Every week, Playboy, with journalist Lilly Dancyger and Creatives for Progressive Action—a national community of artists, filmmakers, writers and activists using their influence and voices to pursue meaningful and measurable progressive action—will deliver a timely overview of global and domestic political events, controversial policy changes, elections, campaigns and government happenings that deserve our attention and citizen action. From bite-size activism to in-person engagement, our goal is activate the marginalized, make our voices heard and ultimately win the fight for social justice for all. From protecting free speech and freedom of identity to safeguarding freedom of (and from) religion and a free press, both here at home and around the world, we will promote the ideas and values that support equal representation for all under the law. Now get out there and make a difference.
THIS WEEK: Demand More Female Senators Be Included in Health Care Legislation
The state and fate of health care in this country are so dismal it can be hard to figure out what to worry about the most: abortion access, pre-existing conditions, the future of Medicaid, prescription costs, the dystopian trend of crowd-funding as health coverage. It’s all a mess. But the way to win any battle is one step at a time.
There’s still hope that the GOP’s cruel version of the American Health Care Act will die in the Senate. But in case it doesn’t, we must do everything we can to ensure that the Senate’s version isn’t quite as deadly as the House’s (which passed earlier this month). One way to do that is to push for more than one woman to be in the fifteen-person group drafting the bill, as many of the major issues at stake in this healthcare revamp are women’s issues: the future of Planned Parenthood, access to prenatal and infant care, whether or not Cesarean sections (which one third of U.S. mothers have had) and care sought after rape or domestic abuse can be counted as pre-existing conditions and used to deny health coverage.
There’s a petition at Moveon.org to add six more women to the group and remove seven men, making the numbers evenly split. Online petitions are great, but this is even better: call your Senator and demand that they act on this issue. You can borrow some language from the petition to make your call easy and effective.
Some background: In March, a photo of Congressional negotiations of the Obamacare repeal bill went viral. Photos of caucus meetings aren’t especially dynamic, so what was so special about this one? The image perfectly encapsulated so much of what’s wrong with the way healthcare is discussed in politics: it showed a group of old white men deciding whether or not women deserve access to maternity care, one of the major sticking points in the negotiation.
An agreement was reached, and the bill moved on to the Senate. Senate Republicans announced 13 members of their action group to draft the Senate version of the bill, and they were, surprise, surprise, all men. In response to the backlash over this lack of diversity, a GOP aide defended the makeup of the group, telling CNN, “We have no interest in playing the games of identity politics,” and arguing that the group was, in fact, diverse because some of the members disagree on Medicaid expansion.
Despite the GOP’s clear failure to grasp the meaning of the word diversity, they did eventually cave in to pressure and criticism and deign to allow exactly one woman onto the health care committee. A step in the right direction—but also a measly, placating crumb that doesn’t come anywhere near rectifying the gender imbalance in the process of making decisions that will impact the lives of millions of Americans.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said that she voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 57 times, but her views on health care appear to be much more rational than many of her male counterparts in the GOP. Maybe most importantly, Capito supports the Patient Freedom Act bill, which would allow Americans to opt to keep their Affordable Care Act coverage if they choose to, even with a repeal in place. She’s also advocated in the past for making addiction treatment services more accessible. In line with her party, she is against public funding for abortion services, but at least she doesn’t want to repeal Roe v. Wade.
Adding Capito to the group is a start, but we need more than one token woman to have a voice in the debate over our futures. Call your Senator and tell them that.