But getting lost in all the noise are the lives and livelihoods at stake: While the chatter is all about the dynamic between the two most powerful men in the Capitol, American women stand to lose the most if the GOP bill becomes law.
It’s strangely — and infuriatingly — fitting that this week’s showdown was precipitated by a reprise of last year’s disclosure that Trump has boasted of sexually assaulting women, and that those revelations are once again being buried, this time under the histrionics about Trump and Ryan.
In a clear effort to undermine Ryan to its Trump-infatuated audience, this week Breitbart released audio of an October 2016 meeting of House Republicans in which Ryan pledged, “I am not going to defend Donald Trump — not now, not in the future.”
The audio was from a private meeting that took place shortly after the Washington Post published the leaked video of Trump bragging of his exploits to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush. In October 2016, Trump’s boast that he often will approach women and just “grab them by the p—y” was worthy of Ryan’s condemnation.
Last night, though, in the latest of Ryan’s farcical efforts to portray the GOP as unified on his American Health Care Act, the House Speaker deemed his own critique of Trump of just five months ago “ancient history.” But that history is anything but ancient for American women, who stand to lose mightily if the bill, or even portions of it, become law.
Here’s where we are now: men who are now acting as if Trump’s boasts of sexual assault are no big deal are going to decide whether women will have coverage essential to their reproductive health.
Ryan is now dismissing his own once-noble rejection of an admitted sexual predator so he can pass a bill that will eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, make insurance coverage for abortion nearly impossible to obtain, and would starve the Medicaid expansion, which would disproportionately undermine the well-being of poor women.
As Alice Ollstein reports, the bill contains “a multi-pronged effort to limit women’s access to reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, and maternity care.” This is a broadside against women’s right to decide when and if to have children. It would bar women from using government subsidies to buy private insurance that includes abortion coverage, discourage employer-provided plans from including abortion coverage, and cut more than $200 million of Planned Parenthood funding.
The greatest impact of those Planned Parenthood cuts would be on access to birth control, according to Congressional Budget Office projections. Even the women in the Republican Party see the disaster looming in the Planned Parenthood cuts.
As the Guttmacher Institute showed last year, the rate of the uninsured among women of reproductive age (15-44) fell by more than one-third under the Affordable Care Act. And in states that adopted its Medicaid expansion — which the AHCA aims to gut — the program provided insurance to 56.9 percent of poor women of reproductive age, while in non-expansion states more poor women of reproductive age were left uninsured. Cutting the Medicaid expansion would disproportionately harm women. In Louisiana, for example, which adopted the Medicaid expansion, women outnumber men in the program by a factor of 2-1.
The bottom line is that under the AHCA’s cluster of cuts, we would see more unplanned pregnancies, but less access to health care for those pregnant women and their children. And that’s from the party that campaigns on being pro-life.
It may be that some Trump allies really don’t want this bill. But if so, this is likely because of a bunch of politically self-serving reasons completely unrelated to how it will make women’s lives less sustainable, healthy and safe. Indeed, more broadly, Trump is presiding over the most anti-woman administration in recent memory.
Trump has nominated only two female cabinet secretaries, one of whom, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has indicated she may move to scale back Obama-era efforts to address the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is admired by the religious right because of his opposition to abortion and his opinion in the Hobby Lobby case, in which he held that the craft store chain had a right to refuse to cover certain contraceptives in its health plan based on the owners’ religious objections.
The Trump-Ryan alpha male drama is likely to continue to soak up much of the attention in Washington. But women are watching a different story — one with a plot far more relevant to their lives.