Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain: "Women" and "Children" Last

Unbelievable, isn't it? In case you couldn't view the video, John McCain actually put air quotes around the word "health" when referring to a mother forced to terminate a pregnancy to save her own life. Here is an eloquent rebuttal of McCain's apparent disbelief that women are sometimes forced to choose between a continuing a pregnancy and their health.

It's hard for me to imagine that there remains a single undecided voter in America after last night. On McCain's side, we should see every person who has ever marched in front of a junior high school carrying a full-color enlargement of a fetus. Oh, and McCain's very spry mother, I guess. On Obama's side, well, everyone else.

It's not pro-life versus pro-choice. It's not even truly about late-term abortion. It's about those air quotes. No matter how he stands on issues I care about, I could not vote for a man who dismisses my health, or the future health of my daughters, with air quotes.

In the past week, I've been struggling to write something about Obama, about my certainty that Obama is the wise choice for parents. There are so many reasons for that: Obama's desire to end the war without turning it into some kind of bizarre do-over of Vietnam, Obama's promise to make college more affordable, Obama's lack of an anti-book, anti-sex education, anti-choice and puzzlingly anti-woman running mate.

But in the last few days, it really sank in for me that my top fear as a parent in a McCain administration would be health care. The McCain health care "plan," as I will henceforth call it, would disincent employers from offering health insurance by ending the tax benefit of doing so.

Then, once workers are thrown out onto the free market to try to get their own health care, he's offering each family $5,000 ($2,500 for individuals) to go out and try to buy some. Ask a family that has to buy their health care, say because they are self-employed, how well they like that. Especially if they have a child diagnosed with even a minor, common childhood ailment. Ask them if they can get their entire family covered for $5,000 a year. And by the way, ask them what their deductibles are.

McCain's own Web site acknowledges that insurance companies will laugh would-be buyers out the door if they -- or their children -- have pre-existing conditions. His answer to that is that he will leave it up to individual states to set up nonprofit insurers to help people get some kind of insurance, at some price. He doesn't say that $5k the government gave the denied families will cover the special high-risk insurance. He just says that financial aid would be available for families below a certain income level.

To me, that sounds like a great plan to let employers and insurance companies off the hook when it comes to insuring expensive patients. They can cover the cheap patients without pre-existing conditions, and state governments can take the expensive people off their hands. And what if the states decline to set up these special insurance plans for the people the insurance companies don't want?

Obama's plan, on the other hand, focuses on making sure everyone is insured by not allowing insurance companies to pick and choose who they cover, and by requiring large employers to make some kind of contribution toward their employees' health care. He would also take on the responsibility of creating an alternative public plan on the national level, instead of just hoping the states take care of it for him.

So imagine you are a mother. You work for Wal-Mart, and like half of Wal-Mart employees, you were unable to get health insurance through the company. You live near family who helps watch your child while you work, and you love your local public school. But your child is diagnosed with asthma, and you cannot afford the albuterol inhalers, much less the $350 nebulizer the doctor reccomends. No insurance company will even look at your $5,000 tax credit because of your child's pre-existing condition. Since President McCain declined to do anything about health insurance on a national level, your state has not set up any kind of insurance plan for the uninsurable. You could move to another state, giving up your support network and therefore making it more likely that any financial setback will put you on the street. Or, it's sorry kiddo, but inhalers are for rich kids.

Here's a blog post by a mother with cancer, who is very worried that if McCain wins, she will not survive to raise her children. By coincidence, I heard on the radio today about an anti-AIDS program in Africa. The health workers had come to realize that they could make the biggest impact by keeping mothers of young children alive, even if just for a few years.

Any society knows that its future depends on safeguarding the health of its children and the mothers who protect them. So what about that "health" of the mother, whether you're talking about terminating a pregnancy or terminating insurance coverage?

What is pro-life about passing a law that would allow me to die of pre-eclampsia rather than terminate a 21-week pregnancy, leaving my other children motherless? Or, if McCain signed an abortion ban that allowed an exception to save my life but not my "health," what are my odds of doctors correctly guessing whether a dangerous pregnancy will kill me or just ruin my health? Especially when those doctors are only the best doctors my crappy $5,000 health insurance policy could buy?

Here's one mother's very real experience on the invisible dividing line between threatened "health" and threatened death.

I used to really respect John McCain, even if he is a Republican. I honestly thought that when it came to women's health, it was only Palin we had to be worried about. Elections, and history, have tipped before on a single gesture or phrase. For me, one squiggle of John McCain's fingers changed this entire presidential race.

I want every woman in America to see those air quotes, and to think about what it means when a man dismisses "the health of the mother" as an invalid concern. Is this a man who you'd trust to change your entire health care system?


Sara said...

perfectly put, carrie. seeing mccain during this part of the debate (well, all of the debate actually) made me sick. i truly don't know how any woman, or any one who cares for a woman, could vote for mccain.

Jeevita said...

I just saw a couple of videos on youtube of interviews of people attending the McCain -Palin rallies. Yeah, no one in their right mind would vote McCain. What's depressing is that many people aren't in their right minds..

Bert said...

Well said! Thanks for putting this up.

Cassie said...

Very well articulated.

My husband has an incurable cancer and we will be screwed if McCain is elected.

Thank you for taking the time to post this.

Anonymous said...

"My husband has an incurable cancer and we will be screwed if McCain is elected."

... What in the world makes you think that electing Obama is going to help your husband live any longer? Liberals are always looking for government programs to solve their problems; they cannot seem to grasp the reality that sometimes it takes work, hard work, to succeed in this world.

So, why don't you get a 2nd job, teach the people around you responsiblity, ask for help from your community, be a role model, etc? Research the cancer - write to the drug comapnies, sign up for an experimental drug program. The longer you wait for a government hand-out, the more time you waste watching your husband die.

You don't have to like it, you just have to get up off your lazy behind and take action!