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As GOP Pushes for Nationwide Abortion Ban, Judge Blocks Mandate for ACA to Cover Basic Prenatal Care

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A federal Judge in Texas on Thursday blocked the Affordable Care Act mandate for health insurance companies to provide preventive care. We speak with Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation, about his piece, “The GOP’s War on Obamacare Is Screwing Up Its War on Abortion,” and how the Republican Party opposes access to abortion but will not require insurance companies to cover basic prenatal care.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Elie Mystal. He is The Nation magazine’s justice correspondent. And, Elie, you wrote an interesting piece about another topic. Last Thursday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Affordable Care Act mandate for health insurance companies to provide preventive care. Elie, you tweeted, “FedSoc judge in Texas gutted the preventive care parts of Obamacare, nationwide. So… now the party of forced birth won’t force insurance companies to cover basic prenatal care.” Elie, you have a piece titled “The GOP’s War on Obamacare Is Screwing Up Its War on Abortion.” Talk about what’s at stake here.

ELIE MYSTAL: Yeah, so, one of the most life-saving aspects of the Affordable Care Act is the fact that it forces insurance companies to cover preventative care. People forget, before the Affordable Care Act, it was actually very hard to get insurance companies to cover preventative care. So, if you were poor or even middle-class, a lot of times it was more cost-effective for you to get sick, because then your insurance would kick in. Trying to take steps to not get sick would be prohibitively expensive before Obamacare, right? So, that’s what Obamacare fixed.

And, of course, because conservatives don’t like Obamacare and don’t like that there was — you know, “don’t like a Black person giving you healthcare. How did that happen?” So, the FedSoc judges — this one in particular, Reed O’Connor in Texas, who has made it his life’s mission to destroy Obamacare — have gutted that section. There are basically three agencies that determine what is preventative care or not. O’Connor gutted one of them. And that’s the — I’m forgetting the acronym right now. But the task force that he gutted is the one that covers, among other things, cancer screenings, HIV transmission preventative drugs, and prenatal care. And the hypocrisy of these people, who out of one side of their mouth will literally force women to give birth, to bring pregnancies to term against their will, but then won’t cover, won’t force insurance companies to cover prenatal care for —

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re talking about birth control, right?

ELIE MYSTAL: There are three organizations, one — there are three institutions that determine preventative care. The one that pushed the contraception mandate, he didn’t knock that one down yet. Right? So, one does what I’m talking about with prenatal care and cancer screenings. The other one does contraception. Another one does vaccinations. The contraceptions and the vaccinations institutions, those were left to stand at this point so far. The one that does cancer and prenatal care, that one was knocked down by Reed O’Connor.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happens next?

ELIE MYSTAL: All gets appealed. I think that the government —

AMY GOODMAN: Because it doesn’t just come out right away, for people who are afraid, because Obamacare is actually forward-funded — right? — so this funding goes forward for a year or so before it could be — that judge could be blocked.

ELIE MYSTAL: I don’t know. I’m not sure about the timing. It could happen faster than you’re saying. I’m not sure about the timing. But the point is that this will be appealed, and then we’ll have to see if a higher court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in this situation, which is an extremely conservative court, whether or not they stay or block the ruling, pending the appeal of the case. We don’t know that yet. Hopefully, they do block it, because this is a — again, this is a judge who doesn’t just have a history of trying to take down Obamacare, he has a history of being wrong. This is one of the few conservative judges that is so far to the right that even other conservative courts routinely overrule him. So, one would hope that this latest conservative wackadoodle ruling is temporarily blocked until there’s a full appeal, where he will likely be overruled.

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