When I was pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to afford prenatal and pregnancy care. And when I became a mother, thanks to the health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance plans were and are still required to offer free breast pumps. This allowed me to nurse my daughter for more than fifteen months. I was able to go back to work, attend overnight work trips, and pump breast milk for my daughter when she needed it. Had I not received a free breast pump required by the ACA, I would have had to purchase or rent costly medical equipment to provide her with nourishment.
Not all immigrant women can access this benefit with the current ACA. There is a five year bar on immigrant women from being able to sign up for insurance through the government.
And I’m afraid that, if conservative politicians have it their way, my daughter may not have the same kind of resources and financial support in the future either.
Trump’s administration and conservative politicians are targeting the health and wellness of women. And make no mistake about it, the attacks on health, reproductive, and maternal care are intended to be attacks on women—particularly women of color, immigrant women, and low-income women.
My family lives in Illinois. During the Republican ACA repeal bill hearing, my husband and I were appalled to hear Illinois Representative John Shimkus asked why men had to purchase prenatal care. It is clear that under the ACA repeal bill, the Affordable Care Act’s gains to support pregnancy and maternal care are at stake.
In addition to breastfeeding support, the ACA ensures that a full range of pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care must be covered by all health insurance plans—previously it wasn’t guaranteed and could be hard for people to access. In fact, pregnancy used to be considered a pre-existing condition—meaning some women who were pregnant prior to enrolling were denied coverage or had to pay more.
The Republican ACA repeal bill puts women at risk of losing all of these necessary health benefits. While the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their report this week estimating the ACA repeal bill would add 24 million uninsured Americans by 2020, we know that millions more will be affected by the increased costs and cuts to coverage. The proposed plan would be devastating for AAPI communities.
Deferring maternity care coverage requirements to the states mean access to prenatal and pregnancy services would depend on who you are and where you live. Pregnancy is not a choice if resources and support are only offered to a select group of people.
The AAPI population is growing fast in states like Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, and Texas. Who will ensure they have the resources and support to grow and care for their families?
And the ACA repeal bill’s plans to eliminate Medicaid expansion and undermine and cut Medicaid services could have a devastating impact on pregnancy options and outcomes — more than half of all pregnancies are covered by Medicaid.
AAPI women already experience economic insecurity, in part due to the wage gap. Increasing cost sharing and premiums, as well as cutting Medicaid coverage, create even more economic disparities for low-income AAPI women.
The U.S. government has constantly dictated AAPI people’s pregnancy options throughout history — either by restricting our ability to have children all together, or denying us the ability to plan our families.
When you target women of color and low-income women, you are targeting AAPI women. We deserve healthcare that supports our family planning, supports healthy pregnancies, and helps all our families thrive.
Reproductive justice is not just about helping people plan when and if they have children — it’s about supporting people’s ability to define and make decisions about their bodies, families, and communities throughout their lifespan. The Republican repeal plan wants to send us backward. For the future of my daughter and all AAPI communities, I plan to resist.
Sung Yeon is the current Interim Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). Prior, she guided, implemented, and evaluated NAPAWF’s multi-city field organizing strategies.