Reject Disenfranchisement of the Working Class

By Laura Kacere

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

As voter suppression laws in states throughout the country threaten to disenfranchise millions of voters, it is imperative to look at how the groups targeted by these laws also have a stake in the very issues at the heart of the upcoming election.  Decisions affecting access to health care are a major component of the budget talks as Medicaid, Medicare, and Title X Family Planning Funding Program are consistently threatened to be cut.  The continuation of these programs impacts everyone, though their elimination would particularly hurt low-income women and families. These are the same people that are at risk of disenfranchisement in the voter ID laws sweeping the country.

Voter ID laws tend to have a discriminatory effect. Institutional burdens to participating in voting largely impacts those with fewer resources, less education, and those who are more institutionally isolated. The costs and time incurred from these added barriers, i.e. obtaining the correct form of identification, are most challenging for working class people. According to a study conducted in Indiana after the state passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country, those who make under $40,000 are less likely to have the correct identification required at the polls than those who make more.

There are, of course, partisan and political implications to these voter ID laws. Those targeted by the laws are also most likely to be affected by the move to eliminate important and successful government programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Title X. These are attacks on low-income individuals and families, as well as young people, seniors, and racial and ethnic minorities, who have the most to lose in the elimination of these government programs.

The Title X Family Planning program has, since 1970, played a crucial role in ensuring access to family planning services for uninsured and underinsured individuals. It is the only federal program dedicated solely to the provision of family planning, and provides funding for at least one clinic in 75% of U.S. counties, serving approximately 5 million people a year.  This means increased access to otherwise unaffordable services such as contraception, STI and HIV/AIDS prevention education and testing, breast and pelvic exams, cancer screening, and much more. This is not just an “entitlement” program; this funding means women’s lives. Yet the U.S. House of Representatives voted to completely defund Title X in 2011, and nine states have reduced family planning funding through legislative action while one (New Jersey) has completely eliminated it.

Medicaid provides necessary health coverage for people and families with lower income and who are otherwise unable to pay for coverage. Under the conservative House budget, Medicaid was targeted for deep budget cuts and converted into capped block grants to states. Medicaid still faces threats as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction deliberates and identifies at least an additional $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.

The complementary strengths of Medicaid and Title X offer access and resources for low-income women and families, and are absolutely essential in the fight for reproductive rights. Women, especially low-income women, have a particular stake in Medicaid and Title X funding.  Birth control access only means something if it is accessible to ALL. With the rising costs of birth control and other family planning services, it is absolutely vital that federal funding eases the burden of these costs for the working class.  This is why we are promoting HERvotes and the Get Out Her Vote campus campaign – we want women and low-income people out at the polls, casting their vote to elect those who will stand up for them, and who make decisions that reflect the people’s interests, not those of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

But don’t just vote. Voting is only a starting point. Educate others about strict voter ID laws and the need to preserve important programs like Medicaid and Title X.  Take action – let the decision-makers know that you will not give up these imperative government programs without a fight!

Want to bring Get Out Her Vote or Birth Control Access Campaign to your campus? Check out our campus organizing toolkits or talk to your campus organizer!

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