When Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation stripped funding from Planned Parenthood because the latter provided abortion procedures in addition to cancer screenings, it was revealed that the former had bowed to political pressure from the right. What ensued was a PR nightmare for Susan G. Komen. In the end, regular citizens fought for the rights of women’s health, particularly for the poor. But this was not the first instance in which women who are less fortunate found themselves at the mercy of the right.
Republicans have longed battled for the right to control a woman’s uterus. Ask any of the GOP candidates about abortion and each will froth at the mouth to tell you why it should be illegal. Illegal even if carrying that child to term threatens the health of the mother. Illegal even if a woman has been raped. In a CNN interview last month GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum goes so far as to suggest that pregnancies resulting from rape are God’s gift to that victim. Oh gee, thanks! You really shouldn’t have.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 42% of women who have abortions have incomes that fall below 100% of the federal poverty level. That’s equivalent to $10,830 for a single woman with no children. Since the GOP vehemently opposes abortion, you would assume they would advocate preventing unwanted pregnancies among low-income women, right?
If a woman does not want to get pregnant, her best option is to use contraceptives. For uninsured women, the cost of birth control pills can run between $15-50 a month. That may not seem like much but to a low-income woman in this economy every penny matters. In 2011, Medicaid expanded coverage of contraceptives to women making up to $21,780. Though contraceptives help prevent close to two million unwanted pregnancies a year, to the right they might as well be contraband. Rick Santorum declared war on birth control by threatening to revoke federal funding for contraceptives. Why? Because he doesn’t believe anyone should partake in non-procreative sex. That’s right. In his world, couples should only have sex for the purpose of having children.
So what would happen if a woman who had procreative sex suddenly found herself standing on the unemployment line? You would assume Rick Santorum and others of his ilk would support resources and programs that gave that woman and her child(ren) access to affordable health care and nutritious food, right? Wrong.
In regards to health care, if a woman cannot afford insurance for herself and her child, she may qualify for Medicaid depending on her income. According to Medicaid.gov, pregnant women with incomes up to $19,565 for a family of two can be covered. Many states also provide coverage for women with incomes up to $27,214. Unfortunately while the GOP has refused to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher taxes, they certainly have no problem proposing a $1 trillion cut to Medicaid.
And it gets better. WIC, the program that provides federal grants that enable low-income women access to nutritious foods and counseling on nutrition, has also been targeted. Last year House Republicans proposed cutting $832 million from WIC, a move that would deny 325,000 to 475,000 low-income women and young children the ability to enroll in the program.
In sum, the GOP cares only about the 40 week gestational period a woman carries her child. Beyond that, she’s on her own.