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War on Women

October 25, 2012

Women in the United States face the real possibility of losing much of what we have gained over the past thirty years if the Republicans win our upcoming elections.  The most dramatic threats are to reproductive and health options, but our economic possibilities are also likely to be diminished.  Ideas that were once only held by a radical fringe have become mainstream in the Republican Party.  Ironically, those who advocate small government also want more governmental control over women.   Despite his attempts to appear more moderate in recent days, Mitt Romney is fully supportive of policies advocated by the “radical right,” and he picked for his vice-presidential partner, Paul Ryan, a strong advocate of restrictions on women’s choices and of budget cuts that fall disproportionally on women.

Abortion has long been hotly debated, but legal in this country.  What is new is the attempt since the Republican victories, at the state and Congressional level in 2010, to enact over a hundred policies to restrict its practice.  Some of these are truly creative, like health restrictions that would close all clinics where abortions can be performed and invasive, expensive vaginal probes of all women seeking abortions.

The greatest threat to the availability of abortion is that if Romney is elected he will appoint a Supreme Court justice who would shift the balance of the Court and reverse the decision that made abortion legal.  Since several of the current justices are over seventy, the next president will probably have this opportunity.  Romney would clearly take this step.  The only debate among Republicans is whether there should be any exceptions to a total ban on abortions or whether they should be allowed for women impregnated by rape or to protect the health of the mother.  Men in and running for Congress have offered reasons why no exceptions should be allowed.  One claims that women’s health is no longer at risk during pregnancy and childbirth.  Another presented legislation, co-sponsored by Paul Ryan, redefining rape because in a real, “legitimate” rape the woman’s body is able to protect itself against impregnation.  If you get pregnant, it wasn’t really rape.

But attacks on the availability of abortion are only the tip of the iceberg.  There is a larger attack on birth control.  There is a movement, supported by Romney and advocated by Ryan, to claim that a fetus becomes a human being with all legal rights to life, liberty, and property at the moment of conception.  If codified in law or constitutional amendment, this would make the contraceptive pill no longer legal.  Other efforts focus on making contraception less available and more expensive for women by allowing employers to determine whether or not female employees can get birth control through their health insurance.  When a Congressional committee convened to consider this issue, only men were initially asked to testify. (Most medical expenses in this country are paid for through private, employer-paid insurance.  Republicans strongly oppose changes to this practice.)  Women’s overall health care is also at risk from Republicans who oppose abortion and birth control.  Major efforts are being made to shut down clinics where women can get regular health checkups for cancer because they also provide birth control and, more rarely, help in getting abortions.  For women with few financial resources this is often the only possibility for any health care.

Withdrawal of reproductive choices will have a drastic impact on women’s ability to work and support themselves and their families.  Other Republican policies will also take a toll.  Romney and Ryan and other Republicans have specifically opposed equal pay for equal work legislation, such as that passed by Obama and the Democrats at the start of his term.  Women are also disproportionally among those who lost jobs as teachers, social workers and clerical workers with Republican efforts to shrink government employment.  They are also the ones most likely to be hurt by the radical attempts to destroy the present health and retirement assistance provided by Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.  As mothers, women also face threats to their own hope of educational advancement and that of their children.

I have many fears about the future of my country if Romney and the Republicans gain control of our government.  I believe they can and will destroy the global economy and environment.  But it is their attacks on the gains that women have worked hard to achieve over the past forty years that remind me that our personal lives remain vulnerable to the political leaders who may have no knowledge of or interest in protecting them.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2012 12:15 pm

    Ryan’s comments about rape and pregnancy were met with utter incomprehension on this side of the Atlantic, where, if not as directly effected, we are, nevertheless, concerned about the outcome of the Presidential race. Perhaps the only good thing that might come out of such extreme views is that those moderates who are as yet undecided will be swayed the other way. One thing that is very clear, both in respect of your country’s situation and our own current investigations into the way in which women who have been abused by men in positions of power over many decades but gone unheard or disbelieved is that those men are scared of women’s potential to unseat them and will combat it in whatever way they can.

    • October 26, 2012 9:40 am

      Thanks for commiserating with me. I can’t believe it either. I hope you are right about moderates seeing the dangers. Yes, the conservative men are scared, but what can we do to protect ourselves?

  2. October 25, 2012 11:35 pm

    I too am so frightened for this country if Romney should win. It is also utterly incomprehensible to me that so many women could actually vote for someone like him.

    • October 26, 2012 9:42 am

      I agree. I think some women think that none of this can ever affect them, but that is naive.

  3. October 28, 2012 2:13 pm

    Thank you for this post Marilyn, I cannot agree with you more and I do not understand why women are not loudly up in arms about the possible future of our right to manage our own bodies. Women will seek to terminate pregnancies whether the procedure is legal, and safe, or not. I feel that abortion is an easy target, a polarizing issue, something fundamentalist, dominion-ist conservatives can rally people around, when really they are working to not only take away a woman’s right to choose, but to completely surpress women and all minorities in general.

    • October 29, 2012 10:17 am

      Yes. Women will seek abortion, and more will die if they are illegal. I can understand moral opposition to abortion, but not making it illegal for others. and what is happening now goes far beyond opposition to abortion. Perhaps some women can think that they are so good and so safe none of this will touch them or their daughters. These are the only the problem of “bad” women, but none of us is free from the hatred directed to women, especially those women who have gained some power. Just think what the hatred would be like of Hillary had been elected.

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