Donald Trump's first 100 days as president are drawing to an uneventful close, and many are breathing sighs of relief for the first time in months, as some of the imminent threats of his leadership seems to have been stalled. However, by no means has the potential of catastrophic changes for vulnerable populations completely disappeared. Congressional Republicans' new healthcare legislation could affect women's birth control by allowing states to opt out of key Obamacare provisions.
The newly proposed legislation, which was announced in a press conference Tuesday night, isn't actually that new. It's primarily the same language from the failed American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was pulled before its vote in Congress last month when the House Freedom Caucus essentially doomed its passage.
The most important change to the bill under the new proposal is that it would eliminate the requirement for insurance companies to provide coverage for patients with preexisting conditions. It's a little mind-boggling as to why any representatives would support this change — according to NPR, 96 percent of Americans support this provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so it's unlikely to go over well with the electorate.
However, if it does pass, it could be devastating for reproductive rights, harking back to pre-Obamacare limitations, when pregnancy and even the potential for pregnancy could be considered a preexisting condition. Women often paid significantly higher premiums than men as a result, and could even be denied coverage. In addition, those suffering from reproductive diseases like endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome could face skyrocketing premiums, depending on how far states stretch the new amendment. There's even the potential that birth control could no longer be free, which was one of the seminal achievements of the ACA. Birth control is covered under Obamacare's essential health benefits, which states would also be able to opt out of.
The good news for liberals is that the legislation is once again facing intra-party disapproval from some Republican factions. According to Politico, a 50-member voting bloc of Republicans in the House called the Tuesday Group is dissatisfied with the new amendment, in part because Rep. Tom MacArthur, one of the three co-chairs of the Tuesday Group, seems to have forged an alliance with the House Freedom Caucus without its consent. The Republican majority in the House is ultimately too small for the party to support too much dissent, and without both blocs on board, the legislation could fail once again.
Unfortunately, the GOP seems bent on eliminating protections for women and reproductive rights to achieve a political victory. If it works, millions of women across the country, particularly low-income and minority women, will be at risk for unwanted pregnancy and poverty. This amendment would be disastrous for the country as a whole, and it needs the fierce opposition that killed the previous Republican plan in order to prevent its passage.