollars to discriminate against women.  And these restrictions are in place before even a penny of healthcare reform money is put into the healthcare system by the federal government.  The pace at which these restrictions, which will immediately have a disparately anti-female impact on the risk-pooling landscape under healthcare reform, will manifest in further anti-female market-driven behavior by the insurance industry remains to be seen.  And with the public option off the table, at least in the short term, there is no hope of market correction and equalization through the use of public-policy-driven competitive forces being brought to bear on a skewed market.  Of course, with anti-equal protection zealots dictating every move  Congress makes on healthcare reform, the hope of any public option that would mitigate in favor of equal healthcare rights for women is probably just a pipe dream.

So even in the context of healthcare reform, women are relegated to second-class beneficiaries, if there are to be any beneficiaries at all.  This is exactly why Roe v. Wade still matters and why every day that women remain underrepresented in the federal government is another opportunity for backsliding into further inequality and oppression.  Considering the evolution of the present healthcare measure, none of us – male or female – can afford to live in a post-feminist America.

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