Anti-abortion GOP Congressman asks why men should have to pay for prenatal care

Anti-abortion GOP Congressman asks why men should have to pay for prenatal care
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) is causing a stir on social media, after he asked why men should have to pay for prenatal care in their health insurance plans during a hearing about Republican's health care replacement.

The moment in question came while Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) questioned Shimkus on the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare. 

"What mandate in the Obamacare bill does he take issue with?" Doyle asked. "Certainly not with pre-existing conditions, or caps on benefits or letting your child stay on the policy until 26, so I'm curious what is it we're mandating?"

To which Shimkus replied, "What about men having to purchase prenatal care? Is that not correct? And should they?"

Shimkus is virulently anti-abortion, describing himself as a "a 100% pro-life Christian" when he co-sponsored a 2014 bill that banned federal funding for abortions. 

He wants women to be forced to have babies when they get pregnant — a condition that could not occur without the actions of men — but as a man, does not want to be part of the health insurance that pays for their pregnancy costs. 

His comment also missed the point that health insurance simply wouldn't work if people could pick or choose the procedures their insurance pays for.

Insurance, by definition, pools risk. People buy insurance assuming that, even if they are healthy now, they may get sick at some point and need a lot of money in a short amount of time to pay for the medical services they require. Just as men buy plans that cover maternity coverage, women purchase plans that cover ailments unique to men, such as prostate cancer and testicular cancer. 

Geoffrey Cowley, the late health care expert and reporter, explained this well in a 2013 MSNBC piece. 

I may not get diabetes and you may never have a traumatic injury. But if both our plans cover both conditions, neither of us will be bankrupted by either of them. If I lack that coverage, an unexpected illness or injury may empty my wallet and affect yours as well, when your taxes have to help cover my unpaid medical bills. 

Cowley added that there is also a moral aspect to men covering prenatal care — given they play a key role in getting women pregnant in the first place.

We all have a stake in reproduction: each of us (even Republican economists and self-employed psychotherapists) is the result of a successful pregnancy that a man helped initiate. So why should maternity care be solely a woman's responsibility? In most of the world's moral traditions, health and mutual survival are ideals that merit mutual aid.

Shimkus isn't the only Republican who needs a refresher on how insurance works. House Speaker Paul Ryan didn't seem to understand pooled insurance when he gave a PowerPoint presentation Thursday about the GOP's health care plan.

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Emily C. Singer

Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, is a senior writer for Mic covering politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at esinger@mic.com

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