Thursday, January 29, 2009

Politics, One: Women, Zero

Last week, I was very buoyed by President Obama’s eloquent speeches and talk of rising above politics, particularly with his repealing the Global Gag rule. Today, I am sorely disappointed by Obama’s selling out to Republican conservatives, removing a provision in the proposed Economic Stimulus package that would have provided family planning coverage through Medicaid to more low-income women. This pandering to the right is at the expense of women’s health care needs and economic well-being.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice's president, Rev. Carlton Veazey, notes that a woman living in poverty is four times as likely to have an unintended pregnancy and five times as likely to have an unintended birth as a higher-income counterpart. Allowing more access to family planning services and contraceptives enables a woman to better choose when and how many children she might be able to support and nurture, and allows her to time pregnancies to enable her to become more educated or further advance herself. Denying these services is perpetuating the old efforts to keep the women barefoot and pregnant—and is in stark contrast to what is in the best interests of the women. Nor does it illustrate the promise of rational, evidence based decision-making.

The decision to cut family planning is short-sighted in other ways, too. Economically, a 2007 Congressional Budget Office report estimated that this Medicaid provision would save the government $200 million over five years by decreasing costs related to pregnancies and post-natal care.

Additionally, didn’t Obama say his goal was to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the need for abortions? This is an odd way of going about it.

With the tanking economy and sky-rocketing unemployment, women are facing loss of jobs, healthcare, or their housing. They should not have the added burden of facing unintended pregnancies through misogynist policies.

It is ironic that women’s needs got short shrift in an obvious attempt to curry favor and win Republican support for the economic package—even though those votes were not necessary for passage. How successful was this strategy? It garnered zero votes.

So, once again, the score is Politics, One: Women, Zero.