(Originally presented to the nonprofit WELL — Women Empowered and Loving Life)
There has been much play in the media lately about a Republican Party “war on women.” The first point of dispute is whether there really is a “war on women.” Some media outlets claim this is just Democratic Party hype to win the female vote in the election this fall. Others say the war is really happening. Some WELL members may already be well informed about this issue and may or may not choose to read on. But for the young women in my audience who have not been particularly interested in politics, I ask you especially to read on, because whether or not you find politics interesting, the choices you will or will not have in your everyday life next year and the year after are being determined right now.
First, don’t believe the doubters. There is a war on women and it is being driven by the Republican Party. I have been paying attention to politics all of my life, and women’s rights are being more hotly contested right now than at any time since the 1970s. The Republican Party has been hijacked by right-wing extremists who are highly energized to roll back rights that women have taken for granted for the past 40 years. Just take a look at the chart below for a sample of what’s happened in the past year alone.
And this is not the end of it. Just recently (March 14, 2012), the Mississippi State House passed a law that would (1) require doctors to perform an invasive transvaginal ultrasound on abortion seekers, (2) prohibit the abortion if a heartbeat is present, (3) allow an exemption for rape only if the woman can prove she was raped, and (4) define life as beginning at conception, basically giving the state final control over every pregnant woman’s body. Right now inTennessee, a Republican-sponsored bill moving through the House mandates publishing the names of each doctor who performs an abortion and detailed statistics about the woman having the procedure. It’s almost as if these Republican legislators are saying, “A woman’s decision about abortion is not painful enough already; we’re going to mandate an array of invasive intra-vaginal procedures that are medically unnecessary, shame her privately and publicly, and make sure that she carries emotional scars for the rest of her life.”
Even if you’re not political, even if you think you may never have to make a painful choice about abortion yourself, you may wake up next year and suddenly find that you have no option for contraception coverage in your insurance, and that your local family planning center can’t screen for breast cancer or give Pap smears because it has been defunded by the government. These are not political abstractions; they are things that the Republican Party is publicly calling for all around the country on a daily basis right now. It’s the worst I’ve seen since the 70s. And don’t believe anyone who says both parties are just as bad. Neither party is perfect, but Republican politicians are overwhelmingly trying to roll back women’s rights and Democrats trying to hold the line on women’s rights. The most important woman in the country right now when it comes to ensuring that women’s issues get fair play in the fall elections is Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Google “DNC Women’s Institute” to get on her mailing list.
Finally, don’t fall for those who would cast this as a “men vs. women” issue. When women and progressive men stand together, we make a strong majority of voters. Those who are against women’s rights would like nothing better than to drive a wedge between women and progressive men. The real fault line is much more accurately Republican vs. Democrat, with a large majority of male and female Democrats in favor of maintaining women’s hard-earned rights, and a majority of Republicans trying to chip those rights away in every legislature.
You don’t have to listen for more than a few minutes to President Obama’s Republican challengers to get this. Romney, Gingrich, Santorum are falling all over themselves to prove they would be the first to do away with Planned Parenthood (even though 97% of its health services are not abortion-related), the first to mandate the most humiliating procedures for any woman seeking an abortion, the first to support any business who wants to cut birth control pills from their insurance. Sign up with Debbie Wasserman Schulz. This is a crucial time to promote and vote for President Obama and the Democrats.