According to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday, just 13 percent of American women support the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s “repeal and replace” proposal for Obamacare, compared with 22 percent of men. Fifty-six percent of men and the same proportion of women disapprove of the bill, with the rest undecided.
It’s fair to say this is a massively unpopular bill, even among Republican legislators. They were supposed to hold a vote on the bill on Thursday but postponed it in part due to lagging support from the far right. So I have to ask—what’s so reassuring to that not-insignificant sliver of women ready to throw down for the AHCA? What have they heard about this bummer of a bill that makes them say, “Yes, sign me up, I support this?”
Could it be that the bill will cause 24 million people to lose their health insurance over the next decade? Surely at least 13 percent of women have someone in mind over whom, if he met an untimely demise due to lack of health care, they wouldn’t shed a tear. Or maybe 13 percent of women read the Congressional Budget Office report that predicted thousands of additional unplanned births as a result of the bill’s provision to defund Planned Parenthood, which would block poor women’s access to contraception. Maybe that made 13 percent of women smile because babies are beautiful symbols of a regenerative Earth.
Another possibility: The women who love the AHCA are stoked about the bill’s rollback of Medicaid coverage, a move that will disproportionately harm women and children, especially new mothers. It is possible that 13 percent of women think most women and children are so strong and empowered that they don’t need life-saving care from Medicaid! And they could be even more strong and empowered if they were forced to choose between, say, food and medicine! Or rent and surgery! Or phone service and a yearly checkup!
Here’s something else that might have made 13 percent of women breathe a sigh of relief. This is a photo of the Freedom Caucus of Wealthy White Men (title modified for specificity), a group of hard-working, wholly interchangeable Americans who have held out against the AHCA, pushing for a better health care bill that will provide as little health care as possible. Perhaps 13 percent of women are thinking, “The AHCA won’t pass until the devil-clones at the FCWWM with my best interests at heart get on board—so when it passes, I know it’ll be fantabulous, health care–wise.”
Or maybe women were watching Sean Spicer’s Thursday press conference, at which he announced that the Donald Trump had decided to support the FCWWM’s demand that maternity care be stripped from the list of essential health benefits all insurance plans must offer. Could be that 13 percent of women agree with the argument Republicans have made just about every time this provision has come up for debate in Congress: Maternity care shouldn’t be on the mandatory coverage list for insurers because men don’t need it. Spicer said the White House decided to scrap maternity care after a “philosophical discussion” that wasn’t even “about necessarily a benefit,” but about ways to make health insurance cheaper for people who don’t need maternity care. Maybe 13 percent of women heard the implication there—that the one thing most people who don’t need maternity care have in common is that they are men—and nodded and thanked their stars for the advent of a bill that finally centers the needs of their brothers.
Perhaps they also chuckled when they heard that Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, made a sarcastic remark about not needing mammograms when a Talking Points Memo reporter asked him about keeping the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefits. In his apology, Roberts called mammograms “essential to women’s health,” a rich choice of words if, as he implied, he doesn’t consider mammograms “essential” enough to make it on to a list of “essential health benefits.” But mammograms aren’t on the essential benefits list—they’re guaranteed under Obamacare’s mandate of preventive health coverage for women. Perhaps 13 percent of women are comforted by the fact that a voting legislator doesn’t know the difference.
Is that the thing, though? Could 13 percent of women applaud a senator for working to ensure that people who don’t have breasts can pay a little bit less so those who do can pay a lot more? Whatever has sold these women on the GOP bill and the men working to take the HC out of AHCA, I wish they’d tell the rest of us. While they’re at it, they might want to inform a few dozen Republicans, too.