GOP Lawmaker Questions Whether Men Should Pay for Prenatal Care

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois speaks during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 24, 2013. Jason Reed/Reuters

As the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act wound its way through 27 highly contentious hours of House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings, one congressman made an instantly controversial remark when he asked whether men should have to pay for prenatal care.

Or, as a Chicago Tribune article puts it, “U.S. Rep. John Shimkus’s foot finds warm welcome in mouth.”

The remark was delivered during a hearing on the Republican-sponsored bill on Thursday, after Representative Mike Doyle asked, “What mandate in the Obamacare bill does he take issue with?” Shimkus then expressed his objections to certain requirements for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, including coverage for pregnancy and childbirth.

“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” said Shimkus. “I’m just.... Is that correct? And should they?” (It might be helpful here to pause for a second and remember that it takes two people to make a baby.)

Related: What you need to know about the new health care bill

“There’s no such thing as à la carte insurance, John,” Doyle replied.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, posted a video of the exchange on Twitter, which has since been widely shared.

Criticism of Shimkus’s comments came swiftly, both from women’s health and rights organizations and the general public. “I just read that you don't want men to have to pay for prenatal care. Well I, as a taxpaying woman don't want to have to pay for your erectile dysfunction pills either. So I guess we're even,” read one comment left on his Facebook page. “I thought you cared about protecting the lives of unborn babies. So, why is it that you don't think men should have to pay for pre-natal care?” asked another.

Shimkus made his comments on the same day as Vice President Mike Pence held a “listening session” with anti-abortion leaders in Washington, D.C. According to the White House, “the conversation focused on ensuring that the sanctity of life is respected and included in efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.” That session was closed to the press, so no telling what kinds of statements were made.