Attention ladies! That rundown feeling you experienced last month just might have been the weight of the government balanced on your shoulders.
Case in point: October’s government shutdown is over – for now – but in recent history, the government has shut down 18 times. Six of those times – arguably seven, but let’s not quibble – have been the end result of arguments about funding women’s health and/or welfare. October’s two-week shutdown was a petulant attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – which contains an unprecedented amount of initiatives aimed at women, including extending free preventive care (birth control), maternity coverage and eliminating the so-called gender rating, where women are charged more for insurance simply because they are women.
Obviously, those kinds of radical stances cannot be supported. And so the government wheezed to a halt.
Nothing new here. Shutdowns in the ‘70s tended to center around disagreements over funding women’s reproductive health – particularly, the Medicaid funding of abortions. The government paid for abortions – just like any medical procedure — right after Roe v. Wade, but in 1976, the Hyde Amendment began limiting the circumstances under which Medicaid would pay for an abortion. Today, abortion is covered in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.
And who seeks abortions? Well, women. But the meanness doesn’t stop at a woman’s private parts.
In September, Washington-based Wider Opportunities for Women, issued a report that explored states’ economic security, and found that 70 percent of single mothers who work full time do not earn enough to be considered economically secure. The number of at-risk single mothers is higher among African Americans — 77 percent — and Hispanics — 83 percent.
A recent Pew Research Center report said that women (23 percent) are nearly twice as likely as men (12 percent) to have received food stamps at some point in their lives.
And guess what? Back in September, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to slash $40 billion from the SNAP (food stamps) budget, because — according to every news report I could find — some of our U.S. representatives believed there is widespread abuse in the system, and gosh-darn it those people should go out and get a job.
In fact, overwhelmingly, SNAP recipients aren’t loafers. They’re women. There’s a difference. The incidence of fraud is rare, but that doesn’t stop politicians of a certain stripe from digging in. And no matter their misguided attempts at fighting a non-problem, SNAP recipients saw an automatic 5 percent cut in their benefits the first of this month, after funds from the American Recovery Act expired. And before you say 5 percent is manageable, using the government’s own calculations, that’s roughly 16 meals a month for a family of three. (Coincidentally, the cut is affecting nearly 1 million veterans, another group to whom we give lip service.)
Feeding America, an organization that knows more about hungry people than any lawmaker, says that 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person, or someone who is disabled. Those households receive 83 percent of all SNAP benefits. Nearly six in 10 poor children live in female-headed households. More than four in five poor, single-parent families are headed by women, according to a 2012 study from the National Women’s Law Center. So when lawmakers draw knives over programs that benefit the poor, they’re going after the most economically vulnerable. They’re going after women.
So ladies, we should remember as we move through this off-year election season, and into the next threatened shutdown we are capable of great feats of strength.
But the next time someone tries to load a deficit onto our backs, we should borrow a page from another government program and just say no.