Ever since the GOP took control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and won a lot of governorships and seats at the state level, they have seen fit to try and reshape what they consider is appropriate behavior for women, whether that is requiring state-mandated ultrasounds before a woman can obtain an abortion in Virginia (and others), declaring that a woman must, if they’re being prescribed birth control pills, prove to their boss that they’re using them for non-sexual reasons in Arizona (which they could be promptly fired for, seeing as Arizona is an at-will employment state) or the multitude of others bills either proposed or passed that would seek to curb women’s rights that so many people have worked tirelessly over decades to try and make law. You only have to look at the graph at the link below to see the how the amount of enacted abortion restrictions has skyrocketed in the past few years.
That there are people on the right (Bob McDonnell, governor of Virginia and Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee Chairman) that think this assault on women’s health is somehow fictionalized or fabricated shows either a staggeringly narrow minded view on what they believe women should be allowed to do or they are so deep in their own ideological, privileged bubble that they can’t see the real world harm they are doing to women all over America.
Along with all these restrictions there have also been a number of politicians who may not only vote for these types of bills but feel like they need to verbally insult women as well, like the aforementioned Mr. Priebus who said that the war on women is a “fiction” and “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars.”
There’s a fatal flaw here in Mr. Priebus’s logic. If the Republicans were waging a war on caterpillars then we would be able to see as much at the state and federal level. We do not. What we do see however, is a gargantuan number of bills introduced that slowly erode a women’s right to choose, make abortions providers adhere to more and more regulation (and here was me thinking the Republicans were the party of small government and free market solutions), make abortions harder to obtain and make women jump through more hoops to get one and trying to make the completely non-controversial topic of contraception a political hot potato again.
There’s also Georgia Republican Terry England who, while debating HB 954, which would bring down the time at which women could seek abortion from 26 to 20 weeks, compared women to cattle and pigs:
“Life gives us many experiences. It give us the experience- or I’ve had the experience of delivering calves dead and alive, delivering pigs dead and alive, and I want to tell you, Rep. McCall, Rep. Roberts, all of us, Rep. Anderson, that have done that, Rep. Black, that have done that, it breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it. Ya know a few years ago, I had a young man come to me in our store, and it was when we were debating- talking about dog and hog hunting I believe- and at that point there was some language inserted in there that dealt with chicken fighting. And young man called me to the side and said ‘I want to tell you something.’ And y’all, this is salt of the earth people I’m talking about. Someone I would never have expected in 100 years to tell me what he told me that day. ‘Mr. Terry, I want to tell you something. Tell those folks down there that when they stop killing babies, I’ll give them every chicken I’ve got.’”
Then there’s Chuck Winder, a Republican from Idaho. Idaho’s senate was about to pass a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to have a mandatory ultrasound, regardless if the women actually wants one or her doctor considers it necessary. Just before it passed, opponents of the bill pointed out that the bill makes no exceptions for women that have been raped, were victims of incest, or women whose life is in danger. Chuck Winder then went on to insinuate that women use rape as loophole in order to obtain an abortion:
“Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this,” he said, “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”
Presidential candidates aren’t exempt from degrading women either. Rick Santorum, who seems to be running purely on social conservative issues, was asked by Piers Morgan about a hypothetical rape case. He said:
“I believe and I think that the right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless, in a very broken way, a gift of human life, and accept what God is giving to you.”
It’s rather ironic that moments before this he talked about how his belief that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned was not based on religious values. Does it really surprise anyone that independent women overwhelmingly support Obama over the presumed GOP nomination, Mitt Romney, by 18 (and, remarkably, Santorum by less, 15) points if this is the kind of hard right the party has taken? Even Romney himself has stated he would be in favor of a ‘personhood’ amendment to the constitution, which would ban abortion outright in all cases and may even ban some hormonal birth control. Although seeing as Romney has seemingly taken every position possible on every issue throughout his political career it’s hard to gauge what he actually will put in place if he ever becomes President.
Now, I don’t know why the Republicans thought that 2010 would be a great time to start up the culture wars again, in my opinion I think they got cocky, if you’ll pardon the pun. They saw a great swing from 2008 and took it as a sign that they could pass whatever they want and the voters would just go along with it. This has quite dramatically backfired, with protests taking place all over the country by men and women who quite like being able to choose what to do with their own bodies and being personally responsible when it comes to issues of the bedroom.
It’s even happening at the federal level. The blunt amendment proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt that was tacked onto a highway funding bill (because what says ‘money for roads’ more than an amendment that says that any employer can opt out of any health service required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act for moral objections?) was defeated in the senate. This wasn’t just a completely party line vote though, three Democrats voted for this amendment and one republican voted against it so the Dems aren’t completely blameless on this one.
To me it shows that social conservative values have never really gone away, they are still there, bubbling under the surface like a spot waiting to spill forth its bacteria filled sebum everywhere. Republicans were waiting for the right time to bring America back to a fictitious rose-tinted time that only exists in the minds of other Republicans. A time where women were subservient, house cleaning, man adoring, children raising, complacent females who always did what they were told.
That time has passed, it has come and gone. We are moving forward in a society, progressing *gasp* towards a time where we will look back at this point in history and scoff at how ideologically backward we all were and how silly we were for fighting against the inevitable evolution of civil rights. Because this is a civil rights issue, it is going to happen and you cannot stop it. Look at how the perception of women has changed over the last 50 years and how many people are now in favor of equal pay and equal benefits for women. It’s very telling that young people overwhelmingly support these measures over every other age group. Each successive generation is getting more open minded, more accepting to other people and cultures and find such things as sexual orientation or gender identity increasingly irrelevant.
When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ for talking about how a friend of hers needed contraception to fight cancer and why insurance companies should cover it under their health coverage, you saw a massive pushback by women from all walks of life and all political persuasions. Well over 100 companies stopped advertising on Limbaugh’s show and he even issued a very rare (though pretty pathetic) apology. The same thing happened when breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced they were dropping its funds to Planned Parenthood. They retracted after they were swallowed under an avalanche of bad press and well-known figures calling out the charity for halting its funds to what, for many women, is their sole place to obtain healthcare. It’s ironic to note that the sum that PP would’ve lost had Komen kept up their withdrawal of funds was more than matched by donations including from NY mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The lesson the GOP should take away from this is to never underestimate the power of women and their supporters. We live in a time where we are more connected to each other than ever before thanks to the internet and sites like Facebook, and the spread of information is ever increasing. By the time a bill has been introduced in Texas in the morning, stories have been written, protests and petitions set up and thousands (if not more) of people could be talking about before the legislators finish for the day. This works to the detriment of Republicans, who in the past have relied on no one really being that interested in politics that they can just move these bills through quickly with no fuss.
What also works to the disadvantage of republicans is having a large swatch of young, educated, informed people who have seen the tactics of the right trying to chip away abortion rights like Michelangelo with David, gay/transgender rights and women’s healthcare and have had enough. If they don’t stop soon and try to evolve with the current political climate (which might be a problem for evangelicals) Republicans are destined to languish with the young and with women which, seeing as the majority of voters are women and younger voters are the ones voting far into the future, does not bode well for their future re-election hopes.