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As the new year begins, it brings with it new issues to watch. Below are two of the hottest topics in American politics right now.
Affordable Care Act
In the late hours of January 12, 2017, Senate Republicans began their long-awaited journey towards repealing the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), enacted in March 2010, represents the most significant federal regulatory act concerning health care since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. The ACA expanded coverage for thousands of Americans, including coverage for young adults. Under the Act, young adults are able to stay on their parents’ coverage until the age of 26. In addition to this, the Act provides for preventative health services, such as cancer screenings, at no cost for the consumer. While the ACA certainly rewards the quality of care rather than the quantity, Republicans have thought otherwise.
Senate Republicans, by a vote for 51-48, approved a budget that would allow them to completely gut the Affordable Care Act. As if this isn’t concerning already, Republicans in the Senate were and will continue to attack progressive laws like the ACA without the threat of a Democratic filibuster. Nevertheless, Democrats voiced their objections. Senator Cantwell stated the obvious–that Republicans were “stealing healthcare from Americans.” Other Democrat Senators expressed their anger and dismay at the prospect of millions of Americans losing health coverage. Yet, the Republicans would not be stopped. The final vote ended at 1:30 a.m.
For Republicans, the election of their candidate, Donald J. Trump, as President seems like a mandate to finally repeal the Affordable Care Act. They’ve waited for the past 8 years to finally overhaul a law that serves to protect millions, without even a clearly articulated idea of replacing the Affordable Care Act.
The result of these actions could be catastrophic for millions of Americans should the bill pass through the House and make it to President-Elect Trump’s desk. The ACA provides women with access to birth control and reproductive health care. Additionally, the ACA ensures that no one can be turned down from health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Furthermore, the ACA prohibits insurance companies from charging women more for coverage than men. Despite this, Republicans still view the ACA as the most disastrous piece of legislation in American history. Republicans justify their actions as “progress.” However, their actions could dismantle decades of progress, propelling our nation backwards into the days when Americans had to worry over seeing a doctor because they couldn’t afford insurance.
All hope isn’t lost though. The Democratic Party still has fierce fighters in the House who will surely do all that is possible to protect the Affordable Care Act. Last night was only the beginning. Let’s continue to have hope, particularly in our representatives to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
Make no mistake–the movement to defund Planned Parenthood is the most serious threat to American women in 2017.
Republicans justify defunding Planned Parenthood because of the services the organization provides to millions of women across the nation. It’s hardly surprising considering that one of the hallmark policy points on the Republican policy platform has been maintaining pro-life stance. However, defunding Planned Parenthood has very little to do with being pro-life.
Imagine for a brief moment, a new mom who wants and needs a birth control prescription from Planned Parenthood. She presently has three children, all under the age of 5. Both her spouse and her are living under the federal poverty line, struggling to put food on the table for their family. She cannot afford to have another child. She can barely afford diapers for her new baby. Even though she and her family qualify for services under Medicaid, doctors in the area do not take Medicaid patients. The only place that she can seek health care is from a Planned Parenthood clinic.
This scenario is not untrue. For the many patients at Planned Parenthood, the above hypothetical is their reality. And yet, Republicans just don’t care.
Defunding Planned Parenthood would require eliminating Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid. Medicaid serves as the federal insurance program for poor and low income Americans under the age of 65. Medicaid is only available to those whose incomes are below the federal poverty line. In case you are unfamiliar with where exactly the federal poverty line is, allow me to tell you that to qualify for Medicaid, you have to be very, very, very poor. For a single individual to qualify for Medicaid, she needs to make less than $11,800 each year. I mention Medicaid because it’s precisely what Republicans are ignoring: patients at Planned Parenthood clinics are the most vulnerable, most impoverished Americans.
The Republican obsession to strip Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides a vast array of healthcare services to women nationwide, is truly a movement to deprive millions of American women with the right to control their lives. The consequence of gutting funding for Planned Parenthood would result in denying millions of low-income individuals with the right to see essential health care services like contraception, prenatal care, cancer screenings, and treatment from sexually transmitted diseases. The most concerning consequence is that women will go without care when they desperately need it. This could ultimately lead to untreated sexually transmitted diseases, higher rates of unintended pregnancies, and a greater demand for abortion services.
In addition to this, Planned Parenthood has always maintained a reputation for non-judgmental care. For example, members of the LGBTQ community could experience greater discrimination in health care. They may choose to avoid a doctor’s office, if this is the case. Even still, patients seeking health care services, such as the ones provided at a Planned Parenthood clinic, know too well the burning stigma of seeking medical attention for a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy.
Regardless Republicans only seem to focus on the abortions Planned Parenthood provides. Republicans ignorantly believe federal Medicaid funding will be used to cover abortions. However, the fact is that Medicaid funding is not used to cover abortions unless a woman patient was raped or the pregnancy poses a threat to her life. Oh, and abortions make up 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides. If Republicans are so concerned about abortions, perhaps they should consider the fact that the most effective way to prevent abortions is contraception. For many American women, Planned Parenthood provides contraception at a far greater rate than it does abortions. Moreover, Republicans believe defunding Planned Parenthood will help Americans. Perhaps Republicans looking to “help” Americans should help women living in poverty not have children that they cannot economically provide for.
After all, if Republicans are truly pro-life, then should they not be pro-women’s lives as well?
Saira Gul Shakir
Issues Chair, Young Democrats of Georgia