House Republicans Attack Women's Health Care

March 24, 2011 9:04 am ET — Meredith Kormes

March is a busy month, with Women's History Month and the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law. With these events in mind, it's a good time to evaluate how women and their health care have fared recently. One easy comparison is to look at what the Democrat-controlled House in the 111th Congress accomplished next to what the current Republican-controlled House has done in its first few months.

The most obvious benefit to women that came out of the 111th Congress was the passage of the Affordable Care Act. With the new law, women and their families are no longer at the mercy of the private health care industry. The new law protects women and their families in a variety of ways: insurance companies can no longer charge a woman more just because of her gender; being a woman can no longer be a pre-existing condition simply because of a Caesarean section or because she was a victim of domestic violence; it protects women's health by increasing access to preventive services; and children can no longer be denied care because of a pre-existing condition.   

In addition to this historic legislation, the Democrat-controlled House also reauthorized and expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program to include an additional four million children and pregnant women.

However, the current Republican-led House, including Republican congresswomen, has gone in the opposite direction. Instead of moving forward and providing women with better health care and better access to care, Republicans have moved to reverse much of what has already been achieved to benefit women. One of the first votes the House took this year was to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would eliminate all the benefits the law had for everyone, including women. A subsequent attempt to defund the health care law was also passed.

Not satisfied with that, House Republicans decided to launch an all-out assault on women's reproductive health as well. Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) sponsored a bill that would make unaffordable any insurance plan that includes access to abortion. The bill also narrowed the definition of rape to "forcible rape." Another bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) included a provision that says the federal government can't deny funding to hospitals that refuse to perform abortions, even when they deny services that would put the mother's life in danger. Republicans are blocking a woman's right to receive an abortion — a legal medical procedure — at every turn.

Additionally, the House Republicans' funding plan for 2011 (H.R. 1) eliminates the Title X program that "provide[s] family planning services, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other preventive health care to low-income women," which means that, "[i]n the absence of Title X's preventive care, some women would die." And as The Hill points out:

H.R. 1 also slashes funding for programs that promote the health of pregnant women, infants and young children. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food, counseling and other supports to millions of low-income pregnant women, new mothers and infants. Studies have linked participation in WIC with higher birth weight and lower infant mortality. H.R. 1 slashes $747 million from WIC. Each year, more than two million pregnant women and 27 million children receive health services from state and local programs supported by the Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant. H.R. 1 cuts $50 million from this program.

So after a Democrat-controlled Congress expanded women's health care in such significant ways, it took House Republicans less than three months to start turning back the clock on women's health and reproductive care. That's a happy Women's History Month for you.

For more information on the benefits to women contained in the Affordable Care Act, click HERE.