You wouldn't think that women could be viewed as a special interest group, given that we are the majority. But that's how the game is played in politics. Wingnuts hate us (they hates us, my precious), and the Democrats would prefer us to be really really quiet. And not to cost them any money whatsoever. Or so I think tonight.
And these are the reasons:
Consider what happened when the subject of women's preventive healthcare services came up in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) in July, after the minimum benefits package had already been determined. Because some essential care for women wasn't included in the list, HELP committee member Senator Barbara Mikulski proposed an amendment that would require the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to stipulate that basic women's health services would be covered. The language said nothing about abortion, referring only to "preventive care and screenings."
Yet the voting on the amendment went exactly along pro- and anti-choice lines. The amendment passed by just one vote, with all the committee's Republicans as well as Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, voting against it. The committee's discussion of the amendment was dominated by Republicans' worry about the possibility of government money winding up in the hands of Planned Parenthood. Since there is no similar language included in the just-released House bill, the only hope for requiring full coverage for these essential services now lies with the Senate.
Adding insult to injury, birth control isn't on the list of essential services insurers are required to cover in a basic plan. Thanks, House and Senate! Probably another nod to the religous right, who also hate contraception.
There is something mean-spirited about all those who voted against the amendment. Or there would be if one assumed that women are citizens and taxpayers and not ovens or aquaria for future fetuses. The latter interpretation seems to fit the worldview of Republicans and conservative Democrats. Some Republicans would even let gang-rape go unpunished, just to retain the sanctity of business contracts.
And Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is going to work his ass off to make sure that no abortion coverage will be available in the planned insurance exchange, even if it would be funded from private sources. But then Mr. Stupak is never going to be mistaken for an oven, just as Mr. Reid (who wants to have conscience clauses in the plan) is never going to find that his pharmacy prescriptions will not be filled because he is an aquarium.
There are good things in the basic list of covered services for women, too. Pap-smears and mammograms might be covered, for example, and when I have calmed down and accepted my second-class-special-interest status again I shall write about those, too.