For National Women's Health Week, The Biggest Political Threats Facing Women's Health

At every turn, there are countless things that could end your very existence. Freak accidents. On-the-job injuries. Even excessive arguing could contribute to your early demise. And yet, of course, certain phenomena undoubtedly pose a bigger threat to your downfall than others. In recognition of National Women’s Health Week, let’s take a look at some of the biggest political threats to women’s wellbeing in the U.S. today. These culprits may not threaten women's health as quickly as cigarettes, but they are just as insidious.

Hobby Lobby

The Affordable Care Act requires that employers who offer insurance plans to their workers include contraceptive coverage in those plans. This policy gives women more control over their bodies, increases their financial independence, and almost certainly results in fewer pregnancies — so naturally, it made social conservatives apoplectic. They quickly concocted a plan to destroy the contraceptive mandate, and found it in the form of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts store owned by the highly religious Green family.

The Greens argue that certain forms of contraceptive coverage violate their religious beliefs, and as such, Hobby Lobby should be exempt from Obamacare’s contraception mandate. The case quickly made its way up to the Supreme Court, and if Hobby Lobby wins the case, it would pave the way for all sorts of other private companies to seek a religious exemption — and single-handedly strip millions of women of their access to contraceptives.

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North Dakota Republicans

State lawmakers with R’s next to their name have been giddily chipping away at abortion access throughout the country for the last couple of years, but the most concerted effort has to be in North Dakota. Having determined that the state’s lone abortion clinic was unacceptable, state Republicans attempted to pass a "personhood" bill, which would have effectively outlawed all abortions in the state. When that failed, they regrouped and successfully passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill, which graciously allowed women to get abortions up to six whole weeks into their pregnancies, but no later.

Upon signing the bill, Governor Jack Dalrymple flippantly referred to it as a "legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," which is code for "this bill is probably unconstitutional, but hey, it’s worth a shot."


Luckily for North Dakota women, a court placed an injunction against the law before it could take effect, and in April, it was permanently struck down by a federal judge. But the state’s Attorney General is considering an appeal, and if that bill ends up in front of the Supreme Court, it could have the potential to almost single-handedly gut Roe v. Wade. And we’d have North Dakota lawmakers to thank.

Halbig v. Sebelius

The Affordable Care Act does a lot of good things for women. For example, it eliminates copays for preventative services like mammograms and cancer screenings. Considering cancer is one of the leading causes of death of women in the U.S., making cancer screenings more affordable is a very big deal. But that only works if women actually have health insurance, and if one lawsuit is successful, a lot of women won’t.

The lawsuit in question is Halbig v. Sebelius, and its supporters want to deny federal subsidies to people who bought insurance via the state-based exchanges (as opposed to the federal exchange).

The argument is based on the fact that certain relevant portions of the law use the phrase "the State," which implies the federal government, instead of "a state," which implies an individual state. But the rest of the ACA makes it blindingly obvious that the subsidies were intended to go to anybody, regardless of where they bought their plans. In essence, it is a lawsuit based on a typo.

Nevertheless, 34 states didn’t set up health care exchanges, and if this lawsuit is successful, millions of women in those states will immediately face steep hikes in their premiums and be at risk of losing their coverage altogether.

So happy National Women's Health Week, and remember: ensuring women's health isn't just about remembering to schedule your next doctor's visit. In America, it's also about fighting for your right to afford access to that doctor — and the very reproductive services she may offer you — in the first place.

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