I remember my first paycheck for a week’s work in a nursing home. I just stared at it–stunned that I could be paid so little for the hardest job I’d ever done. Although training and pay have improved since the 80’s, the cost of living has increased relentlessly. I think it is ironic that the heavy hand of the Catholic Church is falling on some of the hardest-working and least paid women in our workforce.
The Supreme Court will soon decide on the case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, to cut contraceptive coverage from the standard insurance employee benefit. The argument on the right is that birth control is inexpensive, an extra, and not a necessary part of health care. Never mind that hormonal birth control is prescribed for reasons other than contraception. The nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor claim their right to practice their religion at the expense of the women who toil in their elder care facilities.
If it were just financial expense, isn’t The Pill cheap?
According to Planned Parenthood, typical costs for birth control include birth control pills $15-50/mo, IUD $500-1000 for insertion, emergency contraception $30-65/one dose. That doesn’t include the cost of a doctor’s visit.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median hourly pay for a nursing assistant at $11.83, or $24,650/year.
Between 2000 and 2006 in Rhode Island, the average cost of rent in Rhode Island steadily increased from $748 to $1,172. In 2007, the average cost of rent decreased by $30 from the previous year to $1,142.
To be able to pay the average rent in Rhode Island without a cost burden in 2007,a worker would have to earn $19.77 an hour for 40 hours a week year-round. This is
almost three times the state’s minimum wage of $7.40 per hour.
Nursing assistant is not a 9-5 job. Facilities need to fill shifts 24/7, and many of the workers need flexible hours. They often are caring for children or elderly parents in their own families.
So, looking at a hypothetical employee of the Little Sisters of the Poor, working full time at the residence in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, married, renting, raising 2 children– what difference does an extra $50 month make? Maybe it would be some gas in the car, shoes for the kid, or some other wild extravagance. And what difference would it make if she were able to get an IUD– which would be unaffordable out of pocket? Just a little less time spent in pharmacies and doctor’s offices, right? Working people have plenty of spare time, don’t they?
One of the worst-paying nursing homes I worked in was a religious non-profit. The pay was $10/hour, and a full-time worker there told me he took home about $300/wk. He took the bus and shared an apartment. Rhode Island just raised its minimum wage to a generous $8.00/hr. Wow.
Mike Huckabee, and his friends on Fox move in a different world altogether. They can spend more on lunch than one of these nursing assistants earns in a week. But that doesn’t stop them from lecturing workers on why having your boss pick through your health care is not intrusive-
And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing or them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it, let’s take that discussion all across America because women are far more than Democrats have made them to be. And women across America have to stand up and say, Enough of that nonsense.
I say enough of this nonsense. Enough of slut-shaming American women. Blocking access to contraception, as always, hurts low-income women the most. Applying veiled references to welfare to women who work and simply want their prescription drugs and treatments to be between them and their doctors is disgraceful.
That the Little Sisters, who should know better, and politicians looking for a soapbox target the low-wage workers is just wrong.
Sisters, stop interfering with these women’s health insurance, and while you’re at it–give them all a raise.