Nye Bevan on Women Losing Out with Private Healthcare

Republicans Women's Rights

A few days ago I put up this meme, about the way the Republicans will force American women to refight all their grandmothers’ battles if they get in again. In my opinion, the meme probably refers specifically to abortion as the issue that most widely and obviously affects women’s health and legal freedom.

But it also covers a whole plethora of other areas and issues. The Republicans recently defunded Planned Parenthood, on the spurious ground that they were providing abortions and selling the body parts for science. In fact, only three per cent of the Planned Parenthood’s activities were abortions. The majority of them were general family planning and gynaecological/ women’s health advice and procedures, given to poor women, who clearly fell at least partly outside private medical care.

As for the bodies of the aborted children, they were not sold. They were donated for scientific research, and the fees charged by the organisation were for transport, not for the bodies themselves. I have very strong sympathies for the anti-abortion lobby, and frankly I’d rather no children were aborted except in cases of medical necessity. But the wider point here needs to be made: the claim that they were being sold was an emotive, retailed by the Republicans for their own benefit.

And there was more than an element of hypocrisy in the Republicans’ denunciation. One of those making it was Carly Fiorina, who herself sat on the board of a private healthcare company that did medical research using tissue from aborted foetuses. It all proves what a Conservative friend of mine used to say, ‘The Tory party is an organised hypocrisy’. I think he was quoting old Oscar Wilde, but it’s true, and applies on both side of the Atlantic.

Nye Bevan pic

Nye Bevan, the architect of the NHS, was also acutely aware of the way ordinary women suffered under the private health care system that put medicine out of the reach of the poor. In his chapter on the health service in his book, In Place of Fear Bevan writes

Much sickness and often permanent disability arise from failure to take early action, and this in its turn is due to high costs and the fear of the effects of heavy bills on the family. The records show that it is the mother in the average family who suffers most from the absence of a free health service. In trying to balance her domestic budget she puts her own needs last.

The Tories are keen on trying to promote themselves as the natural choice for women. It’s based largely on Maggie Thatcher, and the number of female Tory MPs. They’re also trying to show that, like Labour, they stand for female equality and empowerment. When it suits them, they make feminist noises about guaranteeing women equal pay and breaking the glass ceiling etc.

It’s all just noise. Women have been hit particularly hard by their wretched austerity programme, as the jobs that are traditionally done by women have seen their budgets cuts and jobs shed. And the Tories’ privatisation of the Health Service will also lead to women suffering particularly hard, as they neglect their own needs for the benefits of their families and children, just as Bevan saw it in the Britain of the first half of the 20th century.

And this also affects the current election campaign in America. Madeleine Albright and the veteran feminist leader, Gloria Steinem, have both urged women to vote for Hillary Clinton. She would clearly be a great feminist trailblazer if she got in. She’d be the first female president of the US. I also have no doubt that she would encourage more women to enter politics, and be particularly good for high-flying female executives like herself.

But Bernie Sanders’ programme for universal healthcare would be better for women generally, as well as men and children, by giving them access to health care which the present private healthcare system denies them. Just as the mass of British women benefited from the NHS.

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2 Responses to “Nye Bevan on Women Losing Out with Private Healthcare”

  1. billellson Says:

    “Nye Bevan, the architect of the NHS, was also acutely aware of the way ordinary women suffered under the private health care system that put medicine out of the reach of the poor.”
    Aneurin Bevan was not the architect of the National Health Service. The NHS was a wartime coalition policy, for the end of hostilities, agreed across parties. The concept was set out in the Beveridge Report published in December 1942, endorsed by Winston Churchill in a national broadcast in 1943 and practical proposals, including those the things the public value re the NHS today, set out in a white paper by Minister of Health Conservative Henry Willink in March 1944. It would have been established whoever was Minister of Health after the war / whichever party won the 1945 general election. The UK did not have a ‘private health care system’ before the NHS. Most hospitals in England and Wales were local government owned and run, the remainder voluntary (charitable). Those who could afford to pay for treatment were required to do so, or at least make a contribution, but nobody was expected to sell their house. The poor were treated in hospitals free of charge. c11 million workers were covered for GP consultations by the National Health Insurance Scheme which had been established in 1911. In many places, particularly mining areas, there were mutual aid societies that established health facilities including dispensaries. Scotland had a greater degree of state health provision and Northern Ireland had greater faith based provision before their NHSs were established, starting on the same day as Bevan’s English and Welsh service, but always separate established under separate legislation.

  2. 61chrissterry Says:

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry.

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