The US Senate's new healthcare bill is 142 page long – in which it details the Republicans' plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ̶ or more commonly known as Obamacare. One shocking fact stood out: the word "women" has not been used once.

In reality, it really comes as no surprise; considering that the bill was crafted by 13 white, Republican men.

Women's groups and senators have vocally lashed out against the male dominance of the healthcare debate ̶ exemplified by the makeup of GOP's bandwagon who wrote the bill.

"We have no interest in playing the games of identity politics, that's not what this is about; it's about getting a job done," a GOP aide said in response to criticism about the makeup of the group.

"We'll work with any member of any background who wants to pass a health reform bill that will reduce premiums and take away the burdens that Obamacare inflicted... To reduce this to gender, race or geography misses the more important point of the diverse segments of the conference the group represents on policy—from members who support Medicaid expansion, to those opposed to it, to those who have called for long term full repeal."

But the bill states otherwise.

Supporters of defunding Planned Parenthood have no idea what the organisation does

Democratic senator Kamala Harris said the bill "is terrible for women", while her colleague from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand called it "a cruel joke" and "a blatantly partisan attack on women's health".

“It’s outrageous that the future of healthcare for millions of women lies in the hands of 13 men,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood (PP), expressed. “It’s clear they don’t care about our opinion or our lives – because if they had asked us what we thought, we’d all be in a very different position right now.”

Often, the men who tout defunding Planned Parenthood do not have any idea what the organisation does.

“Frankly, I am sick of coming down to the Senate floor to explain to Republicans what Planned Parenthood does,” Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts said in a recent statement posted to her Facebook page. “I am sick of explaining that it provides millions of women with birth control, cancer screenings, and STI tests every year. I am sick of pointing out again and again that federal dollars do not fund abortion services at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else.”

Increasing costs for women who need extra coverage

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Senate healthcare bill would increase the number of uninsured people in the US by 22 million. It also violates the Hippocratic Oath, says the American Medical Association (AMA).

Apart from preventing millions of women on Medicaid to obtain care at Planned Parenthood, it also allows states to stop requiring insurance companies to cover essential health benefits such as maternity care and birth control.

Women may have to pay as much as USD1,000 more per month for maternity care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the other hand, has transformed maternity coverage and made such add-ons a thing of the past as it categorised maternity care as one of 10 "essential health benefits".

Another category, preventive care, covers pre- and postnatal services, such as prenatal check-ups and breastfeeding support was also part of ACA ̶ lifetime and annual caps on healthcare spending were also eliminated, providing relief for thousands of women.

“You’re looking at women suddenly facing soaring costs for extra coverage, if they can even get it,” said Usha Ranji, associate director for women’s health policy at the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation. “Big picture, having a baby is the most common reason for hospitalisation in this country. This is a very common event we’re talking about not covering.”

"Handmaids" demonstrating all over the world

Activists have been demonstrating against the bill, donned in crimson robes and white bonnets inspired by characters in "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. It tells of a story of a religious coup that gives rise to a theocracy called Gilead, where women are stripped of rights and forced to bear children for the society's elite.

“This narrative is all too real. We want our senators and administrators to know just how serious we take their legislation and our right to health care. The costumes make a visual statement and demonstrate how seriously we take this," said Elena Lipsiea, a Planned Parenthood volunteer.

This was not the first time the "handmaids" demonstrated. On 13 June, in Ohio, women gathered to protest a bill that could ban the dilation and evacuation procedure – the most common abortion method in the state.

On 17 May, in New Hampshire, protesters called for the expulsion of State Representative Robert Fisher after his involvement in the Reddit forum called "The Red Pill", which is known for its misogynistic content was revealed.

Most recently, in Poland, President Donald Trump was met with a group dressed in a similar fashion – protesting against the Trump administration's policies on women's rights.

The bill is set to be voted in two weeks time. MIMS

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