Republicans like to insist the war on women is nothing more than hysterical liberal outrage.
Sure, the left uses the phrase to occasionally score political points, but sometimes Republicans make it so easy. Like when they appear to be casting aside women’s needs without a second thought or even purposely targeting rights and policies that many women consider fundamental to their well-being and freedom.
Case in point: When Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a photo on Thursday from a meeting with a group of very conservative Congressional Republicans who want to eliminate maternity care from a set of required health insurance benefits, people couldn’t help but notice a glaring omission: women.
Men sat at the table. They sat in chairs against the wall. They stood near the doorway. They just weren’t joined by any women. Not even the administration’s token woman Ivanka Trump made a cameo for the meeting, though adviser Kellyanne Conway does appear in one photo with President Trump.
The scene looked awfully like when Trump, again surrounded almost exclusively by men, signed an executive order reinstating the global gag rule, which directly affects the reproductive health of women around the world.
The House Freedom Caucus, the group using its voting leverage to pressure the White House on repealing Obamacare, doesn’t currently seem to have any female members at all, though retired Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis once belonged, according to Pew Research Center.
That a few dozen men chose to use their enormous power over millions of Americans to negotiate the elimination of maternity care, along with nine other essential benefits currently required to sell health insurance, ignited outrage across the internet. So did the prospect of losing the other required benefits, which include mental health treatment, lab tests, annual checkups, pediatric services, and prescription drugs like birth control.
Today is an especially stark example of why representation matters. What hit me in Nov was not just missed chance for first female prez /1
— Amy Sullivan (@sullivanamy) March 23, 2017
Those in favor of dumping the essential benefits argue that consumers should be able to choose plans tailored to their needs rather than paying higher premiums so everyone can access a universal set of covered services. In the past, that approach has made it possible for insurers to sell skimpy health plans with consumers paying a much steeper price for preventive care or life-saving treatment.
The average vaginal birth in the U.S., for example, costs $8,775 in the U.S. — not exactly pocket change if your insurance isn’t required to cover it.
The debate over essential benefits has brought out the worst in some folks. When Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was asked about scrapping the required coverage, he told a TPM reporter, “I sure don’t want my mammogram benefits taken away.”
I deeply regret my comments on a very important topic. Mammograms are essential to women’s health & I never intended to indicate otherwise.
— Pat Roberts (@SenPatRoberts) March 23, 2017
When the mocking response ricocheted across the internet, Roberts issued an apology, but not before liberal and independent voters had one more data point to prove the war on women theory.
Republicans have at least one more shot at changing the optics, if not the focus, of their proposed legislation. By Thursday afternoon, GOP leadership couldn’t come to an agreement on the bill and postponed the vote. Maybe next time they’ll think twice about attempting to gut maternity care coverage in a room full of men.