GOP Senate and House 'Repeal and Replace' HealthCare Bills Attack Women's Reproductive Rights

Posted June 28, 2017

MP3 Interview with Andrea Flynn, fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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Of all the constituents that stand to lose if the Republican healthcare legislation is signed into law, women – and especially low-income women and women of color – will likely pay the highest price. That's because many of the services that were required to be included under Obamacare would no longer be guaranteed, including access to birth control, pregnancy care, delivery of babies and newborn care, which are all medical services mandated in every industrialized nation in the world’s healthcare system, except for the U.S.

Under the proposed GOP repeal and replace legislation, each state could decide whether insurers would be required to cover the services listed in Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits package. Both the House and Senate healthcare bills defund Planned Parenthood for one year, blocking Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide women's healthcare and abortion services. This is a serious blow to women – and men as well – who count on access to affordable, respectful health care the group provides.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Andrea Flynn, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based progressive thinktank dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, specifically addressing the drivers of economic inequality. Here, she examines the provisions in the Republican healthcare legislation that targets Planned Parenthood and erodes women's reproductive rights. [Rush transcript.]

ANDREA FLYNN: What we would see if this bill were to pass is that each state would be able to make a decision whether insurers would have to cover the services in that essential health benefits package. And what we know is that before the Affordable Care Act, a very small percentage of plans on the individual market actually offered maternity care, and there's a real fear that if that coverage were optional for states that you'd see many states that would stop offering that coverage and that many women would have a very difficult time finding and affording maternity care.

BETWEEN THE LINES: The bill also includes defunding Planned Parenthood for one year. I'm not sure if that was considered a compromise or if the members of Congress who support that just figure it's enough to destroy the organization.

ANDREA FLYNN: Because they are passing this through budget reconciliation, there are a number of rules that limit just how far they’re able to go attacking specific programs. So, this bill does defund Planned Parenthood for one year, and there are two things I think are important to know. One is that when clinics close, as we saw in Texas over the past few years, it is very, very difficult for them to reopen. They lose their infrastructure, they lose their patient base. It’s not like they just close their doors and then in a year or two years or three years when their funding comes back, they are able to magically reopen. Once the provider is out of the community, it is very difficult for them to open those doors again. The second thing I’d note is that while the health bill only defunds Planned Parenthood for one year, the president’s budget goes much farther and completely defunds Planned Parenthood from all federal funding sources. So, I think the conservatives that are making the rules right now are attacking reproductive health care from every angle. So even though the health bill only looks at one year, I think what we’re looking at is a much broader assault on Planned Parenthood and other providers that women rely on in this country.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And Planned Parenthood serves men, too.

ANDREA FLYNN: Yes, not only women, and I think we talk a lot about low-income women and women of color – those are critical populations that rely on Planned Parenthood – but we also know that young people and members of the LGBTQ community, and also men, rely on Planned Parenthood and that for many of those individuals there is simply nowhere else to turn either because there is no other provider in their community or because for a wide range of reasons, they don’t trust other providers, and for many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place of trusted care that’s available to them.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Andrea Flynn, on June 27, two days before the vote was planned, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the bill, acknowledging he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. He couldn’t appease senators on the far right, like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, without alienating the more moderate senators like Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, and vice versa. What do you think are the bill’s chances to pass eventually?

ANDREA FLYNN: So, what we're hearing from Democratic senators is that it's really essential that individuals who are opposed to this bill call their senators, even if they live in a state where they know their senator is going to vote no, but what we’re hearing is that there have not been as many calls to oppose the Senate bill as there were to oppose the House bill, and that it is really essential in the next day or two for all of us to be calling to oppose this bill.

BETWEEN THE LINES: This bill was written by 13 white male senators, even though there are Republican women in the Senate who could have been invited to the table. This is so blatant, and it seems that over the past 30 years at least, this scenario would have doomed the bill. But it’s unclear how many people are even upset by this in the age of Trump. Could you comment?

ANDREA FLYNN: Yes, I would love to. It is really, really hard to swallow that a group of 13 white men made these decisions that will have an incredibly disproportionate impact on women, particularly poor women and women of color. And I think when we look not only at the health bill, but also the budget that was put forth by President Trump that would also have a disproportionate impact on that same group of women. It’s really hard to think of the last five months of this administration as anything other than an outright attack on women's rights, their ability to access health care, their ability to take care of themselves and their families. It’s really very troubling.

For more information, visit The Roosevelt Institute at rooseveltinstitute.org; Planned Parenthood at plannedparenthood.org; Top 3 Ways to Take Action at istandwithpp.org/take-action.

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