Health is a Human Right

Health is a Human Right
By Jayme H. Simões, President, Louis Karno & Company Communications, LLC & Dr. Randy Hayes, Retired Family Doctor, Co-Convener of the Kent Street Coalition Healthcare Working Group, and Member of Canterbury Citizens for Democracy
 
The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, reversing a 50-year precedent and eliminating the federal right to abortion care. After many years of a coordinated, well-funded crusade against abortion rights, Republicans finally got their way. Now, millions have lost control over their bodies and safe access to essential care. 
 
Republicans in Congress have been sabotaging access to contraception, ignoring the maternal mortality crisis, and resisting Medicaid expansion. They continue to attack common-sense reforms to lower health care costs and expand affordable coverage. Now, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, protecting women’s access to care and passing reforms to help mitigate some of the worst impacts is paramount. 
 
In New Hampshire, the Republican leadership in the Legislature scuttled a maternal health bill with bipartisan support, SB 407. This bill would have extended the length of Medicaid coverage for women who have delivered a baby from 60 days to 12 months postpartum, a key reform to reduce America’s tragic position of leading all industrialized nations in the rate of maternal deaths. The GOP leaders would only support this bill if Democrats agreed to dangerously increase the ability of employees of hospitals and many nursing homes to refuse any and all required vaccinations traditionally required for employment.
 
The Republican majority on the New Hampshire Executive Council refused to renew the usual million-dollar grant to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England which has supported discounted or no-charge care to women throughout our state. Such care includes contraception, cancer screening, health maintenance exams, and the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. The reason Republican Councilors gave for this non-renewal of funding for tens of thousands of women was the fear that some of this money would go towards supporting Planned Parenthood’s abortion care. However, a careful audit showed no direct use of state funds by Planned Parenthood in NH for abortions. The State Attorney General and the Commissioner of the NH Department of Health and Human Services both supported the legality of continuing to provide the grant money to Planned Parenthood.
 
Republicans have spent more than a decade trying and failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its protections for millions of Americans. Importantly, the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement is needed now more than ever as new abortion restrictions pop up all over the country. The ACA also requires coverage without cost-sharing for many preventative services for women, including screenings for cancer and certain diseases, well-woman visits, and of course, contraception. Instead of working to strengthen and protect access to this vital care, Republicans continue to go to court to dismantle the ACA’s protections. 
 
Stripping access to safe and informed reproductive health care puts lives in jeopardy. Republicans are ignoring the maternal mortality crisis by blocking legislation that provides critical preventative care services. America now has the highest maternal mortality in the industrial world — and the problem is only getting worse. Hundreds of lives are claimed by this crisis every year, and that number has only been increasing for the past 20 years. This disproportionately impacts Black mothers, who are 3 to 4 times more likely to die a pregnancy-related death than white mothers. These deaths are completely preventable. 
 
In spite of this grim reality, Republicans unanimously oppose the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which would provide millions in funding to address the root causes of America’s maternal mortality crisis. In addition to advocating for 12-month postpartum Medicaid coverage.
We should note that our own Governor signed the first anti-abortion bill in our state’s history as part of the state budget on June 28, 2021. New Hampshire Law now forbids abortion after 24 weeks of gestation except to save the life of the mother or to address a fatal fetal anomaly inconsistent with life outside of the womb. Amazingly, this bill makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
 
Generations of inequality have resulted in women experiencing high coverage costs, poor health outcomes, and health inequities. While Democrats have worked tirelessly to expand access to quality, affordable care, Republicans continue to stonewall progress. Despite robust incentives to expand Medicaid in the American Rescue Plan, Republicans in 12 states continue to lock millions of Americans out of affordable coverage. They also continue to oppose legislation to lower premium costs and prescription drug prices. Americans continue to pay more for their health care than anyone in the world, which only serves to burden women and their families. 
 
The Supreme Court decision has not only opened the floodgate for states to ban and criminalize abortion, but it threatens the future of safe and equitable reproductive care — and urgent reforms by lawmakers are needed to avert the further eradication of health care access. Reproductive health care is not a special interest issue; it’s life or death. 

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