On Thursday, a bunch of men met at the White House to discuss taking away potentially millions of women’s coverage for pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.
The White House meeting was broadly about the American Health Care Act, the Republican bill meant to repeal and replace Obamacare. But it was focused on whether the bill should include a repeal of 10 “essential health benefits” that insurers in the individual marketplace must cover. Among those benefits is pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.
Yet Vice President Mike Pence, who was at the meeting along with President Donald Trump and Republican members of the House Freedom Caucus, tweeted out a picture showing that the meeting didn’t represent the exact people who most directly benefit from pregnancy, maternity, and newborn coverage in their health plans: women. This, unsurprisingly, drew quick criticism from groups like Planned Parenthood.
This isn’t a coincidence. As my colleague Sarah Kliff has explained, research shows that when women are put in positions of political power, they’re more likely than men to speak to women’s issues. So a bunch of men might have a much tougher time discussing why these benefits shouldn’t be required under health insurance regulations.
In fact, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has told an anecdote about the power of women in this exact debate: “During the health care debate, [Sen.] Debbie Stabenow’s sitting at a table during a somewhat boring negotiation on the Finance Committee. And one of the male senators said, ‘Well, I don’t know why we would need maternity benefits in here. I’ve never used them. Why would they be mandatory?’ And she says, ‘I bet your mother did.’”
As Klobuchar explained, “Having women at the table is incredibly important, not just for the numbers and for representing our country and equality, but also that they’re able to get things done in a unique way. Based on your own experiences, you can relate more and immediately see the unfairness of a problem that others are experiencing.”
Yet women, at least based on Pence’s picture, just weren’t present at the White House meeting to reflect those experiences.