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Hullabaloo


Sunday, August 17, 2014

 

Keeping them in their places

by Tom Sullivan

A report from the Guttmacher Institute shows how cutbacks to reproductive health services have particularly hurt poorer women. Even as the need has increased over the last decade-plus, the number of women actually receiving publicly funded assistance has fallen by 9 percent.

While public support for contraceptive services for poorer women dates back to 1970, that portion of the safety net has been failing, particularly in states that refuse to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, and with increasing attacks on women's health services, writes Tara Culp-Ressler.

The issue has recently been getting worse. In the period between 2010 and 2012 alone — when attacks on publicly-funded clinics intensified — the number of poor adult women in need of contraceptive services increased by 12 percent. In Texas, where lawmakers’ crusade against abortion has undermined the entire family planning landscape over the past two years, this health care crisis is coming into sharp focus. Advocates are holding up the state as a negative example of what happens without Title X.

Michael Hiltzik points out the folly in attacking Title X reproductive health services.

In more recent years, however, congressional conservatives have had their knives out for Title X. The program was openly made a target of the right wing's attack on Planned Parenthood, for example. The religion-based attack on ACA-mandated contraceptive services--the Hobby Lobby effect--is more of the same.

Let's be blunt here: There is no more witless public-health position than one that targets women's reproductive health. Preventing unwanted pregnancies pays off in multiples by reducing the burden on healthcare institutions and improving women's work and career prospects and the health of their families.

Yet ultimately these policies are neither about economics nor religion. Which makes it even more annoying when religious business people argue that it is their rights being infringed by being required to pay for employee health care plans that include coverage for contraception.

Employment is a form of contract in which employers agree to compensate employees for their labor with a package of cash and benefits. Once those services have been rendered, the employer has incurred an enforceable debt. The money passing through the employer’s account to purchase health insurance he had contracted to pay as compensation is no longer his, but the employee’s to spend as she/he chooses. But framing it that way treats employees as equal economic partners in the employer/employee relationship. And in the new neo-feudalism, "job creators" can't have that.

In the end, the attacks on women's reproductive health services -- as well as on labor -- are not just about religion or economics, but about power. About reaffirming who's in charge and who isn't. As I observed at my home blog,

In every economic argument these days, notice the unstated assumption, how among both top Republicans and Democrats that the concerns of the employer, the entrepreneur — his needs, his convenience, his profitability, his confidence, his incentives — are always front and center, the primary topic of debate and of legislation. And the needs and concerns of workers without whom nothing gets done are a secondary, even tertiary concern. Because all Americans are equal, but some are more equal than others. Once you tune your ear to listen for it, you hear it everywhere.

Welcome to Orwell’s Farm.



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