In the last year, attempts have been made in the US House of Representatives and the state of Arizona to defund Planned Parenthood. “Personhood bills” have been introduced in the same time frame in Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Colorado seeking to ban both birth control and abortion. Bills were also recently introduced in Georgia and Tennessee to criminalize miscarriage, potentially making it a capital offense. And who can forget Virginia’s effort to force medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds on females with the temerity to seek medical care?

The ACA may be the most important piece of civil rights legislation effecting women since we gained the right to vote in 1920.

Sadly, the value of the ACA to women remains America’s best kept secret.

The Commonwealth Fund has produced a map and a study (aptly entitled “Oceans Apart”) that make the impact of the ACA on women visually apparent at a glance.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, 35.4 million American women between the ages of 19 and 64 were either uninsured or severely underinsured in 2010. Indeed, the number of uncovered women has increased by 6 million (17%) in the last decade, mostly due to lay-offs of teachers, nurses and other federally funded jobs that are both primarily occupied by women, and targets of right wing budget cuts. The five states with the highest rates of uninsured women were Texas (30.3%), Florida (26.2%), Arkansas (25.3%), New Mexico (25.3%), and Nevada (25.2%).

The study also found that America leads the world in numbers of women who forgo health care for lack of a payment source.

Forty-three percent of American women reported having skipped medical care due to cost, more than twice the number of most other industrialized nations. Germany and Australia reported 28% of women forgoing care due to cost, still far below American rates. Ironically, the only state to almost fully insure women prior to implementation of the ACA is Massachusetts.

Which begs the question: when it comes to women, is America a third world country?

Seventy-Seven percent of American women who opted to forgo care were uninsured. These are the very families that the proposed ACA Medicaid Expansion would benefit.

Is it merely coincidence that the (dark blue) Commonwealth Fund states in which women are most likely to forgo care appear to be an overlay of the Jim Crow South with states that have large Hispanic populations? Or that they are agricultural states? Or that they are located in the Bible belt?

The interactive map raises more questions than it answers for me. But it makes one thing very clear. Implementing the ACA and its Medicaid expansion will help lift women out of poverty.

It’s the humane thing to do.


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