The Perfect Storm: Four Ways Womyn’s Rights Are Under Attack

by Sora Leigh

If you are reading the news, and even if you’re not, you should be worried. With Trump sitting in the Oval Office and Republicans controlling Congress, we are experiencing the perfect storm. While right-wing activists have been trying to chip away at womyn’s health care wave-by-wave for decades, the whole beach could be gone in one horrific storm if we don’t pay attention. I will try not to become too dystopian, but read on to see if you draw the same conclusions based on recent developments.

1. The Proposed Health Care Bill That Labels Typical Female Life Events As “Pre-Existing Conditions”

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While we can cross our fingers that proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act does not make it through the senate, the current draft could allow womyn who lapse in coverage to be denied a policy due to preexisting conditions including caesarean sections, postpartum depression, sexual assault, and domestic assault. With states proposing their own “essential benefits” packages as per the MacArthur amendment, maternity care, including typically astronomical delivery costs, could be dropped from packages all together.

2. Trump’s New Appointee for the deputy ast. secretary for population affairs with DHHS.

Teresa_Manning_810_500_55_s_c1In a recent editorial, Washington post writers commented that the appointment of Teresa Manning to the Department of Health and Human Services deputy position “strains all credulity,” referring to Manning’s former employment as a lobbyist as a legislative analyst for the Family National Right to Life Committee and with the National Right to Life Committee. In a 2003 NPR Interview Manning stated, “Of course, contraception doesn’t work. Its efficacy is very low.” Considering the authority and purpose of Teresa Manning’s position, as well as the budget she controls, this is not just ironic but extremely troubling.

3. Defunding Planned Parenthood

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The proposed health-care bill, if passed, could block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds from the Medicaid program. This would make it increasingly difficult for womyn, especially those of low-socioeconomic status, to access cancer screenings, contraception, STI screenings and treatment, abortion, and other services. This would be a huge fiscal blow to Planned Parenthood, which currently provides services to approximately. 2.5 million womyn in the United States.

4. Criminalizing Self-Induced Abortion

In Virginia, 43-year-old Michelle Frances Roberts faces indictment on “producing abortion or miscarriage,” a felony charge. While little has been revealed about the case and Roberts maintains that her son died after birth due to natural causes, the mother remains in jail. I personally don’t find it surprising that this rarely enforced law is being evoked in the present political climate. This case could set a dangerous precedent for all womyn who seek to maintain control of their own health care. Abortion politics aside, proving that a pregnancy was terminated due to a miscarriage as opposed to abortion could be tricky business, as it has proved for Roberts.

Compounding Expense and Oppression

When we string these policies together, we can envision a dire future for uninsured womyn. Imagine a womyn who could not afford contraception becomes pregnant due to either consensual or non-consensual intercourse. There is no Planned Parenthood because the organization has been defunded, and assuming abortion is still legal in the United States, she cannot afford to pay to terminate the procedure at a clinic. She knows that self-induced abortion could land her in prison, so she carries the pregnancy to term. She still has no coverage because now that she is pregnant, health-care premiums are even further outside her price range and she is denied a policy despite scouring the market. Although she typically avoids the ER because she can’t afford it, she has a friend drive her to the emergency room when her labor begins and is saddled with $50,000 in debt from a Cesarean Section procedure that she must pay for out-of-pocket (as well as the expenses naturally incurred with raising a new baby).

This is not the future I want to live in.

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