The American Election and the Republicans' War on Women (part 2)

Marlyn Glen

19 September 2012

Last year the Republicans in the US Congress tried, unsuccessfullly, to  close off government funding for birth control health programmes for low income families that reduced the need for abortion, and allowed families to plan the timing of their children.

However, one such Republican Congressman, Dan Burton, did campaign for contraception – but that was for wild horses.

This was to maintain the size of herds by birth control rather than by containing them in corrals and then being forced to slaughter them.

This option was rightly described as a humane option, a sentiment that was not extended to the contraceptive needs of poor women.

Why have the Republicans been waging this War on the Women, as the American Left describe it, engaging in rolling back women’s rights on  sexual health?

In 2006, after the Democrats won back the Senate, the conservative magazine Human Matters, reported on the how positions taken on abortion rights had affected the outcome of the election :

 “One theme emerging from the elections is the ongoing march to extinction in the House of pro-choice Republicans.

 “The already small pro-choice contingent amongst the Republicans was cut in half, as they  performed much worse than the rest of the party.”

 A career choice of rising through the ranks of the Republicans  meant  being against pro-choice, disaffecting the liberal-minded who believed that women should follow their conscience on  matters of reproduction.

 The party’s trajectory moved further to the Right, and it sought a strategy for election success whereby focus on their economic policies – ( tax cuts, “freeing” business from government regulation, and government financial support for big business -“corporate welfare” ) would be deflected instead towards cultural issues such as gun ownership, religion, and women’s rights.

Opposition to birth control appears now, for some to be a cause, rather than just a policy.

It is a far cry from the beliefs of Betty Ford, wife of Republican President Gerald Ford, and a lifelong campaigner for women’s rights and abortion in the 1970s.

She welcomed the historic Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal saying that it took the issue” out of the backwoods and put it in the hospital where it belongs. “

Despite the estimate that some 90 per cent of women in the US use contraception during their reproductive life-span , and that the majority of Americans support access to family planning services, the Republican Right has regarded birth control as an issue on which they can undermine their political opponents.

One speaker at the Democrats’ National Convention earlier this month, Sandra Fluke, a student, told the audience that she had been objected to by Republicans when she wished to testify in favour of contraception at Congressional hearings against “Obamacare” .

When she refused to go quietly and went public instead, the issue became a national one, accelerated when Right-wing  shock jockey Rush Limbaugh, for some on the far Right a figure of authority, smeared her as a “prostitute” and a “slut”

He declared,

“ If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

As sponsors of his show quickly fell away, he offered an apology saying that he “chose the wrong words”

 Ms Fluke rejected his apology as “dubious and inadequate”.

She added that his comments  were” an attempt to silence me, to silence the millions of women and the men who support them who have been speaking out about this issue and conveying that contraception is an important healthcare need that has to be met in an affordable, accessible way.”

Foster Freiss, billionaire backer of unsuccessful Republican presidential contender, Rick Santorum , recalled a homespun birth control method thus : You know, back in my days, the gals used aspirin for contraceptives. They put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Outside the seat of government in Washington, the Republicans have found much more success at state level for their ideological zeal against women’s rights.

The American National Organisation for Women reports :

“In state houses it's been even worse. 1100 bills were introduced in 2011 restricting access to contraception and abortion services and another 900 this year. Eight states have taken action to defund Planned Parenthood ( a family planning service ) , 35 states now require counselling on the psychological consequences of having an abortion, 26 states have a 24 hour waiting period, 11 states mandate foetal pain counselling and eight states require an ultrasound.”

Republicans such as failed Presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann have attempted to recast the meaning of the phrase “ pro-choice “

Ms. Bachmann declared herself to be pro-choice….where pro-choice means to be against Obama’s health care law.

In a TV interview she said,

“What we want is women to be able to make their own choices.

 “We want women to make their own choices in healthcare.

 “You see that’s the lie that happens under Obamacare.  

“The President of the United States effectively becomes a health care dictator.  

“Women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care.  

“We want women to have their own choices, their own money, that way they can make their own choices for the future of their own bodies.”

Dismissing Michelle Bachmann’s distortion of the meaning of “pro-choice” , what of the Republican women who are in the true sense of the word “pro-choice”?

Ann Stone is the head of a group called Republicans for Choice

Interviewed by CNN at the Republican Convention last month she said,

“Republicans are for getting government out of the board room, so they should be for getting the government out of the bedroom.

 “If we really, truly believe in individual rights, this is a position that is totally antithetical to everything else the Republican Party stands for.”



If women are to achieve equality with men they require contraception that is widely available, reliable and economical.

This grants them control over reproduction which in turn gives them more opportunity of financial and economic independence.

Unintended pregnancies can best be prevented by easy access to contraception and not by the fear of moral damnation and unnecessary medical procedures that accompanies legislation to restrict women’s abortion rights.

Back to Ann Stone of the organisation Republicans for Choice for the final word.

CNN noted :

“ Unlike in prior years, Ann Stone did not have to attend this year’s Republican convention with a bodyguard.

‘That’s one of the ways I measure our progress,’ she says.”


 

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