The American Election and the Republicans' War On Women

Marlyn Glen

12 September 2012

With under 8 weeks to go to polling in the vote for America president, Barack  Obama has already established a comfortable, consistent lead amongst women voters.

This advantage for the Democrats amongst women has been the norm in recent decades  as the Republicans have moved further and further to the hard Right to shrink the state , and to get government “off the backs of the people” - but not away from women’s reproductive systems.

The Republican Convention last month which selected Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate for November also approved an official policy platform for a Constitutional ban on abortion that would make no exception for incest or for rape.

Studies of differences in American political attitudes have produced an interesting theory, but it is based on stereotypical characters in a family of gender polar opposites.  

In its simplest terms , they offer :  

“The Mommy Problem”, which is when people support more spending  on health care, education, jobs, the poor and the elderly. i.e. for those who vote for the Democrats.

 and “The Daddy Problem” which is for those who favour a stronger military, cracking down on terrorism, illegal immigration and moral relativism. i.e. for those who support the Republicans.

 i.e. female “warmth and compassion “versus male “order and  power”..

 Preferences may change , but the debate on the role and the size of government continues.

“ The Macro Politics of a Gender Gap” , looked at different attitudes between men and women towards the duties of a government and its spending in difficult economic times. 

In good economic times, both  men and women  recognised the need for taxation to fund a welfare state.

When the economy soured, women were less likely than men to turn against the view of the government as provider.

Women are more economically exposed than men , with many working part-time because of family commitments, toiling to put bread on the table in low paid jobs at the bottom end of an economy where the gender pay gap is 23 per cent.

They look to government for security for themselves and their families.

Over 17 million women in the US live in poverty, over 4 million more than men.

Over 6 million women live in “deep “ poverty - with an income of less than half the national poverty line.

Families headed by a single parent are more likely to be headed by a mother, and over one third of those families live in poverty.

So Right –wing fulmination to “ get government out of people’s lives “ i.e. slash spending on social services, an employment sector predominantly made up of  women, has little appeal for most of them.   

“The War on Women” is the slogan used by the American Left to describe the shallow politics of the Republicans to roll back the rights won by women on employment, health, reproduction  and against violence.

Obama’s singular achievement to date has been his Affordable Healthcare Act, writing into health rights for women into law.

It is a health insurance scheme, not a national health service run by the government, but despite that, it extends insurance to the 45 million Americans who couldn’t afford it, and so feared becoming ill because they could not afford the cost of treatment.

Two years ago an estimated 26,000 adults in the US died prematurely because they lacked health insurance.

Obama’s healthcare act helps women by stopping the practice of health insurance companies charging women more than men for exactly the same coverage.

This practice, known as “gender rating” is estimated to cost women in the US a total of $1 billion a year.

The Act halts the practice of ending an insurance policy if its holder becomes sick.

It also stops the denial of coverage to children under 19 because of pre-existing medical conditions, and young adults may now remain on a parent’s plan till their mid-twenties.

Companies can no longer deny coverage to women who are the casualties of domestic abuse.

Preventive and essential services for women’s health issues such as pre-natal care are comprehensively covered under the Obama healthcare Act.

Services that used to require an additional payment each time women used them no longer do so, and the service are now covered by new insurance policies.

These include annual well-woman checks , screening for gestational diabetes, testing for the HPV virus linked to cervical cancer, counselling and screening for HIV, birth control, breastfeeding support, and domestic violence support services. 

Despite all these rights to greater access to affordable health care for women, the Republicans seek to repeal what they scornfully disparage  as “Obamacare” if they win in November.

The coverage of contraception under the Act is estimated to save women  $600 a year.

However its enactment into law last month was too much for one Republican congressman who compared the new contraceptive services with the attack on Pearl Harbour in World War II and the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers.

Mike Kelly said, “ I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked.One is December 7, that's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that's the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."
 
The Title X Family Progam was passed into law in 1970 by Republican President Richard Nixon as a national programme devoted to comprehensive family planning and preventative health screening for low-income and insured Americans .

Its purpose was to “promote positive birth outcomes and healthy families by allowing individuals to decide the number and spacing of their children”. –a commendable objective, and one that a fair-minded person would bring to the attention of Republican politicians as a sound means of preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
 
 
However, last year, the Republicans in control the House of Representatives attempted to eliminate government funding for Title X , and were only prevented from doing so by the Democrats who controlled the Senate.
 
Mitt Romney’s running mate as Vice President is Paul Ryan , a congressman who ,  attempted, unsuccessfully,  to introduce into law a Sanctity of Human Life Act which endowed an ovum immediately upon fertilization the same legal rights as a US citizen.

The Act said that "human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization" which would grant full rights to "a human zygote, a one-celled human embryo, which is a unique human being."
 
This was the concept of “personhood” , which would have made it illegal for some forms of oral contraception to be taken, since they work by preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.
 
A co-sponsor of Ryan’s Bill was Republican Todd Akin, who swept swiftly into notoriety in the current election campaign with his remarks that “legitimate rape” seldom leads to pregnancy.

 

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