Critics of the Affordable Care Act have attempted to attack every aspect of the healthcare law, including criticizing its inclusion of maternity healthcare coverage as an “essential health benefit.” On Tuesday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) offered a “powerful rebuttal” to that criticism, ThinkProgress reports.

Conservatives have argued that the ACA’s maternity coverage requirement for insurance carriers is “excessive” and makes consumers pay for insurance they don’t need. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), a “Pro-Life Caucus” member, argued against the inclusion of maternity care at a House Committee hearing last week. Ellmers made a comment implying that men would be forced to pay for maternity coverage, which her fellow Republicans apparently found particularly clever.

Obamacare does not force men to buy maternity coverage, it requires insurance agencies to provide pregnancy healthcare coverage in all plans. Because of the ACA, pregnant women can no longer be turned down when applying for maternity health coverage, or charged more for coverage.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Harkin, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee chairman, expressed his views on the conservative sentiment:

I must say, there was a story the other day in the paper about somebody who said, ‘Well, gee, now I’ve got, I have to take this policy that covers maternity care. But my wife and I aren’t having any more children… Why should I have to have a policy that covers maternity care?’ And I got to thinking about that. I thought, well, you know what? Maybe because my wife and I don’t have any more children, and they’re grown up, maybe I shouldn’t have to pay property taxes to pay for my local schools. Huh? Not my kids there anymore. Why should I worry about it? Maybe only the people that have kids that go to the public school ought a pay for it. No. We’re better than that in this country. We’re talking about being a part of our society. It’s to our benefit, my wife and I, to pay our property taxes, to support our locals schools because that’s our next generation. We want them well-taught… We want well-paid teachers. Same thing with health care. It is a value system.

Prior to the approval of the Affordable Care Act, women continually faced gender discrimination practices in the health insurance market. Last year, research by the National Women’s Law Center found that women were charged significantly higher rates than men, across the country. Except in states that banned the practice of gender rating, 92 percent of best-selling insurance plans across the nation charged women more than men for coverage. Only 3 percent of those plans covered maternity care.

Even excluding maternity coverage, nearly one third of health insurance plans charged women aged 25 to 40 years at least 30 percent more than men for the same coverage. Plans across the US charged anywhere from 10 to 81 percent more for the same coverage for women as for men.

Before the ACA, maternity coverage was largely unavailable in the individual market. Only 12 percent of all individual health plans in the nation offered maternity coverage to women.

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.