October
8th 2009
Women’s bodies in the crosshairs of “health care reform”

Posted under: American history, Bodily modification, Gender, Intersectionality, the body, wankers, women's history

Female_MannequinIt’s interesting (and sadly unsurprising) to me that two of the most powerful and emotional arguments the right-wing is mounting against health care reform have women’s bodies–or, more specifically, their uteri–at the center of them.  First of all, of course, the faithful are being scared to death that increasing government involvement in and funding for health care will mean that Godly taxpayers will be forced to underwrite abortions.  Secondly, we’re told that health care reform will force all American taxpayers to pay for the health care of illeeeeegal alieeeeunnnns and their hoards of anchor babies!  (And characteristically, it looks like most Dems are happy to pander to these boogeymen, rather than defending privacy rights.) 

On the one hand, right-wing opponents of health care reform claim that they shouldn’t have to pay for anyone else’s abortion, even indirectly.  On the other hand, they complain that health care reform will force them to pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants.  In both cases, some people, somewhere are having sex and making decisions about their own bodies and families of which others disapprove and don’t want to underwrite with their tax dollars.

I agree!  I don’t want to have to pay for any medications or procedures of which I disapprove on religious grounds, either.  So, here’s what we’ll ban next:  coverage for all boner pills, and all elective cosmetic surgeries.  If you think you need those things–too bad!  My God says they’re vain and foolish, not to mention sinful distortions of the human body, so you should just learn to live with your flawed, flaccid selves.  (Plus, God is really tired of watching those same dumb TV ads during football games that feature middle-aged heterosexualists soaking in hot tubs, cuddling on sofas, and throwing footballs through tire swings.)  Hey–don’t blame me if you don’t like it.  It’s God’s will, not mine, and it’s just a coincidence that I’m a flawless female specimen who will never need a boner pill or elective plastic surgery.

What?  I’m not a medical doctor, so I can’t presume to advise other people what to do with their bodies?  What a fascinating argument.

16 Comments »

16 Responses to “Women’s bodies in the crosshairs of “health care reform””

  1. Susan on 08 Oct 2009 at 8:59 am #

    I wouldn’t pay for viagra and the like — not sure if that’s what you meant by boner pills.
    Presumably elective cosmetic surgery is not covered by insurance.

  2. Historiann on 08 Oct 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Susan–some plans do pay for elective cosmetic surgeries! A brother-in-law of mine made a decent living in the previous decade as an employee of the Harvard libraries subbing for a woman who was always getting cosmetic surgery. (And, it all depends on what’s “cosmetic,” and what’s necessary for someone’s mental health and well being, right? I’m sure that there’s some wiggle room there.)

    And yes: “boner pills” = viagra, cialis, etc. Those are covered by pretty much every insurance plan in the U.S.A., whereas birth control pills? Not so much! Funny what gets defined as “elective” and what is defined as “necessary,” isn’t it?

  3. Anastasia on 08 Oct 2009 at 9:07 am #

    does a medical doctor necessarily have to prescribe an abortion? isn’t part of the point that even a doctor can’t tell a woman what to do with her body? That the woman decides and then tells the doctor to perform the procedure? Just trying to understand what one’s status (or not) as a medical doctor has to do with abortion.

  4. Bookbag on 08 Oct 2009 at 9:16 am #

    I love everything about this post. The bit about boner pills is priceless! It really frustrates me that the Dems aren’t fighting back on the abortion issue– it’s not like it’s the only controversy in the debate and therefore the only issue holding back the bill. Dems cave on the abortions, Repubs make up death panels; Dems insert language excluding illegal immigrants, Repubs demand that proper ID must be shown before medical care can be provided… Dems need to just get behind their bill and pass it.

  5. squadratomagico on 08 Oct 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Actually, I was thinking you were going to go in the direction of paying for the two-war state. I think there could be some substantial savings there, and yeah, it’s pretty much antithetical to my moral code.

  6. perpetua on 08 Oct 2009 at 9:28 am #

    @ Anastasia – all medical procedures are only performed with a doctor’s permissions/ approval. Doctors can stop procedures they feel are risky or unsafe. Of course, unethical doctors will perform “at demand” procedures regardless of risk, etc. In the specific context of abortion, a medical exam is necessary before an abortion to make sure that there are no preconditions militating against abortion, that the women is within the legally-sanctioned term limits, etc. I can’t think of the top of my head of a medical precondition that a woman could have that could medically (and legitimately) prevent an abortion, esp since abortions can be performed without general anesthetic, but it might exist. And just FWIW, doctors and hospitals tell women what they can do with their bodies *all the time* – just see some of the outrageous ways women in labor are routinely treated, and the recent Arizona case of a woman threatened with a court-ordered C-section if she comes to the hospital in labor and wants a VBAC. According to the hospital, she has no right of informed consent to refuse a surgical procedure. Instead, she will be strapped to an operating table and have her abdomen sliced open against her will.

    In my opinion, it is one of the great outrages of our health care system (and that means a lot, considering the list of outrages perpetrated by it) that doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacists, etc, have the *legal right* to refuse to fill a prescription or perform a procedure that are legal in this country. I think if you have a moral or ethical problem with DOING YOUR JOB you should find a new job. That means you, Catholic Hospital! Banning abortions is bad enough, but they also ban sterilization procedures and even prescribing birth control. And we all know what happens to rape victims who end up in a Catholic hospital er, needing emergency contraception. Those rights of refusal, expanded under Bush II, are now so ingrained in the debate that we routinely see Democrats and other ostensibly pro-choice folks kowtowing to the idea that abortions shouldn’t be publicly funded.

  7. Historiann on 08 Oct 2009 at 9:42 am #

    Right on, perpetua: the point is that it’s only individuals and their physicians who know what’s going on with their health and well-being, and nobody else has a right to an opinion about what they do with their bodies, let alone to write legislation forbidding this or requiring that. People who have neither medical training nor familiarity with an individual’s medical record really shouldn’t be in the business of telling other people what to do or what not to do.

    squadrato: I’m with you on the wars, but I thought it was actually more controversial to come out as anti-boner pill. (Tragically.)

  8. Paul on 08 Oct 2009 at 10:40 am #

    I remember catching myself with a similar thought years ago when I was debating with someone about abortion. I was saying that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund anything that they find morally reprehensible, but it quickly occurred to me that taxpayer money inevitably is going to be used for lots of things that some people would find morally repugnant. I don’t think that it would be possible for a government to do anything that doesn’t offend some taxpayers.

  9. Tom on 08 Oct 2009 at 10:57 am #

    The principle seems clear: I pay my taxes to the government I support and the government supports programs that are legal and perceived as valuable by the government. Except for the three dollars of my federal taxes that I can designate as going to federal elections (or not, as I actually prefer my tax dollars to be used more wisely), I do not get a say in where my dollars are spent. If some folks don’t want their dollars going to abortions, give them a three-dollar check-off box on their 1040s! Or not, since the whole point is that we pay taxes to let the state do the work for the good of the state, and we don’t get the privilege of second guessing its decisions except through the normal channels. Of course, all who wish to practice civil disobedience on these issues by simply refusing to pay their taxes would have every right to do so, as long as they take the consequences. Thoreau went to jail for his beliefs, and all those who wish to make sure their tax dollars are not spent in ways they don’t approve of have that option as well.

    The whole illegal immigrant argument is equally unfounded: I don’t believe most people would find it ethical to withhold medical care from all those citizen lawbreakers who might be living on the public dime in our cushy prison system: oh, and withhold it from their children, too. To exclude immigrants from public services on the basis of a claim they are lawbreakers is unjustifiable, I think. Especially if the prisons fill up with civil disobedience cases!

  10. Feminist Avatar on 08 Oct 2009 at 11:03 am #

    I think war is immoral and unethical and I absolutely refuse to intentionally fund it, but my taxes pay for it anyway.

  11. Feminist Avatar on 08 Oct 2009 at 11:05 am #

    And I might add if I need a religious backing to have such belief, I come from a religious sect with a long history of pacifism- no war vets in my family (yet)- of which there are many within protestantism.

  12. Historiann on 08 Oct 2009 at 11:06 am #

    Careful, Tom: the right wing in U.S. history has always been partial to secessionist movements! (The Confederate States of America, the modern militia movement, FLDS communities, etc.)

    I’ve never understood the logic of a political movement that would deny a woman the right to abort her trisomy-afflicted fetus, and also force her into poverty and bankruptcy because of the child’s medical expenses.

  13. quixote on 08 Oct 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    This is tangential to your main point, but the funny thing about objecting to medical care for illegals (not funny in a “ha-ha” way, either) is that it’s the same as demanding to be sick.

    Some diseases are catching. If illegals don’t dare go for care, guess what that does to the epidemiology of contagious diseases? Let’s run through some of those in the US: swine flu, AIDS, hepatitis A B and C, tuberculosis, measles, drug resistant staph infections, . . . you get the idea. I’m not talking about catching colds.

    And yet people are demanding that we maintain reservoirs of disease because they’re too full of resentment to treat some people like human beings. Sometimes karma is on a real short feedback loop.

  14. Historiann on 08 Oct 2009 at 12:38 pm #

    quixote: I’m glad you brought this up. Not offering health care to all is very much a public health FAIL, especially when we consider the kinds of places that undocumented workers tend to work: in kitchens and slaughterhouses handling food, and in hotels as maids, for example. How is it good public policy to keep those folks away from decent medical care?

    Health care should be a right, not a privilege. Those of us who are lucky enough to be healthy now are only temporarily able-bodied.

  15. thefrogprincess on 08 Oct 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    Wow, quixote and Historiann: the point about illegal immigrants and the basic science of the spread of many diseases is so on the money, especially the correlation to the food industry. Then again, I’m convinced that a good number of Americans choose to ignore just how ubiquitous illegal immigrants are. I always wonder if the people calling for illegals to be forced out are aware of just how dependent our society is on their labor. When the construction projects grind to a halt and the local restaurants close, either because illegals have been rounded up or are too sick to work or are injured by the unsafe conditions nobody else will work in, then what? (To be clear, I’m appalled by these conditions but them’s the facts.)

  16. Indyanna on 08 Oct 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    I can still remember my 10th grade political science teacher, Mr. Nolan, telling us what HE did that particular summer: traveled to Scandinavia, where he fell deathly ill and for two weeks or more lay in a hospital not even knowing where he was. When he was discharged they handed him his freshly-pressed coat jacket and he asked about the billing address. No, no, they said, we clean and press them for free in these cases. But the hospital bill, he said, and they said, no, no, we… It sure made an impression on me.

    On the boner pills, ha ha about the footballs and tire swings. ANYbody can sit in a hot tub and watch the sun set, but that tire test is a huge challenge. These ads are getting more and more crazed. I like the part with “tell your doctor about your medical condition…” I thought ZE was supposed to tell YOU about that? Now they have one with a guy walking across town being hectored mercilessly by his own reflection in the glassy building fronts about having “that talk with your doctor.” It’ll take more than a pill to deal with this. If mr. reflectoguy follows you for more than four hours, you’re really really really in big trouble.

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