President George W. Bush recently announced that the Department of Health and Human Services would expand pre-natal care to women of low-income families by broadening the definition of “child” to cover embryos, thereby expanding women”s rights to coverage under the Children”s Health Insurance Program. Initially, this program seems to have merit. Surely the poor deserve care during pregnancy. Unfortunately, a closer reading of the legislation reveals that the real goals of the Bush administration seem to be pointed elsewhere. This thinly disguised political move, under the guise of expanding health care, is a sad commentary that low-income women need to be pregnant in order to get the coverage they need.
All people deserve adequate health care. It is the government”s responsibility to ensure that its citizens have access to certain basic human needs, one of which is certainly health care. Over 40 million people in America do not have health insurance about one quarter of whom are children. No one denies that pregnant women deserve all the health care they need. What needs repeating however, it that so does everyone.
This change in the wording of the law circumvents the real issue of care for all. Instead of providing aid to those in need, the Bush administration seems to be saying that people need an excuse in order to receive federal aid. People should not need to be pregnant or otherwise “special” to live a healthy life and receive the necessary care.
The government is offering a double standard. It is saying that poor pregnant women deserve care while they are pregnant, but when these same women no longer are pregnant they no longer warrant attention. Women should not be cast aside in priority as soon as they give birth or choose not to have children at all.
It is hard to believe this policy change is the best way to insure low-income pregnant women. Presently, women are covered under Medicaid if a family earns less than 133 percent of the poverty level. While this bill would increase coverage to women at up to 185 percent of the poverty line and so extend the benefits to about 46,000 new women, there are other ways of insuring people without questionable language that singles out certain classes and circuitously brings up questions about abortion.
Many see this legislation as setting precedent for later attacks upon abortion. Once the government sets up laws recognizing the rights of fetuses and providing specific protections, the precedent is set for futher intrusions on women”s right to choose.
Coverage under the Children”s Health Insurance Program could be extended to more women easily without the questionable decision of redefining the word “child” means. Everyone should have adequate healthcare low-income, pregnant women especially. Providing governmental assistance to the millions of poor who can not get access to adequate health care should be the primary focus of health care proposals. Rhetorical trickery must not be used to further political agendas under the pretext of improving public health.