By Jan Erickson, Director of Programs, NOW Foundation
The Independent Women’s Forum, a tiny conservative women’s organization founded to counter the progressive feminist movement, is learning that telling an enormous lie can be embarrassing. The forum, backed by ultra-conservative patriarchal deep pockets, mass mailed a letter and launched an ad campaign recently claiming that Democrats’ health care reform will mean that more women with breast cancer will die. (!!) The latest in craven claims from the far-right, the letter and ad falsely assert that there will be a government rationing body that tells women with cancer, “you’re dead.”
NOW President Terry O’Neill, interviewed on The Rachel Maddow Show (9/1, MSNBC) called the IWF on their outrageous lie, criticizing health care reform opponents’ use of women’s bodies as ‘political footballs.’ O’Neill noted that already conservatives in Congress have pushed dozens of amendments to exclude and limit women’s access to reproductive health care — of which breast health is one aspect.
Right now, our patchwork dysfunctional health care non-system rations health care in the most brutal manner imaginable. If you are one of the 17 million women without health insurance and cannot afford regular mammograms, let alone expensive medical care should you have breast cancer, your chances of surviving are low. The National Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, a state-federal effort begun in 1990 to aid low-income women in early cancer detection and treatment, traditionally has been so under-funded that only one in five women nationwide were being served. So the remaining four women — any of which may develop breast cancer — have precious few other sources of diagnosis and care. And, by the way, men get breast cancer as well.
The goal of President Obama’s and Congressional Democrats’ health care reform is to assure that everyone who needs health insurance has it. No woman who fears getting breast cancer would be denied; no woman with breast cancer would be dropped from an insurance plan — as has often been case with private insurers. Conservative Republican politicians and their acolytes, like the IWF, are recklessly attempting to protect the gigantic profits of health insurance companies with these outrageous scare tactics. Insurers don’t want to be required to cover everyone and pay for all claims. How else will they make their billions of dollars? They know that they can’t possibly compete with a more efficient system of health care delivery — such as a single-payer approach or a strong public plan — and still maintain their bloated profits.