Utah state senator Dan Liljenquist may propose a piece of legislation that is going to upset a lot of women: saying that it could save the state “millions,” he has suggested that Utah cut Medicaid spending for elective epidurals and cesarean sections. This, he claims, will stop college students from having babies on the state’s dime that they could technically pay for themselves.
Epidurals, a shot given in the spine, are often requested during childbirth because they reduce pain during labor. Charmingly, Liljenquist seems to think that women don’t deserve to have this pain lessened. Referring to the waiting list for Medicaid in Utah for the disabled, he explained, “Do we save some kid or make birth easier?” Studies show that about 65 percent of births nationwide involve an epidural.
The question of c-sections is a little more complicated, because it is somewhat likely that women in the United States will be given a cesarean section that they don’t necessarily need. But removing the possibility altogether would be very dangerous. This is in addition to the fact that Utah has the lowest c-section rate in the country, at 22% compared to 32% nationwide.
Liljenquist’s line seems, basically, to be that any “unnecessary” medical procedure should not be covered by Medicaid – which boils down to saying that women, specifically, only deserve anesthesia if they can pay for it. Unsurprisingly, this has received some harsh criticism.
“All I can say is thank God for anesthesia,” said Sen. Peter Knudson, assistant majority whip. “There are people who have pain thresholds who can tolerate a lot of discomfort, but not everyone. I’m all for saving money … but this is not where we should begin.”
The fact that Liljenquist’s policy is also extremely sexist just adds to the injustice. Only women would be expected to suffer because of these funding cuts, because lawmakers like Liljenquist seem to assume that pain is a requisite part of childbirth. As a blogger on Opposing Views put it, the policy is ” about as thoughtful a move as trying to force more women to breastfeed by making formula available by prescription only.”