At the America’s World Voices Festival in New York last Thursday, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards set off a media frenzy, saying, “Being a woman is going to be now a pre-existing condition in this country” (Bryant 2017). Since then protests and hashtags have been dedicated to attacking the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and its broad definition of what constitutes a pre-existing condition. As with any policy arising from the Trump administration, this is a politically charged issue, and consequently a particularly hard one to get real facts on. The AHCA is a piece of legislation that is placing women’s healthcare in the spotlight, and where women’s healthcare is mentioned, Planned Parenthood is never far behind. It’s crucial that Christians understand what the AHCA says about women’s healthcare, because Planned Parenthood is already using this legislation to make its supporters more fervent in their support of the organization.
The AHCA ignited a fire amongst many Planned Parenthood supporters, centering around a fear that women would be simultaneously losing access to the affordable healthcare provided at Planned Parenthood and considered to have “pre-existing conditions” simply because of their gender. I’m going to have to ask you to step into their shoes and imagine that Planned Parenthood actually does offer affordable healthcare services that other clinics do not. Women’s health is at least nominally central to debates on public health policies from the AHCA to abortion, so it’s important that we understand the facts.
The boldest claim being made about the AHCA is that it will treat rape as a pre-existing condition. The simplest definition of a pre-existing condition is a health problem that exists before signing up for health coverage. Historically, those with pre-existing conditions were charged more, or else denied coverage by insurance companies. Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions. Under the AHCA, these protections are weakened, meaning that insurance companies can charge more to cover those who come to them already needing medical attention (Nichols 2017).
Congresswoman Judy Chu of Los Angeles County recently said the AHCA “would once again allow being a rape or domestic violence victim to be a pre-existing condition” (Nichols 2017). The truth is that the “GOP bill does not single out any specific medical event or diagnosis as a pre-existing condition” (O’Neill Hayes 2017). Chu, along with many others, have made it sound as though the AHCA came with a list of pre-existing conditions, and rape was listed among them. This is blatantly untrue. The substantive difference between the ACA and AHCA’s treatment of pre-existing conditions is that the AHCA will allow those with pre-existing conditions to be charged more, and presumably some of those people will be rape victims. That is why Richards, Chu, and others say that it is targeting victims.
Though these leaders are clearly exaggerating in order to stoke the fires of public outrage, we can learn something from them. Under AHCA guidelines, it is conceivable that a woman who contracted an STD from a rape or suffers from PTSD in its wake could be judged to have a pre-existing condition, and consequently be charged significantly more for coverage. The morality of charging women more for diseases they contracted in an assault is questionable, but it is important to remember that the AHCA only restores the pre-ACA treatment of pre-existing conditions—it does not place additional restrictions on these women.
There are many things to critique in this bill, but the issue of women’s health has risen to the forefront and largely drowned out the others in the media. This should not take anyone by surprise. Many liberal leaders have done a good job of portraying all conservative-leaning people as enemies of women (even if the conservative-leaning person happens to be a woman). Leaders like Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, and Cecile Richards have been given a sort of martyr status, and have used their clout to paint the Trump administration as a group of old men out of touch with the reality of basic women’s issues, especially reproductive health. One’s view on women’s health (often judged simply by whether they have a positive or negative view of Planned Parenthood) has been used in recent times as a sort of identifier or token of enlightenment. According to those standards, leaders like Clinton, Richards, and Warren have managed to make the Trump administration look as though it is in the Stone Age.
I’m not going to defend the Trump administration or the AHCA, but the severity of the attacks on the healthcare bill and where they were all targeted show much about our culture. I’ve written before about how some like Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson will use a person’s view on a singular topic, like climate change, to label that person as either informed or ignorant. This same conflation has occurred here with women’s health care. Since the AHCA has made it possible that a resulting injury from a rape could be seen as a pre-existing condition, in the eyes of many this is tantamount to Republicans trying to penalize women for being raped.
The AHCA was hastily rammed through the House, and is an attempt to fix failed health policy with equally flawed methods. It should be clear that Republicans did not write the bill with “rape” and “domestic abuse” as pre-existing conditions, though women suffering from STDs or mental issues in the wake of these crimes may find themselves paying more for coverage. The AHCA and its supporters (or even those who simply disliked the ACA) have been unduly labeled enemies of women—indeed almost accomplices to rapists and abusers—largely because of misleading comments by people like Congresswoman Chu. Bill Nye and other pop scientists have succeeded in labeling those who disagree as ignorant; Cecile Richards and other leaders have made all who oppose them on the ACA or Planned Parenthood or abortion or a slew of other controversial women’s health issues seem like abusers.
We must remember this when it comes to healthcare reform. Anything that threatens agendas of people like Warren, Clinton, and Richards will be slandered. Now we must not be dogmatic about the AHCA; it’s very dangerous to fall into the trap of believing that bills by conservatives will be better, or more Christian, than bills by liberals. The AHCA is a clumsily and hastily written piece of legislation that will likely fail in the Senate, but it is not the pro-rape bill that many have made it out to be.
Bryant, Miranda. 2017. Planned Parenthood head: ‘Being a woman is now a pre-existing condition’. The Guardian. May 5. Accessed May 11, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/05/planned-parenthood-healthcare-bill-devastating-women-cecile-richards.
Nichols, Chris. 2017. Calif. Democrat repeats misleading claim rape a pre-existing condition under GOP bill. Politifact. May 9. Accessed May 11, 2017. http://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2017/may/09/judy-chu/rape-pre-existing-condition-under-gop-bill-calif-c/.
O’Neill Hayes, Tara. 2017. Fact Versus Fear: The AHCA and Pre-Existing Conditions. American Action Forum. May 10. FACT VERSUS FEAR: THE AHCA AND PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS Read more: https://www.americanactionforum.org/insight/fact-versus-fear-ahca-pre-existing-conditions/#ixzz4gnHs6A1d.