Anyone looking closely knows that equality isn't really one of the main focuses of the new Republican health care bill. In fact, many of its elements seem purposefully designed to exacerbate inequality on seemingly every level. Because of its single-minded focus on saving the federal government money, the AHCA is an assault on everything that intersectional feminism stands for — starting with its disregard for women and continuing through its disregard for anyone who's not well off, young, and healthy. UPDATE: The AHCA has officially passed the House with a majority of votes.
Let's start with the basics of intersectional feminism. In order to fight for true equality, feminism can't just recognize the experiences of white women whose disadvantages might end at their gender. Instead, it has to recognize and include those whose various identities expose them to discrimination as well, whether it's racism, homophobia, classism, ablism, or anything else. It does this in an effort to build a movement that aims to bring about equality for everyone, from wealthy white women who are feeling the effects of the glass ceiling to low-income, black lesbian women who feel different forms of oppression and lack of opportunity resulting from each of their identities.
Now, enter the AHCA, which had to be revised to cover fewer people in order to gain the votes of the most conservative wing of the House. In its current form — which, luckily, is unlikely to pass through the Senate to end up on the President's desk, even if it were to get through the House — this health care bill works to exacerbate inequality by stripping away health care from many of the people whom intersectional feminism attempts to represent.
To begin with, the people who will feel the effects of the bill most keenly are those whose employers do not provide health care — and those people are more likely to have lower-paying jobs as it is. Thus, anyone who will lose coverage under this new plan is more likely to be lower income. Even worse, though, is the damage that the AHCA would specifically do to women living in poverty by slashing Medicaid funding, defunding Planned Parenthood, and not requiring Medicaid to pay for basic services like maternity care starting in 2020.
Women are already more likely to live in poverty than men, and women of color are more likely to live in poverty than white women. Instead of helping give those groups of people more access to the opportunities that, for example, wealthy white men have, it's essentially taking health care out of their reach. If you don't have access to health care, then that's already a huge limit on what you can achieve in other realms.
Unfortunately, the bill doesn't even stop there in its discrimination. It will also result in a funding cut for special education because of changes to Medicaid, which will limit opportunities for people with disabilities. It will allow states to charge more for older people than younger people, and people in higher-cost areas won't get extra help based on that.
And all of that doesn't even touch on the additional problems for people with pre-existing conditions, which Republicans claim to have solved with an additional $8 billion set aside for paying for care for those who need more of it. To put it bluntly, though, as Sen. Chuck Schumer did, that's like "administering cough medicine to someone with stage-four cancer."
Intersectional feminism as a movement is working to tackle a lot of problems, from racism to income equality to sexual harassment in the workplace. But if people aren't healthy to begin with, all of that is essentially nullified. Women and their allies have to have their health in order to get out into the streets, after all. And instead of giving people who face more oppression and more discrimination at least the foundation of access to health care, it's making that harder to reach and targeting those people with almost surgical precision.
Trump's election was already a slap in the face for women, people of color, and so many others — and now the policies that he and Republicans in Congress are trying to push through amount to pouring mounds of salt on that already raw wound. In the case of health care, it could hurt people in a very literal sense, all in pursuit of a callous ideology that leaves every man for himself. If you aim to make your feminism intersectional, then it's not just access to contraception that hangs on the defeat of this bill. For so many people, their access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depends on it — so in case you weren't doing it already, it's time to get out and put up a resistance.