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Quick hit: The body politic

November 25, 2009

A quick hit only because no one could say this any better than the incredible Dorothy Roberts (whose extraordinary book, Killing the Black Body, is currently inspiring my Master’s thesis).

Abortion restrictions included in the health care reform bills under Congressional consideration have been the center of the feminist blogosphere since Bart Stupak hung his amendment in the House, but in the bill all along was state authorization to radically intervene in the reproductive lives of poor women.

The House health care bill (H.R. 3962), contains a provision affecting Medicaid recipients who are pregnant for the first time or who have a child under two years of age. Section 1713 allows States to use Medicaid funds for non-medical home visits by nurses to advance certain goals affecting reproductive decisions and family life. The goals include: “increasing birth intervals between pregnancies,” “reducing maternal and child involvement in the criminal justice system,” “increasing economic self-sufficiency,” and “reducing dependence on public assistance.”

These goals of the home visitation program have nothing to do with providing health care. Instead, they are based on the false premise that poor mothers’ childbearing is to blame for social problems. The proposed visitation program is eugenicist, deceptive, discriminatory against low-income women, and utterly inappropriate to the medical work of nurses.
Apparently, we only need to panic about government interventions in our lives if they affect White men. When they affect women–and especially women of color–meh, no bigs.

Read the rest of Roberts’ analysis, read her book, and call your Members of Congress to tell them that restricting the reproductive rights of any woman is not an acceptable position. Access to health care needs to be universal; when policies like these are attached, we know it won’t be. Fight for better.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Grant permalink
    November 25, 2009 2:06 AM

    I want to think that this proposal is well-intentioned, but it’s hard for me to imagine that well-intention person would try to help low-income mothers by paying a nurse to go into their home and lecture them.

    I’m especially thrown off by the fact that nurses are the ones that are supposed to hit the streets in this one. Maybe some nurses would be good at this sort of thing. But there is a class of people called social workers, trained and employed in the field of social work, who might be better suited to do social work.

    • Jill permalink
      November 25, 2009 10:22 AM

      I agree. I think there might be some residual benefit to having a health care professional in your home frequently; if, for example, if you have a child with a chronic condition like asthma, knowing that a registered nurse will be available to you frequently is probably a promising thought.

      Still, I agree with you that these particular issues are probably best addressed by social workers who have knowledge not only of the medical issues at hand (e.g. how and where to get sterilized, if that’s what you’d like) but also of the resources available (e.g. where to find cheap prenatal care). No need to reinvent the wheel here.

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