Male Republican lawmakers have at times expressed disinterest in paying for maternity coverage because they will never personally need it. But Sen. Mazie Hirono has one critical question for them.
Despite endlessly championing "family values," many Republican lawmakers have a decidedly anti-family aversion to including maternity and OBGYN care in insurance plans.
Women were left out of the drafting process for the GOP's health care repeal plan, surely part of the reason it includes such baffling elements like allowing states to drop maternity coverage if they wish to.
But if men in Congress think maternity care has nothing to do with them, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono has a crucial reminder for them.
At a "Protect Our Care" rally in support of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, Hirono laid out the absurdity of their stance, plain and simple:
And some of my colleagues, one of them said, 'Why should I have to pay for pregnancy care, or pre-natal care, etc. I'm never going to get pregnant.' I said, 'How the heck do you think you got here?' [applause] So, we're in this together.
Hirono means what she says about being in this together — she didn't even let her cancer treatments keep her away from the fight for long.
But sadly, this years-old fight is still ongoing; maternity care has never been seen as valuable to some Republicans.
Back in 2009, during the debates over the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona insisted, "I don’t need maternity care, and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive."
To which Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow pointedly replied, "I think your mom probably did."
In 2013, North Carolina Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers questioned then Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about men paying for maternity coverage, asking, "To the best of your knowledge, has a man ever delivered a baby?"
And earlier this year, during a debate on the repeal plan in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus raised an objection to the ACA's maternity care mandate. "What about men having to purchase prenatal care?" he asked, adding, "And should they?"
At the same time, hardliners in the House Freedom Caucus were pushing for maternity coverage to be left out of the repeal plan, as part of the ten "essential health benefits" they aimed to nix. In the latest iteration, the so-called "Consumer Freedom" amendment would require insurers to offer only one plan that covers those essential benefits — and as many other plans as they wish that do not.
In an exasperatingly predictable twist, that amendment would not apply to the coverage that members of Congress enjoy.
The notion that the insurance plan you pay for should cover only the health care elements needed specifically by you is utterly preposterous, and contrary to how insurance is intended to work.
Everyone pays into the insurance pool, for all of the benefits and services encompassed by "health care," to ensure that any one of us can access whatever treatment we may eventually need. And yes, each of us is likely paying for things that we will never need.
But when you live in a society, your own personal needs are not the only ones that matter.
Republicans love to talk about "family values" when it comes to fighting against abortion or LGBTQ equality. But it would seem obvious that providing affordable, accessible health care to pregnant people — whether or not a lawmaker is or could ever be so themselves — should fall under that rubric as well.