Some Examples of the War on Women
The news has, in recent weeks, focused quite a bit on two related issues, both of which have, I think correctly, been described as part of the Republicans’ “war on women”. First, there is the ongoing discussion about whether health insurance plans, including those from religious hospitals and universities, should include birth control. Then, stemming from that discussion came Rush Limbaugh’s verbal assault on a woman who testified about the need for birth control, primarily for matters not relating directly to sex. Limbaugh called the woman a “slut” and “prostitute” (along with making all sorts of other horrible claims) and, though he has offered a partial apology, very, very few Republicans have been willing to criticize Limbaugh … or stand up for women. And let’s not forget that the testimony that led to Limbaugh’s attack was necessitated only after Rep. Darrell Issa’s committee hearing evidence on the birth control mandate controversy refused to allow Democrats to call witnesses and the only witnesses the committee actually heard from were men. All of them. Six white men testifying about birth control.
These are but two acts in the ever-broadening war that Republicans are waging against women. I thought I’d take a few minutes to highlight some of the other anti-women policies that Republicans have introduced, pursued, or endorsed.
- Let’s start back in 2009 with the very first bill that President Obama signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. That law makes it easier for women to sue a company for unfair pay practices related to gender equality. The Republicans had blocked and filibustered the bill in previous sessions of Congress, but the new Congress, in early 2009, was finally able to pass the bill. The votes, in both the House and Senate, were on a virtual party-line basis. Democrats supported expanding the rights of women to sue employers for unequal pay; Republicans opposed that law.
- We know that Republicans want to repeal “Obamacare”.* Of course, rarely is there any discussion of what that would really mean (other than the repeated lie that Obamacare is a government takeover of healthcare). One thing that Obamacare includes is a requirement for employers (I don’t know if it’s all employers or a limited subset based on size of business or whatnot) to give nursing mothers both time and a place to express breast milk. Seems like pro-family values Republicans would be in favor of that. But they’re not.
- Let’s not forgot the effort by some Republicans to redefine rape to include only “forcible rape” — whatever that might mean — or the effort by some Georgia Republicans to no longer refer to rape victims as “victims” but rather as “accusers” (at least until the rapist was convicted).
- Some communities (I’m looking at you Wasilla, Alaska, under Mayor Sarah Palin) have required women who have been raped to pay for the rape testing done by the police.
- We know that most Republicans want to make abortion illegal. But let’s look at some of the things that they’ve done (or tried to do) to restrict access to abortion:
- A few states have toyed with bills that would permit a person to harm an abortion doctor in order to stop the doctor from performing an abortion.
- Republicans have made much of defunding Planned Parenthood (thus limiting women’s access not only to abortion services, but also to the large amount of other women’s health services provided by Planned Parenthood). And let’s not forget that Republicans have not been shy about lying about what Planned Parenthood does (remember Sen. John Kyl’s lie that 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions followed by his statement that the lie “was not intended to be a factual statement”?). And don’t forget that Komen, who so infamously tried to defund Planned Parenthood recently, is run by several anti-choice Republicans (including a former candidate for Governor of Georgia).
- Republicans have also been busy passing or proposing laws that make abortions very difficult for some women, in particular poor women or those from rural communities, to obtain. Among these sorts of bills and laws have been some of the following:
- Requiring women to make multiple trips to the doctor providing the abortion. Usually this is framed in the nature of requiring one trip at which the woman is examined and given information and asked to consent followed by a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure can be performed. If you live in a big city with easy access to an abortion provider, this isn’t a big deal (unless you need time off of work). If you live in Montana, a massive state with one abortion provider in the corner of the state, that can be a major hardship.
- The information that doctors must provide to women and/or the consent that women must sign often include scientifically inaccurate information. For example, some states now require doctors to tell women that abortion can cause breast cancer, that abortion leads to mental health issues, and that a fetus can feel pain. In Indiana a bill to require doctors to provide medically accurate information failed. Republicans were opposed to that because it didn’t conform to their anti-choice worldview.
- States have also adopted so-called “facilities” laws. In essence, these laws attempt to make it very difficult to operate a facility that provides abortions. Usually these sorts of laws will require the out-patient facility to meet the standards that apply to hospitals, rather than other out-patient facilities (even though other out-patient facilities may be performing much more invasive and difficult procedures).
- Restrictions on doctors have become another tool frequently employed. These restrictions include such things as requiring the doctor to have admitting privileges in a hospital in the county where the abortion is performed. The problem with this is that in many states there are very few (often only 1) doctor performing the abortions, sometimes at satellite clinics around the state. It is sometimes difficult (and often expensive) for the doctor to get admitting privileges (and those privileges are often tied to work-related matters, too). And those sorts of restrictions are not imposed on doctors performing any other outpatient procedures.
- The newest, and most vile efforts that have surfaced (presently being debated in Arizona and elsewhere) would permit doctors to either lie to or withhold information from a patient about her condition (or the condition of the fetus) if the doctor thought that the woman might seek an abortion. Just think about that for a minute. An anti-choice doctor who knows that a woman has a non-viable pregnancy or knows that the woman is likely to suffer severe complications from the pregnancy could tell the woman that the fetus is fine or that the woman won’t suffer complications in order to prevent her from seeking an abortion.
- I only learned recently that, apparently, in some states a rapist still has parental rights. Seriously. A woman can go to court to get those rights revoked. But still…
- And of course we can’t forget the Republicans that have decided to humiliate women who want an abortion. First, they passed laws to require women to view an ultrasound or listen to a fetal heartbeat. But when that wasn’t enough Republicans began to pass laws that require women seeking an abortion to undergo a medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound. Yes, that’s right. Before a woman in those states can get an abortion, she has to be raped by the state.
- Some Republicans have also proposed bills that would allow a hospital to essentially let a woman die rather than perform an abortion.
- Though they are also tied closely to the anti-choice movement, so-called Personhood bills are really a category unto themselves. In essence, a personhood law (and lots of states are considering them) would declare a fetus to be a “person” with the same rights as “post-birth” people. But think what that might really mean for a woman, besides her right to an abortion. What if she drinks or smokes? It would seem that the fetus should be able to sue her, right? What if she doesn’t eat healthy? Seek enough pre-natal care? How long before governments can begin stepping in to “control” pregnant women to protect her fetus? Wait a minute, isn’t that just the sort of government takeover of healthcare that Republicans hate? But in any event, the point remains that control over a pregnant woman’s body might suddenly be out of her hands because of the interest of the government (or the father) to protect that unborn “person”. And just imagine how these sorts of laws would impact such things as in vitro fertilization. I mean, freezing a “person” in a Petri dish is probably not going to be legal, is it?
- In addition to the discussion about whether insurance should pay for birth control, some, like Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, have suggested that pre-natal testing should be banned because it might lead a woman to seek an abortion.
- Many states have examined Republican sponsored legislation to allow a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription for birth control or an abortifacient because the pharmacist is opposed to birth control or abortion — even if the woman has a prescription.
- Just this week a Republican legislator offered a bill to require women to carry non-viable fetal tissue to term because, you known, cows and pigs carry stillborn fetuses. Yes, he seriously compared women to livestock.
- Among the funds that Republicans have cut (or tried to cut), a prime target have been programs aimed at helping low income pregnant women and poor women with young children. Because, you known, we need to give tax breaks to oil companies.
- On a completely different note, it has been Republicans who have sought to limit the expansion of women’s roles in the military.
- We can’t forget the bill offered by a Republican in Wisconsin that, in essence, identified single-parenthood as a form of child abuse or neglect.
- And let’s not forget the allegations of an Indiana legislator that the Girl Scouts are a “radicalized organization” that acts as the “tactical arm” of Planned Parenthood with an agenda of “sexualizing young girls” and promotes a homosexual lifestyle and allows transgender youths to participate.
There are, I’m sure, plenty of other examples. But I think the basic point is clear: The modern Republican party is so worked up about sex and so beholden to far right religious beliefs, that the idea of women as equals, as people who can make their own decisions, especially about their own bodies, has been lost. The Republicans will do everything that they can to stop abortions, even if it means trampling the rights of women. They will cut programs, even if it means harming those most in need. They will do everything they can to shame women out of exercising control over their sexuality and reproductive systems. While Republicans cry about government intrusion into our freedom, they are themselves intruding upon the freedoms that women enjoy (or did enjoy in states now dominated by Republican legislatures).
Somehow Republicans seem to have forgotten the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. That Amendment gave women the right to vote. I hope that women use that vote this November as there is no better way to strike back against the Republican War on Women than to vote misogynists out of office.
*I really don’t like using the term Obamacare as I find it to be pejorative. However, it appears that term has become the de facto phrase to describe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Thus, I am reluctantly going to begin (at least sometimes) to use the term Obamacare.