The Least of These…

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MomsRising reports in its latest email that 7 out of 10 working-age women have no insurance, are underinsured, or are in debt because of medical bills.1 And an estimated 5 million children remain without healthcare.2

And yet the government (federal, state and local) repeatedly cuts programs that benefit these women and children. In Ohio, where I live, Governor Strickland is proposing $2 billion in cuts in areas such as: dental, vision and other Medicaid services for low-income adults, the Passport program that enables the elderly to receive care at home instead of in a nursing home, services to protect children and adults from abuse. In addition, he proposes eliminating preschool for low-income children, a planned expansion of tax-funded health coverage to uninsured children and planned increases in payments to nursing homes caring for the disabled. (Source here.)

Why is it always the least of us who bear the brunt of cost-cutting measures? Anyone who thinks that feminism has won and is no longer needed are not paying attention to the real state of women in this society. We are still relatively powerless when it comes to protecting ourselves and those we love from the ravages of budget-balancing. We still do not earn dollar-for-dollar what men earn and are discriminated against when it comes to job promotions–and this is even when there are more women in college than men. We have won some battles, but not the war.

MomsRising is asking its members to set up local, in-state meetings with their U.S. Senator’s office. These meetings, even though they generally last only 10-20 minutes, are still a valuable tool for bringing women’s concerns to the legislature. Anyone interested in doing so will be provided with all the information they need, including a booklet of true stories. All you need to do is click here. If you’re not sure about setting up a meeting yourself, at least click here for information about similar activities in your area.

Whether you do something through this organization, another one, or just on your own, your voices need to be heard. In most cases, the men in power do not take our plight to heart. They just don’t realize that those who suffer the most in an economy like ours (heck, in any economy or period of time) are those who are the weakest: “the least of these.”

I’ve often thought that you can tell the health of a society by how it treats its women. If the women have a lot of freedom and rights, if they have access to health care and birth control, if they are educated and thriving in the workplace, you will find a strong economy and an advanced level of development. If women are put down, repressed, cut off from health care, birth control, education and job advancement, the society will be struggling, or even dying.

Women can’t afford to let their needs be ignored. Their demands are not selfish or one-sided. Meeting them should be a priority, not an afterthought.

[1] S. D. Rustgi, M. M. Doty, and S. R. Collins, Women at Risk: Why Many Women Are Foregoing Needed Health Care, The Commonwealth Fund, May 2009.

[2] Children’s Defense Fund, Give Voice to Children in the Health Care Debate, http://www.childrensdefense.org/helping-americas-children/childrens-health/health-coverage-for-all-children-campaign/give-a-voice-to-children-in-health-care-debate.html

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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