Republicans love to make funnies, and what’s easier to laugh about than women? Inspired by the “women be shopping” and “women be talking” school of comedy, the men of the GOP have exactly one joke about health care: Men don’t need coverage for maternity care or mammograms, because men can’t have babies and don’t have breasts! Those are woman things.
Seriously, Republican men adore this joke. “Has a man ever delivered a baby?” they have asked, arguing against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance policies cover maternity care. “I don’t need maternity care,” they have laughed. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” they have joked. It never gets old!
Rep. Pete Olson, a Republican from Texas—the state with the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world—tried his hand at the gag in his recent comments on the GOP’s current Trumpcare proposals, which would not entirely do away with the ACA mandate on prenatal care. Not cool, Olson said. “We have what’s called an X chromosome,” he joked to a fellow man on a Houston radio show, “which means we can’t have a baby.”
The scary thing is, everyone has an X chromosome—even men. It may be a small correction, but since this guy is currently trying to legislate health care out of the hands of poor people, medical accuracy seems important. If we can’t trust his faulty understanding of the very thing that marks the difference between the sexes, what else is he getting wrong? What’s next—men having babies after all?
Olson, who calls himself “a staunch defender of the unborn,” is also forgetting a very important part of pregnancy: the baby that comes out at the end. Sure, people with Y chromosomes don’t get pregnant, but they do grow inside women who are pregnant. Olson can’t have a baby, but once upon a time, he was a baby! Whatever maternity care his mother got when she was pregnant with him helped him grow into the healthy, thriving, intolerable jerkoff he is today.
Babies are more likely to survive their first year of life when their mothers make doctors’ visits while pregnant. Pregnant women are far more likely to visit the doctor if their care is covered by insurance. It takes a brain capable of far more pretzel-twisting than mine to understand how men who argue that fertilized eggs are people who should be protected at all costs could turn around and argue that those all-important human eggs don’t deserve health care because the people who incubate them aren’t men.
Once Olson finishes reading his textbook chapter on sex chromosomes, his schedule might free up so he can learn about the human lifecycle. Men like him, and the doofy right-wing radio host with whom he yukked it up over the incompetence of male reproductive organs when it comes to hosting a fetus, were once boys. Those boys were once fetuses. Taking away maternity coverage means depriving boy fetuses, who will one day become unfunny men, of their best shot at healthy development. If that doesn’t convince Olson that maternity care is good for people he cares about, perhaps a reminder that men also help make fetuses—including the fetuses that grew up to be his very own children—will do it.