Women Need Health Care, Too
Congressmen’s wives and daughters are covered. Why not the rest of us?
“Why should a single man pay for maternity benefits?” I was deeply troubled when I heard Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) utter these words at a recent town hall in Brookfield, and by similar statements made by male GOP representatives during the health care debate.
I can’t help but feel there’s a subtext when it comes to women and health care. The message: “If you don’t already have insurance or you aren’t married, or you find yourself in a bad lifestyle situation, it’s your fault. You should have behaved more virtuously so you wouldn’t have ended up here.”
That subtext is the only explanation I have for Republican efforts to make it harder for women to access the health care services they need. It seems that if a woman hasn’t found someone to attach herself to, or found a full-time permanent job with benefits, well, she’s on her own.
It’s time for Sensenbrenner, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and other members of Congress to take to heart a larger world. Beyond the stable, two-adult families living in well-manicured homes in the suburbs, there are the rest of us. We need health care, too, and many of us struggle when we don’t have excellent health care coverage provided by employers such as GE or Harley-Davidson.
“That guy in Marketing should know better.” “The woman in the corner cubicle should know better.” It can serve as a way — if only in one’s own mind — to hold the other person accountable for values or expectations that they may not share with us.
When we allow ourselves to measure their behavior against our values, we allow ourselves to judge them. Worse yet, it gives us a window to knock them down in status if we choose, even possibly dehumanizing them just a bit. And once we dehumanize someone, we can feel justified in treating the person poorly.
Are women being left out of the health care equation, or treated unfairly, because we’ve failed to live up to the standards of virtue that conservative members of Congress hold in their minds? I know their own wives and daughters will be taken care of, but why are the rest of us left out in the cold? We matter, but I’m not sure members of Congress see us. Do they not see us because we should have known better than to end up where we are?
All across America, women are working hard for their families and to make their communities stronger. And we do the best we can with the resources we can muster. My child falls off the jungle gym and breaks his arm (true). My neighbor’s child develops a devastating disease (true). And I need a hysterectomy because my uterus cells didn’t fight off invading cells like they were supposed to (true). These events happen on top of pregnancy and birth and everyday gynecological issues. These events happen to normal women going about their lives.
Health care is a human right, rather than a product to be sold. Every woman, no matter her circumstance, should have the ability to seek treatment when she needs it. If not, who gets to decide who is worthy? Do we rely on a standard of financial ability? Virtue? Gratefulness?
All women deserve a fair shot at being successful wage earners, parents, and healthy individuals. Let’s not make it harder. Let’s pull everyone up together.
This column was originally published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Julie Henszey is a Wauwatosa resident, an executive coach and an outdoor adventure guide.