Commentary
By Jenna Barnett 6-26-2017

Thirteen male senators wrote a 142-page health care bill behind closed doors that puts the health of women in the U.S. in danger. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026. And while the authors of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” may have forgotten about women — only including the words “women” and “woman” a few times in the whole document — Jesus never forgot about women’s health.

Let us not forget that healing was central to Jesus’ ministry, and the healing of afflicted women was just as important to him as the healing of men. Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath in a room full of protesting men (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus healed a hemorrhaging woman considered ritually unclean who had been denied coverage — in a sense — for 12 years (Mark 5:25-34, Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8:43-48).

Jesus’ Matthew 25 charge to care for the afflicted, especially the most vulnerable, is just as relevant today. The charge was never meant to exclude women.

By contrast, the proposed health care bill would be a huge blow to women’s health in the U.S. Here are just a few of the ways women and girls would suffer:

1. Under the proposed bill, states would have the opportunity to permit insurance companies to offer plans that don’t include basic women’s health services — such as mammograms, maternity care, domestic violence screenings and counseling, and cervical cancer screenings — as essential health services. What about maternity care and cancer prevention is not “essential”?

2. The bill would cut Medicaid by millions of dollars. Currently, Medicaid finances 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States. Given that the U.S. already has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed nation, and given that women more often than men work wage jobs that do not provide health insurance, we can’t afford to put this care in jeopardy.

3. Even though the Affordable Care Act already has a provision that prohibits agencies such as Planned Parenthood from using federal money to perform abortions (except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger), the new bill would seek to close Planned Parenthoodfor a year. The 320,000 women who currently go to Planned Parenthood to receive breast exams, for example, would likely no longer receive that preventative care, or go to emergency rooms to receive the services, at a huge financial burden to them.

Please call your senators and ask them to vote “no” to a health care bill that neglects the health needs of so many women.

Jenna Barnett is the Women and Girls Campaign Associate for Sojourners.

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