Leaders from Feminist Majority, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Women’s March on Washington came together today in Washington, D.C. to discuss the dangers posed by Trumpcare to women across race, class and age—and to devise a plan to stop it. The newly released draft of the so-called Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Senate GOP’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, would directly endanger the lives of women—especially women of color, low-income women and women with disabilities.
Janel George, Director of Federal Reproductive Rights and Health at NWLC, kicked off the conference by bringing to light the overused racial stereotypes that have been consistently manipulated by healthcare policymakers throughout history to disadvantage women of color’s healthcare rights. Trumpcare, she believes, aligns itself directly with this shameful tradition by planning to defund life-saving facilities on which many Medicaid recipients rely, such as Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthood centers provide vital care,” said George, “and by barring Medicaid recipients from accessing those services, it will undermine women’s health.”
The bill also eliminates coverage of ten essential health benefits required under the Affordable Care Act, including maternity coverage, prescription drug coverage, and mental health services, which George finds to be “especially devastating for black women who already experience high maternal mortality rates and horrible maternal health outcomes.” According to The Black Mamas Matter Alliance, black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related complications than white women. “Therefore,” stated George, “lack of requiring maternity coverage will be devastating.”
Michelle Batchelor, Deputy Director of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, reiterated George’s concern for women of color, stating that she “has trouble even talking about this as a healthcare bill,” calling it instead “an attack on women.” She spoke up about the disparities in health care access that still plague women of color—leading to higher rates of death, for example, from cancers for black and Latina women as compared to white women. “We are not an equitable society,” Batchelor said, “and this bill drives that home.” Standing in solidarity with her sisters of color, Terry O’Neill, President of NOW, said she believes women of color are being “intentionally targeted with this bill.”
Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, who called the bill “a trading of women’s lives for tax cuts for the super rich and some corporations,” spoke at length about the impact the BCRA will have on those who rely on Medicaid. The legislation slashes Medicaid funding and stops the Medicaid expansion program in the ACA—which Smeal and O’Neill pointed out impacts not just low-income women and women of color, but also middle-income women who will one day rely on Medicaid for nursing care and women with disabilities. “70 percent of people in nursing homes are women,” Smeal observed. “Medicaid is servicing poor people and middle-class people. The price of nursing homes is so high that many people who were middle-class will need Medicaid in their later years to stay in a nursing home. Two-thirds of nursing home patients are paid for by Medicaid. Therefore, If you cut Medicaid services, nursing homes are going to close.”
“I can still see my grandmother dying in her daughter’s house and living in a hospital bed in the living room,” said Smeal. She explained how we no longer live in the times of her childhood, and that healthcare legislation must match the times. “Now, women have to work. But when they have to care for elderly parents because Medicaid has been cut, they will be forced to take time off of work—where they are already not getting paid enough. All that this will accomplish is giving women yet another hurdle to jump through.”
Each organization present at today’s press conference is working to provide their members with resources and action items to fight the BCRA and any and all efforts to undercut the gains women achieved under the Affordable Care Act, including the Feminist Majority’s Feminists Fight Back campaign—which has zeroed in on attempts to attack women’s health care access and Medicaid. And the leaders who spoke out noted that women were watching—and that legislators who disregard their needs should take note.
“Black women vote,” Batchelor said. “We are listening. We are paying attention. We are determined to make sure this healthcare bill does not go through.” Mercy Morganfield of the Women’s March on Washington echoed this sentiment, stating that any time politicians propose legislation that will harm women, women leaders will resist again and again until the necessary change is accomplished.
“When you vote for this bill, you are promoting a policy that kills women,” O’Neill said, “and women know this. NOW is mobilizing around the country in every single state to vote out any senator who supports this hideous bill. If we don’t get to you in 2018, we will be back in 2020. If we don’t get to you in 2020, we will be back in 2022. Your job is not safe as long as you are supporting this appalling bill.”
“This is a direct attack on modern women,” Smeal said to the crowd. “It’s an attack on women of color, on women of all races, on low-income women—and I don’t think our words are enough. We have to fight with a long-range view. If this passes, we will not go away. We will fight everyday until healthcare is a right for all women.”