Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, spoke with Women’s eNews Live host Lori Sokol last week about Trumpcare and the disproportionate impact it will have on women’s lives—especially low-income women.
Alongside slashing Medicaid, the latest Congressional attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act also bans funding for Planned Parenthood for one year and instates new policies around contraceptive coverage. Trumpcare is a war on women’s health—and robs women of their right to control their sexual health and plan their families.
With a new interim rule on birth control, employers are able to interpret religious freedom and exemption very broadly and deny birth control coverage to employees and their families should they have a “moral” opposition to providing it. “One’s employer can become the boss of their personal life,” Smeal explains. That is a scary reality.
It has been proven that safe and affordable access to birth control decreases the number of unwanted and teen pregnancies—decreasing a woman’s chances of living in poverty. It is this overlap between economic justice and reproductive justice, Smeal observed, that exposes the underlying sentiment of so-called “religious objections” to birth control coverage. “I personally believe that the economic interests that support the right wing want a cheap labor pool,” Smeal says. “If you keep cheap [healthcare] access away from low-income women, then you raise the birthrate of the poor against their will.”
By banning funding for Planned Parenthood, Trumpcare would hit low-income women the hardest—and drastically decrease their access to affordable care. These issues intersect around contraception: Birth control is the largest out-of-pocket expense for low-income women, and Planned Parenthood offers contraceptive services that can provide them some relief. According to the National Women’s Law Center, by spring of 2014, two-thirds of women using the birth control pill, and nearly 75 percent of women using a contraceptive ring were no longer paying out of pocket for their birth control thanks to the Affordable Care Act. “In 2013 alone,” Smeal states, “Obama’s mandate saved women approximately $1.4 billion.”
While this is certainly an issue concerning economics, it is undeniably one of misogyny as well. “It is the patriarchy,” Smeal says, “not the woman, who is deciding.”
The crusade against birth control is simply mean-spirited and dangerous—especially because many women use birth control as a means to medicate various ailments. For example, over 10 percent of women and girls suffer from endometriosis—a very painful disorder that can be treated with the pill. Another 25 percent of women suffer from recurrent ovarian cysts, which also can be treated with the pill. Cutting funding for Planned Parenthood also does damage beyond limiting contraceptive and abortion access for women. Only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are dedicated to abortion procedures, and 34 percent to contraception access and assistance. Other vital services such as cancer screenings, STD/STI testing and pregnancy tests are now at risk, too—a majority of Planned Parenthood’s work.
Lawmakers are trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in relative secrecy, quietly undoing the incredible gains women achieved with the landmark legislation. Just today, the Senate unveiled their healthcare bill—a devastating and regressive piece of legislation that targets women, children and the poor.
As Smeal calls to attention, we must demand better and fight for critical health care coverage that saves women’s lives.