Op Ed

Women Need Health Care, Too

Congressmen’s wives and daughters are covered. Why not the rest of us?

By - Jul 28th, 2017 01:02 pm
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Jim Sensenbrenner. Photo from Sensenbrenner's office.

Jim Sensenbrenner. Photo from Sensenbrenner’s office.

“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.

I teach a course for people in the workforce in which I caution participants about the use of the phrase “should know better.” Using that phrase when talking about someone else can become a barrier to working together.

“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. 

Categories: Health, Op-Ed, Politics

11 thoughts on “Op Ed: Women Need Health Care, Too”

  1. Jason Troll says:

    Is this a self promotion article or an article on women’s supposed rights.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    Women’s supposed rights. Priceless. That says it all. Women don’t have rights Troll. As it should be.

  3. Jason Troll says:

    Vince, Does a woman really have a health right to hip replacement surgery in Canada if she must wait a year.

  4. Mary Kay Wagner says:

    The corollary to why should men pay for maternity care (and there are very good reasons for that) is why should women have to pay for prostate care? Or Viagra? And yet you don’t see Johnson,, Sensenbrenner, Ryan or any other male conservative law maker ask these questions.
    As I said there are 2 very powerful reasons why men should pay for maternity care. 1) they did not get here without maternity care for their mother. Unless, of course, they were born in a test tube. 2) We are a social species, we are wired to care for each other. That is why it takes so long for our young to mature.
    I suspect that their remark has more to do with a deep seeded patriarchal principle that men should control who may have children and when those children are born. That is why their health care reform bills both would allow insurance companies to again make those decisions, taking that decision away from women.
    For pro-life people let me tell you what that means. Insurance companies will force women into aborting pregnancies, just like they were doing 37 years ago when I was told that I had to abort my oldest son or lose coverage. Thank goodness President Carter signed into law legislation that made that illegal. I have been fervently pro-choice supporter ever since. He supported my right to choose life for my son! BTW President Carter was labelled a Pro-abortionist (he was not) and the pro-life people campaigned against him. President Reagan who claimed to be pro-life (he was not) through his policies increased the rate of abortions in this country.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    Troll it depends on what her husband says is ok. According to people like you anyway.

  6. Jason Troll says:

    Why stop there, tampons, bras, sunday dresses,women’s hair cuts, high heels, breast implants,cosmetics and little sweat pants that say Pink on back.. Men should pay for all these little rights. What else will you find as “rights”? In Cuba women have all these rights you speak of yet they give birth in something more likely a nativity scene then what we have here in the USA. All you liberals forget about innovation. Profit drives better health care, and very few Americans go to Canada or Cuba for healthcare.

  7. jason troll says:

    Mary I have no problem with your obsession with crushing fetal skulls and taking apart small ives as if their legos.

  8. I’m wondering whether the idea of compassion works as a solid reason to let everyone have reliable healthcare, both men and women. And love for one another. At the end of the day, the ability to love others and accept them is a big factor. That takes a great deal of personal vulnerability. Some of us have been brought up NOT to be vulnerable. Men are especially socialized this way. Often the only acceptable emotion from them is anger. I often think that if we all took more time to understand ourselves better, we’d identify the injustices in our personal lives that have led us to be angry.

    Let’s give love a chance.

  9. Jason Troll says:

    Julie explain to us what reliable health care is. Vermont is a very rich white, state and is home to Bernie Sanders. They attempted universal healthcare and then stopped because it was to expensive. Ask veterans about reliable health care as they wait 6-12 months for hip replacement surgery. Compassion would be for the Veterans Administration to simply cut them a check to go to a non profit hospital so they can receive care. If liberals are so compassionate why do they not add dental to universal care. Maybe instead of pushing trolleys and express buses in Milwaukee, maybe we should bee filling cavities or pot holes.

  10. Eric S says:

    Eh, Vermont is not rich. Most measures (household income, per capita income, etc) put it near the middle, either a little above or somewhat below the US average.

  11. Jason, you make some good points about issues like waiting a long time for hip replacement surgery. I had heard about this as a problem in Canada. I don’t have enough information to hold an informed view on how severe the waiting problem is currently in Canada. It’s a tough one, and you’re exactly right: U.S. citizens who enjoy good health insurance can typically get a surgery fairly quickly. That would perhaps go by the wayside if we had universal healthcare. I guess the trade off is that less fortunate people, who might NEVER get a hip replaced when insurance is on a free market — so they live with a bad hip for decades — could now get their hip replaced. When I look at the overall social good, I’d rather see myself have to suffer a bit and wait, but know that someone else is able to also get the service they need.

    I think you’re right about compassion and veterans, too.

    I have heard (again, I don’t have all the facts, so I’m relying on other people’s statements) that other modern countries with universal healthcare have lower costs than ours, and better health outcomes for their citizens. Perhaps it didn’t work in Vermont, as you say. I wonder if we model our system on other successful countries, maybe we could avoid some of the learning curve.

    My son was 9 when he broke and dislocated his elbow/forearm at a park. When we got to the emergency room, there were other people also waiting to be seen. Some individuals had more dire issues than my son, even though he was in a good deal of pain. It made sense for those individuals to be seen first, and my son had to wait. That was reasonable to me. I practice a belief of “we’re all family,” so each person matters to me, even strangers. If universal healthcare works in other countries, and even if there is a lag time for service, it’s worth it to me, to help those strangers get service.

    Also, I agree: Let’s add dental to insurance plans. And let’s fix the potholes. 🙂

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