Sherman: Misogyny is a pre-existing condition

I’m too angry and too tired of this subject matter to offer my usual narrative. Today, there is no backstory or prelude; we need to talk about rape.

Rape is one of the limited exceptions the GOP is willing to offer for federally funded abortions (federal funding such as Medicaid is not allowed to be used for abortions except in cases of rape or when necessary to save the life of the mother). Though this hasn’t kept some from objecting to this exception with the belief that you can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”(Statistics demonstrate you’re more likely to get pregnant from rape than from sex*).

In Paul Ryan’s early efforts to restrict abortion funding and effectively strip away access for women, he called for the rape exception to only apply to what was termed “forcible rape.” Spoiler alert: if it doesn’t look like an episode of “Law and Order SVU,” it probably won’t be classified as “forcible rape.” The wording deliberately restricted access to abortions and put a substantial burden of proof on women; they were forced to prove rape in order to abort a rape-induced pregnancy.

This burden of proof, atop a myriad of other legal and financial restrictions, substantially limited women’s access to abortions. More than 30,000 women become pregnant through rape every year. In 31 states, a rapist can sue for custody. If you’re at all interested in what custody arrangements look like in those cases, consider that the man currently inhabiting the oval office said you can “grab [women] by the pussy” and was still elected.

I know. I know. This is old news. We’ve all heard about attempts to destroy Planned Parenthood, laws to regulate abortion to the point of extinction and senseless killings in the name of the pro-life movement. Why am I enraged about this now?

The GOP pushed its proposed healthcare bill through the House and celebrated its accomplishment by smiling the smiles of privileged men with government healthcare who won’t be affected by the bill. The bill currently sitting before the Senate has been accused of labeling rape a pre-existing condition for insurance purposes (among other anti-women themes); however, the rape issue actually isn’t true.

As of now, the bill simply allows states to opt out of the ACA’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions, including those who were victims of rape if an insurance company chooses to label it a pre-existing condition. Even if states do opt out, 45 states currently have measures in place to prevent insurance companies from charging more because of rape.

In theory, at least.

In actuality, there are a lot of ways around these protections just as there are a lot of ways around a woman’s right to choose. Passing this bill in the House was a step down a destructive path in healthcare. It will impact the lives of women across this country. It will limit access to healthcare for women. It will stand as a monument to the patriarchy this nation clings to so tightly.

But it’s not just bad for women.

The outrage over the belief that this bill labeled rape a pre-existing condition was warranted, despite the inaccuracy of information, because the bill doesn’t prevent insurance companies from labeling rape a pre-existing condition. It also doesn’t prevent pregnancy, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung ailments, cancer, prior surgery, food allergies, obesity or having red hair from being labeled a pre-existing condition.

The bill makes it explicitly clear that people cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions; it doesn’t say they can’t be effectively denied coverage through cost-prohibitive premiums. This bill is not dangerous because of what it does say but because of what it clearly doesn’t: It doesn’t say there is a right to healthcare, regardless of your medical history.

As the days roll forward and yet another scandal breaks, it’s easy to forget the ominous nature of the choice set before the Senate. It’s easy to forget that if this administration goes the way of Watergate, we could very well end up with President Paul Ryan determining the rights of women (or lack thereof).

In many ways, I wish the bill had expressly labeled rape a pre-existing condition. At least then I’d get to ask: who has the burden of proof to show a woman was raped? #goodluckwiththat

*It’s not rape vs. consensual sex because any sex that is not consensual is rape.


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Esther Sherman

Esther Sherman