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Republican Senator: No Maternity Benefits Needed

Is this 2009? Or have we time-travelled backwards to some primitive time when women's rights were decades away as a political notion? If we listen to the discussion today - September 25, 2009 - in the Senate Finance Committee as they mark-up their healthcare reform legislation, it would be hard to pinpoint the year as nearing the close of the first decade of the 21st century.

Senator Jon Kyl, R-AZ, couldn't stand hearing that he might have to pay for maternity benefits under any healthcare reform that passes this Congress. Truly. He said he doesn't require maternity care and therefore really objects to being asked to pay for it.

When Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, reminded him that his mother might not share that sentiment, Senator Kyl stuck to his guns. "Maybe 60 years ago," he acknowledged. Maybe. But no sure thing for this red-blooded, strong Western fellow. No sir, even invoking the needs of his mother made no real dent in his bias.

As Committee Chairman Senator Max Baucus, D-MT, thanked Sen. Kyl for his comments and bonded with him about their love for the great American West, all that was missing was a hitching up of their pants and a little good old boys chest bump.

It was sickening. As this nation struggles with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrialized world, to have any United States Senator make the argument that he or she would not support inclusion of maternity benefits in the basic healthcare needs of this nation is not only offensive, it should have been met with an immediate rebuttal from every other member of the Senate Finance Committee. Where was their outrage on our behalf?

But not today. No, not today. In this 111th Congress, making this sort of ugly comment still passes as something for which pats of the back are more likely than real reform. Shameful, shameful.

I will remember these comments, gentlemen and gentlewomen. I will remember. I will spread the word. And I vote. In 2010, in 2012 and beyond.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith Donna Smith is the national chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign for Progressive Democrats of America.  She was featured in Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, SiCKO.

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