When the propaganda arm of the Republican party admits that there is a war on women voters, it’s time to accept that the recent attacks on women’s rights are not coincidental, that they are, in fact, an orchestrated political strategy. Sally Kohn of Fox News writes,
While women voters might rather focus on jobs and the economy, watching Republicans jeopardize women’s health and reproductive freedom while slandering those who try and stand in their way is enough to make women demand not only good jobs and fair pay but political leaders who respect the liberty and rights of women in America.
President Obama’s campaign may be paying for fliers and advertisements to attract women voters, but in this regard, Republicans are giving him the kind of help that money can’t buy.
Now, to be fair, Kohn does seem to be a token liberal. She’s openly gay and was hired as part of Fox’s new “kinder, gentler” approach. And of course, Kohn doesn’t speak for the talking heads at Fox News. Bill O’Reilly, for example, denies that there is a war on women, going as far as to say, “It’s not about women,” much to the dismay of even one of his own correspondents. According to O’Reilly and his radio counterpart, Rush Limbaugh, the war on women isn’t because of Republican actions, it’s a Democratic conspiracy.
Well, now that we can all acknowledge that there’s a war on women, who fired the first shot?
Kohn jokingly said that it goes as far back as Adam and Eve, but more recently, she said, it started in February of 2011, when Republicans brought Planned Parenthood into the spotlight with their campaign to cut off all federal spending, even though abortion is just 3% of their services and is not covered by tax money. That wasn’t the only assault on women’s issues in 2011, more on that in a bit.
I’d agree with that timing, but I would argue that the war began in earnest with the Presidential campaign of Herman Cain, who was confronted with multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Cain tried, with a moderate amount of success, to turn it into an asset, blaming the victims and attempting to blame a system which “subjectively” defines sexual harassment. Of course, the reality of sexual harassment is that it’s not subjective. Victims have to jump through multiple hoops, risk their careers and reputations as well as having to prove actual harm. While some men might have been figuratively giving Cain an “attaboy,” he quickly lost his support among women and soon after, dropped out of the race.
One might think that Cain would have been a cautionary tale for Republicans. Women represent more than half voters in the United States. Women are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. The surest way to guarantee a Democratic win is to engage women to vote. The surest way to engage women is to make women’s issues front and center in an election year. With that logic, you’d almost think that O’Reilly is correct, that it is a Democratic plot. He is correct that Democrats are talking about it, but his argument ignores one indisputable fact, the GOP legislative record.
The Guttmacher Institute found that in 2011, “1,100 reproductive and health rights-related provisions” were introduced by state legislators. They included abortion waiting periods, ultrasounds, insurance restrictions, clinic regulations and all out bans. They also attempted to cut funding for family planning (birth control), requiring abstinence only education.
Of the 1,100 provisions, 92 abortion restrictions were enacted in mostly 24 states, breaking the previous 2005 record of 34. We’re only half way into March of 2012, and it looks like we’ll shatter even that record.
Last year, the war focused on abortion, an issue that women care about, but not as much as one might think. In fact, there is barely a gender divide at all when it comes to abortion rights. This year, however, Republicans have gone all-in, beginning with an attack on the mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act that requires that birth control be covered by all employers with the exception of strictly religious institutions, such as churches.
The Republican party, led by the Catholic Church, was apoplectic at the idea that they would be forced to be supportive of the fact that hospital or school employees have non-reproductive sex. Of course, they are fine with the fact that their insurance covers Viagra, but you know, that’s about men.
Since the birth control issue, the flood gates have opened. A bill in Arizona would enable employers to force women to prove that their birth control was used for something other than birth control. States are requiring that a probe be inserted into a woman’s vagina before she is allowed an abortion. Now, male Republican Senators are arguing against funding to protect women from violence, a bill which typically has near-unanimous support.
All of this leaves me scratching my head. What is their end-game? What do Republicans hope to achieve by alienating 51% of the voters? More importantly, what do they hope to achieve by driving women to vote for Democrats? Short of taking us back to the suffragette days, before women could vote (I’m sure someone will introduce a bill), their constant attacks on women’s rights seems to be a losing issue.
It’s clear that Republicans aren’t gaining traction on economic issues. The three GOP Presidential candidates offer no solutions. Instead, they are attempting to appeal to the base of the Republican party by harkening back to a time when men didn’t have to compete with women for jobs, because if birth control did one thing, it enabled women to have careers, something unheard of before reproductive choice. Maybe that is the Republican jobs plan, to take women out of the job market. Perhaps it’s not about getting women to the polls, it’s about disenfranchised men, men who are about as thrilled with the idea of voting for Mitt Romney as they are about cleaning the gutters. Then again, perhaps it’s simply really poor political judgement.
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