Why it matters that there are no women in this photo of Trump's health care meeting.

Something is missing from this picture.

I'll give you a hint: It's the same thing that was missing from this picture, taken a month earlier.

Photo by Ron Sachs/Getty Images.

In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting any foreign aid organization that performs abortions from receiving federal funds.


No women were there to witness it.

Now Trump is moving forward with plans to make significant changes to America's health care system. And — as Trump's tweet showed — once again, women are nowhere to be seen.

50% of all Americans are women. Much like men, women sometimes get sick and have to go to the doctor. They also face some unique health care challenges — particularly related to the having of babies and the planning of if or when to have them.  

While it's true that none of the health insurance CEOs in the photo Trump tweeted are women and that his Health and Human Services secretary is a man and that all of his top advisers are male, sure, it's certainly possible his administration will involve women in its health care project somewhere along the line.

But given that he hasn't seen fit to include women thus far, the optics sure are fishy.

Not consulting women on health policy decisions leaves women with fewer options and more expensive care.

Before Obamacare prohibited "gender rating" health plans, women on some plans paid up to 80% more in premiums than men — often on the grounds that women's specific health care requirements, like birth control, gynecology, and mammograms, are somehow "extra."

Obamacare's contraception mandate, which requires insurers to cover birth control, is already under fire from conservative lawmakers who want to strike it from law, again on the assumption that such coverage should be considered optional because men don't require it.

Separately, Congress is getting dangerously close to defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection care, and reproductive health services to millions of women every year. The organization has already issued a warning that our existing infrastructure can't absorb the patients who would be displaced if it's forced to shut down.

This is what happens when the people in charge — who are often men — don't stop to ask women what they need.

Trump, historically, hasn't been all that great at understanding things that are outside his own very specific personal experience.

At a recent press conference, Trump expressed his frustration with the slow pace of Obamacare reform, saying, "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated." While it's true that he probably didn't realize that (after all, as a lifelong rich person, he's probably never had to worry about health care), just about everyone else on planet Earth — right, left, and center — did.

Trump, like most members of Congress and, apparently, health insurance company CEOs, has never been a woman. He's never been pregnant. He's never taken hormonal birth control. He's never had a mammogram or a pap smear. He's probably never bought tampons. The notion that he and a dozen male health honchos can hammer out a plan that's fundamentally fair to women and takes their particular challenges into account without consulting or involving women in the process is dubious at best.

The obvious next step? Trump needs to ask women what they need out of a health care law.

Women! Photo via iStock.

The good news is that there are plenty who are more than qualified to give the president some notes. He could ask any number of the dozens of female Ph.D.s at American universities who study health policy. He could ask Oregon Gov. Kate Brown or Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who oversaw successful implementations of the Affordable Care Act in their states.

Health insurer CEOs certainly aren't the be-all-end-all of advice, but if Trump wanted to ask one, he could get even in touch with Karen Ignagni of EmblemHealth.

Getting some women in the room isn't a panacea.

Trump is stubborn, and ultimately Congress is going to be the primary driver of Obamacare repeal and replace anyway. But for a president whose opinion seems to be moved by the last person he spoke to, having some qualified ladies tell him about the need for birth control, safe abortion, and cervical cancer screenings couldn't hurt. And he should want to hear from them!

Heck, even asking Ivanka would be a step forward.

She seems to favor a more gender-balanced approach to decision-making after all.

It might not change his approach.

But dear God. He could at least ask.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less