Why Men Need to Help Pay for Prenatal Care: It Takes Two to Tango (and Make a Baby)
Earlier this month, Republicans in congress introduced a bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. That means, in short, that the party is actively trying to roll back certain mandates signed into law by President Obama in 2010, and right now various congressional committees are meeting to decide on the specifics of what to change, and how, before it goes to a vote. On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee was holding one of these meetings when it became clear that Representative John Shimkus (R, IL) had a problem with some of the edicts included in the 2010 bill. "What mandate in the Obamacare bill does he take issue with?" asked Mike Doyle (D, PA), to which Shimkus responded, “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?”
Let's break that down for a second. If it wasn't already clear, both of the key players here are men. And, by and large, all federal decisions about who pays for what happens to a woman's body, and whether or not she even gets to choose what happens to her body, are made in rooms filled with men. Moving on.
"Is that not correct?" Shimkus asked, making sure he wasn't wrong about what Obamacare meant for prenatal care.
Well, yes, Shimkus — that is correct. The Affordable Care Act includes a requirement that all insurance policies — even ones for men — include prenatal care. Paying for medical services you might not need is the point of insurance — so it's not prohibitively expensive when you or someone you love does need it.
But then Shimkus followed with, "And should they?"
Let's be frank: yes, men should pay. We should all be chipping in for prenatal care. That is a very good idea, and congress absolutely should keep it. Here's why!
For starters, most pregnancies in the U.S. include a man, as it's impossible to get pregnant without sperm. To be clear: we believe pregnancy and family come in many forms — some may not include a mother or a father; some may include parents who don't identify as the gender they were assigned at birth — and that all kinds of families are equally valid. However, having a baby, speaking in purely biological terms, requires one man's sperm and one woman's egg. To frame prenatal care as only pertaining to the mother isn't just a way to get away with being sexist, it's abjectly false. The "men" Shimkus is referring to are a non-negotiable part of the equation.
Moving into the mechanics of insurance: if we were to follow Shimkus' implied logic — that only women contribute to prenatal health care insurance because only women get pregnant—well, that opens up a multitude of other questions. What about women past child-bearing age? What about women who are on birth control or don't have sex with men, who aren't "at risk" of getting pregnant? What about women who can't or choose not to have children? If the only people who pay for prenatal healthcare are those who might get pregnant at any moment, well, good luck creating a fiscally viable insurance policy out of that.
And why do we care? Why don't we let pregnant women fend for themselves, going bankrupt to have kids? Why don't we just say, "well, you want this kid, you better be able to cover every single one of its expenses for its entire childhood?"
For starters, that's a really shitty attitude to build a country on. But moreover, PREGNANCY IS HOW WE MAKE PEOPLE. Women are not just vessels to bring babies into the world. We aren't chattel; we aren't objects. But as far as insurance is concerned, think of women as baby-makers, sure. You want a robust population? Keep the baby-makers healthy! Take them to the doctor. A good one. For free. All the time. Pardon my testiness, but this is maddeningly simple, and the survival of our civilization literally depends on it.
Our one job, evolutionarily, is to make a strong next generation and that starts — say it with me — in a uterus. I started in a uterus, you started in a uterus, Representative Shimkus started in a uterus. Science has not gotten the womb out of the equation yet, so for now, we all have to pay for it, whether we become parents or not. Because that's how insurance works. This isn't hard.
For what it's worth, Representative Shimkus' office address is 2217 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, and it costs just under twenty dollars to have Amazon ship him a paperback copy of "Insurance For Dummies." Not that he has to read it. He, like all congressman, doesn't have to pay for or even worry about his insurance.
We the taxpayers cover that for him. Even if he gets pregnant.
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• Women's Groups Gear Up to Fight for Reproductive Rights in 2017
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