Women’s reproductive health under fire from an unjust system

My name is Bruce Grau and I am a member of the Coordinating Committee for the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign, including  our chapter here in Northcentral Wisconsin. We support the struggle of women to receive holistic sexual and reproductive care as well as healthcare in general.

I want my daughters and the generations after theirs to have a better life and to have a say in their reproductive health care. Have you noticed that the same people who demand that the government get off their backs make a point of laying claim to every woman’s uterus? Have you noticed that the states with the most oppressive abortion laws and limited abortion access also uphold a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, refuse Medicaid expansion, enact union busting right to work legislation, ruthlessly assault immigrants, and restrict voters ability to vote them out?

No state has been as ruthless as Texas in these regards. It’s time to mess with Texas, and all other wannabe-Texas states… like Wisconsin!

Comprehensive healthcare for women includes providing safe abortion and post-abortion care, as well as comprehensive reproductive healthcare, mental healthcare, and attention to the issue of gender-based and domestic violence, as well as elder abuse. It includes addressing the effects of environmental hazards.

Women need more care than men in general, making their cost of care greater, and this is over a longer life span.

Though women comprise 70% of all health care workers, and 59% of unpaid caregivers, compared to other industrial countries, they receive the  worst care in the richest nation in the history of the planet! Compared to them, US women:

  • Are more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth
  • Have higher out of pocket costs
  • Have the highest percentage ( >20%) of skipped appointments due to cost
  • Are less likely to rate their care as excellent or very good

This sorry state is compounded by poverty and race; 20% of women with income under 200% Federal Poverty level have no insurance vs 8% for women making over 200%. This is 23% for Latinos, 22% for American Indian/Alaskan native, 12% Black,  8%  Asian and white, which includes millions of white women; 13% of single parent families lack insurance with 86% of these families having a woman as head of the household. In Wausau, an unconscionable 76% of households led by a single mother of a child under 5 years old live in poverty.

Note that the Federal Poverty level does not calculate costs of housing, transportation, childcare, medical care and geographical differences. Of the 19 states where women’s uninsured rate exceeds the national average, 11 have not accepted Medicaid expansion. Over half of the women in these states are uninsured while eligible for Medicaid.

Eight million women are uninsured as they face the “Medicaid gap” when their income is too high for Medicaid and too low to purchase healthcare through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In Wisconsin a single adult is not eligible for Medicaid if they work over 35hrs at $7.25/hr/week. In Wisconsin one is denied Badger Care if they are a single parent of one child and make over $8.38/hr.

Some states won’t allow Medicaid to pay for abortions. Most private healthcare in the U.S. is provided through one’s job and driven by the profit motive. This situation places women’s health at even greater risk.

Insurance companies prefer low cost employees, discouraging women, disabled, frail elderly, and other chronically ill people from enrolling.

Low paying jobs don’t provide health insurance benefits; 58% of low paid work and most unpaid care is provided by women.

Less than 10% of women who work are represented by a union (men are just under a measly 11%). In November, 2020, 4.62 million women were unemployed. This is a big jump from November, 2019 where 2.55 million were without a job. Health insurance companies have made over $11 billion in profit by the first half of the year.

Essentially the richest country in the history of our planet provides the worst care to everyone, and disproportionately to women and marginalized groups, even while these groups provide the bulk of all direct care!

Quality and access are restricted due to discrimination, employment, immigration status, poverty, race and gender, largely benefiting the rich and lining the pockets of the health insurance companies to the tune of billions of dollars.

It’s time to make the government have our backs and stay out of women’s uteruses!

For my wife, my daughters and generations to follow, we need an ongoing movement  that unites across the lines of sex, gender, race, and religion to press for a universal healthcare system that includes easy access to high quality reproductive care. Canada allows abortion at any stage.This must include care for people regardless of gender as well as dedicated efforts to address domestic  violence, and the specific needs of native women, older women, adolescents and girls. This is the kind of movement the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) is building. Everybody has a right to live, to love, and be the whole person they are meant to be.

We demand:

  • Medicaid expansion in all 50 states
  • A Single payer government funded healthcare system not conditional upon job or immigration status
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr with a raise to $23/hr, or a housing minimum wage, within 3 years
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Universal childcare
  • Universal adult daycare
  • Paid maternity and paternity leave
  • Expand voting access through supporting the John Lewis For the People Act and expansion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act
  • End the filibuster to pass legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans
  • Make it easier to form a labor union by passing the Pro Act

In Wausau, we must stem the rise of the Christian Nationalists who are well organized and financed who target women’s reproductive rights as a main issue in their misguided moral narrative. With an unprecedented $30,000, they bought and now run the school board, begging for a viral apocalypse to overcome schools, obstinate in their stand against a mask mandate, contrary to the recommendations of actual health experts.

They prioritize a million dollar sports complex over ambitiously addressing the needs of struggling and marginalized children.They hold over half the influence on the Marathon County Board, fending back a robust effort to declare our county as a Community for All (CFA). They bring in ultraright religious groups into the school to foment division and blind allegiance to the system. They promote harmful conversion therapy and they spread the lie that homosexuality promotes pedophilia.

Fortunately they have been beaten back on the city level where CFA was passed and Wisconsin’s very first Environmental Justice resolution was passed, calling for an equitable approach engaging impacted people to address environmental hazards that affect us all.

They work in close consort with big business and the Chamber of Commerce. We exhort community members to attend meetings of our local governing bodies to speak to the needs of the poor, the working class, and people of color. Only an ongoing organized struggle has a chance to defend reforms and respond to the organized opposition.

Join us as we build for a National March on Washington, scheduled for June 18, 2022, to end poverty and deal a blow to systemic oppression.

More information on the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign can be found here.