The Republican War on Women: A Long Running Battle

So you don’t like the term “War on Women”; too abrasive, too in your face? Well get over it – what it’s called is not the issue, what you choose to do about it is.

Contrary to conservative talking points, this issue is neither fabricated by Democrats nor an invention of the Obama campaign; women across the country were bringing the War on Women to light long before it hit the mainstream media.

In 1996, Tanya Melich wrote The Republican War Against Women: An Insider’s Report from Behind the Lines, that looked at:

“…the incorporation of the Pro-life movement and opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment by Republicans as a divergence with feminist causes.”

Then in 2004 came Laura Flander’s book, The W Effect: Bush’s War On Women. That same year, the New York Times wrote:

“Dispensing with legislative niceties like holding hearings or full and open debate, President Bush and the Republican Congress have used the cover of a must-pass spending bill to mount a disgraceful sneak attack on women’s health and freedom.”

and Salon’s Rebecca Traister wrote about a report titled “Missing: Information About Women’s Lives” which she noted:

“reveals that the Bush administration has quietly removed 25 reports from its Women’s Bureau Web site, deleting or distorting crucial information on issues from pay equity to reproductive healthcare.”

In January 2011, Daily Kos writer Kaili Joy Gray wrote an article entitled “The Coming War on Women“, where she accurately stated:

“A war is coming…many Republicans in Congress, and in state legislatures around the country, have promised to pursue: the further restriction of women’s reproductive rights.”

We’ve seen this war escalate since the 2010 midterm elections when Republicans, who had campaigned on the economy, immediately turned to the issues of contraception and abortion, with state legislators practically climbing over each other to be the most extreme.

Many important pieces of legislation took a back seat to controlling women’s healthcare decisions. In Arizona for example, as David Safier wrote for the Explorer News:

“The only reasonable conclusion I can draw from the legislative session that just ended is this: Republican legislators think nothing is more important to Arizona than teaching the Bible in public schools and restricting women’s access to contraception and abortion. Jobs? Education? The economy? Not nearly as important.”

The Guttmacher Institute reported:

“In the first three months of 2012, legislators in 45 of the 46 legislatures that have convened this year introduced 944 provisions related to reproductive health and rights.

  • So far this year, legislators in 11 states… have introduced provisions that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion.
  • Legislators in 11 states have introduced restrictions on medication abortion.
  • Legislators in 14 states have introduced legislation that seeks to restrict abortion later in pregnancy—but prior to fetal viability.
  • Legislators in five states… with contraceptive coverage mandates have introduced legislation to expand existing exemptions, or create new ones, for certain employers…

Some of the most egregious and dangerous state actions include

  • 10 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception.
  • 6 states explicitly permit pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives. (5 additional states have broad refusal clauses that do not specifically include pharmacists, but may apply to them.)
  • 18 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide sterilization services.

These are referred to as “conscience rights”; they literally allow someone else’s conscience to dictate what healthcare you receive. For instance:

• ”An Oklahoma emergency room doctor refused to provide emergency contraception to a 24-year-old female rape victim because the medication violated the health provider’s personal beliefs.”

• ”…a nun…in Phoenix, Arizona…signed off on an abortion for a woman who was eleven weeks pregnant and suffering from life-threatening pulmonary hypertension. With the patient’s heart and lungs in jeopardy, doctors determined that ending the pregnancy was the only way to save her life…

Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted…announced that [the nun] had automatically excommunicated herself from the Catholic Church…”

• ”In Nampa, Idaho, a pharmacist at a Walgreens…refused to fill a prescription for Methergine, a medicine used to control bleeding of the uterus. The pharmacist insisted that the medication is an abortifacient—a drug that induces abortion—and demanded to know if the patient had had an abortion. She also refused to provide a referral to another pharmacy.

In fact, the drug is often used to control bleeding after childbirth.”

• ”Arizona legislators…advanced an unprecedented bill that would require women who wish to have their contraception covered by their health insurance plans to prove to their employers that they are taking it to treat medical conditions. The bill also makes it easier for Arizona employers to fire a woman for using birth control to prevent pregnancy… ”

• ”last October… activists and congressional Republicans pushed legislation on the state and federal level, respectively, that would have treated zygotes—a.k.a. fertilized human eggs—as legal “persons.” If the definition of legal personhood is changed so that it begins when sperm meets an egg, hormonal birth control or barrier devices that prevent zygotes from implanting in the uterine wall could become illegal, making using an IUD tantamount to murder. Yet some 40 percent of House Republicans and a quarter of their allies in the Senate back bills that would do just that.”

• ”Earlier this year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)…introduced a bill that could cut off birth control access for millions of women by allowing even non-religious employers to refuse birth control coverage as long as they cite a religious reason. In other words, if your boss doesn’t want to cover birth control in the company health plan because he says it would offend his religious beliefs, he wouldn’t have to—even if his Cialis was still covered. Rubio’s bill could also allow states to refuse to provide birth control through Medicaid, which provides family planning services to millions of poor women.”

Rubio is considered one of the top contenders for a Romney VP pick; and speaking of Romney, he has “embraced personhood”:

“…most notably in 2005 when he vetoed a bill expanding access to emergency contraception for rape survivors “because it would terminate a living embryo after conception”.

It is the GOP, never a party to concern itself with trivial matters like public opinion or women’s rights, that has made women’s health decisions political. According to U.S. News:

“A plank in the Republican platform upholds the “life begins at conception” foundation of “personhood”, which would ban the most commonly-used forms of contraception such as the Pill and IUDs.”

So yes, some people may shy away from the term “War on Women”, but that’s exactly what’s happening. You can continue to live with your head in the sand and keep electing Republicans, until one day you, your sister, your daughter, or your brother and his wife find that the choice regarding if and when to have children has become a government decision.

At that point it won’t matter what we called it, will it?

Read the entire series, Headlines in the Republican War on Women

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