Sisterhood Blog

Shutting Down Women's Healthcare

By Sarah Seltzer

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Women were caught in the crosshairs of the government shutdown this week, which, as this much-shared stunt photo of a group of eight white male Republicans demonstrates, appears to be as much about testosterone and saving face as it is about helping America move forward.

Look into the causes for this week’s shutdown, and you’ll find dogged conservative opposition to women’s healthcare. And look at the current and future impact of the impasse — you’ll find women’s lives, particularly poor women and moms, will feel the brunt of the pain that the shutdown brings.

Of course, this giant mess is essentially a continuation, or maybe a culmination of the status quo: a several-years-long attack on public workers (largely women) and on reproductive health care. It would probably shock me more to hear that women and their health care were not being held hostage in a budget-related fight in D.C., but that doesn’t make the results any less devastating.

Here is how entrenched opposition to women’s healthcare helped cause the shutdown. The rogue “continuing resolution” bill from House Republicans didn’t just attempt to end Obamacare, which is now the law of the land; it also included an effort to specifically hurt the Affordable Care Act provisions that were meant to give a boon to women.

Sally Kohn explains at the Daily Beast:

Basically, the “conscience clause” that House Republicans slipped into their “continuing resolution” bill in the wee hours over the weekend would allow any employer for virtually any reason to deny preventative health care for women. Forget about the laws the majority of Congress passed protecting the health rights of women, let alone the advice of your doctor.

Even worse than the pettiness of the holdup is the impact of the shutdown on women and families. WIC food stamp programs for moms and infants have been threatened and curtailed by the shutdown, and already poor children are getting turned away from Head Start programs, often leaving their moms and families with no childcare recourse.

A mostly-male group of politicians decided to play chicken with the fates of thousands of families, and families lost. They did this, essentially because they were furious about the extension of health benefits to more Americans. If that’s not a sign of dysfunctional misogyny and elitism wrecking government, I don’t know what is.


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