House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House ran with the big dogs and won. She acted with grace under fire and pressure. She accomplished what no men before her could do. She got the votes for health care. But, did she really win for women?
Nancy Pelosi is extraordinary in her political prowess. The Washington Post attributes her as being one of history’s most skilled vote getters. Speaker Pelosi comes from a long line of political vote getters. She is a native of Baltimore and daughter of former Baltimore mayor Thomas D’Alessandro, Jr. Her father knew a thing or two about getting votes. I grew up in Baltimore hearing stories about her father, mayor Tommy D’Alessandro, Jr. She is cut of the same cloth as her political family, father and brother, Thomas D’Alessandro, III, also a former mayor of Baltimore. As an African American native of Baltimore, I revel in the pride that it took a native Baltimore woman and an African American president to pass the health care bill.
In the words of comedian Steve Harvey’s book, Speaker Pelosi did “act like a woman and think like a man”. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi thought she had to think like a man to get the votes. That meant she favored the anti-abortion law makers to seek final votes. She bent to the pro-life forces and accepted tight abortion limits in the bill. In the words of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D. NY), she threw women under the bus to get the votes. Now that’s thinking like a man. Her actions speak volumes to women and advocates for women’s rights.
There’s good, bad and ugly in the health care bill. Almost 32 million uninsured Americans will now be covered. Insurance companies can no longer cancel a policy because someone files a claim. Insurers cannot deny us for pre-existing conditions which disproportionately affect women and African Americans. Women are denied for pregnancy, prior caesarean and many other forms of female related conditions. African Americans are denied for pre-existing high blood pressure, diabetes and heart condition. Unfortunately all of these conditions seem to affect blacks to a greater degree. The bill increased Medicaid coverage amounts which will help African Americans and persons of color who are more economically disadvantaged. The bad is the limits placed on a woman’s right to abortion. The real ugly is the loss of the public option.
Yet, in the final analysis, we’ve only just begun. We must continue to fight for a public option and for continued protection of women’s rights. Despite its flaws, I still applaud Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her efforts. She fought a good fight. But, next time, let’s get the job done without sacrificing women.