Socialized healthcare needed to defend women's health

The Catholic Church’s hierarchy, balking at a supposed “assault on religious freedom,” took their ideological offensive to the airwaves and to the U.S. Capitol, where far-right Republicans infamously convened a panel of “experts” on contraception comprised entirely of men.

Conservative ideologues, both in the media and on the campaign trail, seized on the development to attack the availability of contraception for millions of working women, arguing that “religious employers” should also be “free” to reject such coverage in their workers’ health insurance plans.

These anti-woman, anti-worker arguments boil down to one thing: a defense of private property. “People who own a business should be able to decide what to do with that business, regardless of the needs of the majority,” they say. “Non-profit” or not, charities and institutions run by the Church are in practice privately-owned businesses.

Obscured from view in this over-the-top debate is the absurdity of our present system of employer-provided health insurance. The logical conclusion of the right wing’s recent uproar is the neutering of employee health plans, which exist solely because of hard-fought union struggles.

Obama’s toothless, pro-corporate health care “reform” opens the way to such attacks by promoting employer-provided care through a tax on businesses that don’t provide health benefits. Since the bosses control whether or not most people get health care, they want the final say as to what kind of coverage you get, including access to contraceptive health. If this were not the case, none of this would be an issue.

What is really needed to guarantee the reproductive health for all workers, male and female, is a nationalized health care system under democratic workers’ control. This would involve the nationalization of all of the health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the mega-hospital systems and related clinics, and their integration into a single state-owned and democratically managed and administered health provider. No longer would anti-woman, anti-worker reactionaries be able to hide behind the excuse that providing access to birth control is somehow an infringement on religious freedom, since the responsibility would no longer rest with religious institutions.

Furthermore, other “charitable” social services such as day care, education, food shelves, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, group homes, etc., which are currently run by religious charities, should also be in state hands, under democratic workers’ control and administration. This would eliminate the encroachment of religious ideology in these areas. People should be free to practice any religion they choose, “on their own time, on their own dime.” But religious ideology should not be a factor when it comes to access to food, health care, and shelter.

If the religious institutions are so concerned with the poverty of the masses, they would do well to donate their billions in assets to the state to be administered by the workers in the interests of society as a whole. Somehow, we think it will be a “cold day in hell” before that happens.

Ultimately, the implementation of a socialist program that provides quality jobs, health care, education, and housing for all would eliminate the need for many “charitable” services such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters altogether. Decades of experience has shown that the Democratic Party is not only not up to this task, but is actually hostile to it. The failure of even the measly attempts to create a “public option” as part of the health care bill is a testament to this fact.

Only a labor party, armed with a socialist program, basing itself on the resources and control of the trade unions and the working class, would be capable of fighting for and winning a health system that puts medical care and the quality of life of the working masses above the profits and the feudal “values” of clerical cliques and their reactionary hangers-on.


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