In new health care bill, Republicans propose penalizing women who've given birth

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A provision lurking in House Republicans' proposed American Health Care Act MacArthur amendment places a financial penalty on mothers. 

The newly adjusted AHCA would roll back protections for people with pre-existing conditions the Affordable Care Act put in place (and President Donald Trump promised to preserve), a burden that will fall heavily on women. In addition to sexual assault, domestic violence, breast cancer and depression diagnoses, all of which are disproportionately common for women, the AHCA amendment categorizes having given birth as a pre-existing condition. C-sections and post-partum depression also make the cut.

The Center for American Progress ran the numbers on the pregnancy edit, and found that, for a 40-year-old individual, the proposal would result in an estimated 425% surge in the surcharge on health insurance premiums, or an extra $17,000, for people who have birthed children. Taken together with all the other cutbacks to reproductive health care this administration has architected, the proposed price tag on care paints a dismal picture for women, specifically poor women, in Trump's America. 

Donald Trump speaks at a women's empowerment panel in late March 2017.Source: Andrew Harnik/AP
Donald Trump speaks at a women's empowerment panel in late March 2017.  Andrew Harnik/AP

Trump recently signed legislation allowing states to withhold Title X funds from abortion providers, a move designed to keep money from Planned Parenthood that, incidentally, they already don't spend on abortion. What Title X does fund are basic reproductive health services for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them, services that include contraception and sex education — which happen to be the twin keys to preventing unplanned pregnancies in the first place. Trump, who has vowed to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and who should know exactly what Title X is for, restricted abortion access and the resources that keep abortion rates low with a single signature.

The result, or at least the goal, of such a policy would logically be that more people carry pregnancies to term, an expensive proposition the government doesn't seem particularly eager to subsidize. 

The AHCA would revoke the essential health benefits coverage standards the ACA put in place, on which women disproportionately rely. EHBs include things like hospitalization, as well as the maternity and newborn care coverage the ACA allowed an additional 9 million women to access, according to Planned Parenthood. Before the ACA, just 12% of individual market plans covered maternity care. What's more, the AHCA also demands that women on Medicaid return to work within 60 days of giving birth, or lose their health insurance. 

Donald Trump touts himself as a paragon of women's empowerment, but his policy is bent on holding women back.Source: Andrew Harnik/AP
Donald Trump touts himself as a paragon of women's empowerment, but his policy is bent on holding women back.  Andrew Harnik/AP

Among many other things, the ACA created insurance plan options for people who don't or can't get insurance through an employer. Its replacement would be hardest on working and low-income mothers. According to 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 56% of poor children were members of families headed by women, which were far more likely to be impoverished than those headed by men. More than a third of single mothers lived in poverty that year, and women were 35% more likely to be living in poverty than men were. 

It's unclear how these women are supposed to cough up the $17,000 surcharge on insurance premiums while scraping by on low-wage jobs. And it's especially unfortunate because abortion access tends to be a pretty good predictor of potential economic success: A 2013 study found that, of women who try and fail to terminate their pregnancies are three times as likely to end up living below the federal poverty line in two years' time than women who are able to get abortions. Which makes sense: Many women who get abortions do so because they can't afford to have children

This GOP policy push runs the serious risk of pushing more mothers into poverty. Republicans seem to both want women to have more babies while also not wanting to take care of those women after they do. The president can waste words on women's empowerment all he wants, but his actions speak louder.