When we last checked in on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, he was playing down his problems with women voters and boasting of his strong support among men. Somebody must have read his poll numbers a little more closely, because on Tuesday Walker came out with an ad that brazenly lies about his stance on abortion.
The guy who signed anti-choice legislation mandating an ultrasound and sharply regulating clinics looked straight into a camera and said he did it “to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options.” That’s not all. Walker had the audacity to claim, “The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”
But Walker wasn’t alone in trying to cut and run on his women’s rights stands this week. In Tuesday night debates, GOP Senate hopefuls Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, like Walker, shamelessly misrepresented their positions as well.
Gardner, Walker and Tillis tried to model three different approaches to hiding their awful records on women’s rights: the cool, the creepy and the clueless.
Gardner’s been the cool one. You’ll recall he decided he backs over the counter birth control pills, so they’re available for all you swingin’ ladies “round the clock” (though as I’ve observed before, birth control isn’t like Viagra or condoms, and picking up a last minute pack at the 24 hour Walgreens won’t prevent pregnancy.) Gardner did even better at his debate with Sen. Mark Udall, bragging that when television ads claimed he wanted to limit birth control, his wife said, “Didn’t you used to pick up my prescription?” Cool guy, always helping the ladies get it on.
Walker is just plain creepy. In his new ad, the dull-eyed governor looks into the camera and tries to feign concern for women who are seeking abortion. It’s a contrast with the way he glibly dismissed imposing the ultrasound requirement last year, telling reporters, “I don’t have any problem with ultrasound. I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.”
Of course Walker’s not talking about a medically necessary, jelly-on-the-belly ultrasound that most people welcome to either diagnose disease or check on the health of a fetus. This is at best a coercive procedure and at worst, requires a transvaginal wand, in the case of early-term abortion. (Perhaps Walker should mandate that men seeking Viagra undergo a trans-urethral ultrasound.)
Then there’s clueless Thom Tillis, who presided over a radical retrenchment of women’s rights and voting rights in North Carolina’s GOP legislature. Now Tillis, like Gardner, is hyping his support for over-the-counter access to birth control pills and dissembling over his opposition to pay equity legislation. At their first debate, Tillis tried mansplaining the issue to Hagan, and that backfired. So on Tuesday he claimed he believed women deserved “the same pay as men,” but insisted “let’s enforce the laws on the books.” He called pay equity legislation a “campaign gimmick.”
Hagan shot back: “Speaker Tillis, I think you need to read reports. Women in North Carolina earn 82 cents on the dollar. I didn’t raise my two daughters to think they were worth 82 cents on the dollar.”
Gardner has also tried to back away from a personhood measure on the Colorado ballot, insisting he doesn’t support limits on contraception. Yet he’s still listed as a co-sponsor of House Personhood legislation. His explanation: It’s “simply a statement that I support life.” And he wouldn’t promise not to support Senate Personhood legislation if he defeats Udall.
It’s easy to see why Walker, Gardner and Tillis are trying to run from their records: They are being crushed by their opponents among women voters. But will it work? So far, Gardner’s contraception ads haven’t done the trick. “We’ve polled pretty extensively about whether people are persuaded by these ads, and Gardner has a problem,” a Democratic operative told Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. “The problem is that 40 percent of women don’t believe him.”
All three races are going to come down to turnout, and the men may yet pull it out, in a midterm year when Democrats are less likely to vote than Republicans. Still, the fact that all three feel they have to cover up their awful women’s rights records show they’re worried. But whether cool, creepy or clueless, these misleading last minute pitches aren’t likely to fool women.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, October 8, 2014
It’s time to call bullshit on the GOP’s embrace of over-the-counter birth control. Several Republican candidates, under fire for radical positions on women’s health, have recently adopted the idea in a naked attempt to woo female voters. These politicians say they’re all in favor of access to contraception. But sudden calls for the pill to be available without a prescription do not signal a real shift in conservative attitudes toward reproductive rights. They simply mask tired opposition to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurers cover birth control.
The list of Republicans that have endorsed the idea includes Senate nominees Cory Gardner (Colorado), Tom Tillis (North Carolina), Ed Gillespie (Virginia) and Mike McFadden (Minnesota). Republicans running for the House have also spoken up for over-the-counter access.
None of these people were championing the proposal before their campaigns. Instead, they were working to limit women’s access to abortion and other healthcare. Gardner, who started the over-the-counter trend in June with an op-ed in The Denver Post, has campaigned for “personhood” measures that would outlaw abortion and possibly some forms of birth control since at least 2006. Early in his campaign Gardner denounced the state-level personhood legislation he’d supported—yet he’s still a co-sponsor on a federal bill that would have the same impact. Gardner has resorted to claiming that bill doesn’t exist.
Then there’s Tom Tillis, who endorsed over-the-counter birth control during a debate with Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in September. As the top Republican in the state House, Tillis shepherded extreme anti-choice legislation in a decisively dishonest manner, inserting restrictions into unrelated bills like one ostensibly about motorcycle safety. Tillis, like other Republicans trumpeting their support for over-the-counter contraception, opposes not only the ACA’s birth control mandate but the healthcare law in general, which has a range of other benefits for women.
The latest candidate to pivot to contraception when confronted about her record is Joni Ernst, a Senate hopeful in Iowa who supports a personhood amendment as well as criminal prosecution of doctors who provide abortions. “When it does come to a woman’s access to contraception, I will always stand with our women on affordable access to contraception,” she said. Her campaign did not respond to a request to clarify which specific policies she supports that would increase affordability and accessibility.
In case anyone is confused: while affordable contraception does dramatically reduce rates of unintended pregnancy, it does not solve the problems created by cutting off women’s access to abortion services. In fact, attempts to block abortion access—for example, by cutting funds for clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide a range of services besides abortion—can have the perverse effect of making it more difficult for women to get other healthcare, birth control included.
Nor is making contraception available without a prescription an alternative to the birth control mandate (or, needless to say, the entire healthcare law). Over-the-counter birth control has support from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a point that several Republican candidates have pointed out when their motives were questioned. Yet the same medical association is quite clear that women still need insurance coverage for contraception. Not all women can or want to take the pill, and other forms of birth control like the IUD are expensive and require a doctor’s appointment. In June, ACOG warned politicians against using calls for over-the-counter contraception “as a political tool.”
That Republicans need such a tool to alter their reputation among women is obvious. Young women are the key demographic in many midterm battlegrounds, and according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted in July and August, they prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress by a fourteen-point margin. (Men, on the other hand, favor Republicans by seventeen points.)
But why over-the-counter birth control, specifically? It’s a win-win-win for Republicans trying to appeal to female voters, while bashing Obamacare and boosting their free-market street cred. Candidates can say they support access to contraption while celebrating a “market-based approach to medicine,” as the editorial board of National Review described it recently. The editors commended Republicans for “running…to get government out of the birth-control business as much as possible, and to free up access to it for the women who want it.”
To understand why this sudden embrace of “access” is a racket, and a dangerous one, consider Kevin Williamson, National Review’s self-described “roving correspondent.” In a recent post titled “Five Reasons Why You’re Too Dumb to Vote,” Williamson characterizes women who care about preserving access to abortion or the birth control mandate as “women who cannot figure out how to walk into Walgreens, lay down the price of a latte, and walk out with her own birth-control pills, no federal intervention necessary.” He goes on to applaud the editorial board’s endorsement of the over-the-counter birth control fad.
A few days later, Williamson declared that women who have abortions should be hanged. “I’m torn on capital punishment generally; but treating abortion as homicide means what it means,” he said on Twitter. To be clear: what “pro-life” Williamson is arguing for is putting one in every three women in the United States to death.
“Democrats are not resisting the GOP’s suggestion because of any quibbles with its policy substance,” National Review said in response to suggestions that the GOP’s embrace of over-the-counter birth control smacks of opportunism. “They hem and haw because they want to continue to depict Republicans as intent on keeping contraceptives away from women.”
It doesn’t matter what Republicans are or aren’t intent on. The bottom line is that a variety of conservative positions, from opposition to the ACA to federal funding for women’s clinics, have had or would have the very real effect of making it more difficult for women to access healthcare in general and contraceptives specifically.
Furthermore, contraception is hardly the sum of women’s medical needs. When conservatives fight to empower women to make decisions about their own bodies in all cases, regardless of income, then maybe we’ll take them seriously. In the meantime, there’s little of substance in an ideology that promotes birth control without a prescription for some women and hanging for others.
By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, October 3, 2014
The hot new trend among Republican candidates is a surprising one, to say the least. As of now there are four GOP Senate contenders who have endorsed making birth control pills available over the counter.
All four — Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Ed Gillespie in Virginia, and Mike McFadden in Minnesota — oppose abortion rights, and all four oppose the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance policies pay for preventative care, including birth control, with no deductibles or co-pays. Yet these conservative Republicans are touting their deep commitment to easily available birth control. It’s likely that more Republicans will now be asked their position on OTC birth control, and some will embrace it to counter Dem criticism that they’re soldiers in a “war on women.”
The one who has advocated OTC birth control pills most aggressively is Gardner, in large part because he has been the target of relentless criticism from Democrats over his prior support of “personhood” measures granting full legal status to fertilized eggs, which would outlaw not only abortion but some forms of birth control as well. Here’s an ad in which Gardner practically pretends to be Gloria Steinem while a group of women nod and smile their approval.
Democrats telegraphed way back in April that they would make these attacks central in multiple Senate races. The fact that Republicans have come up with this new push-back suggests the Dem attacks may have been working.
The new-found embrace of OTC birth control pills might seem odd, even bizarre. But it makes more sense if you think about it as a fundamentally elitist position. The truth is that conservatives have long been much more concerned with restricting the reproductive choices available to poor and middle class women, while leaving wealthy women free to do pretty much as they please. And allowing birth control pills to be sold over the counter is perfectly in line with that history.
Let’s be clear that making birth control pills available over the counter would be a good thing — but only if insurance continued to pay for it. The cost of the pill can be as much as $600 a year, which is out of reach for many women. And we know that insurance companies seldom reimburse customers for OTC medications. The price of the medication might come down over time if it were sold over the counter, but in the meantime millions of women are dependent on their insurance plans to be able to afford it. By opposing the ACA, all these GOP candidates are putting themselves on record in opposition to requiring insurance companies to pay for any birth control in policies women themselves have bought. And that’s not to mention other forms of contraception, like IUDs, that require a doctor’s care and come with a significant up-front cost.
If you’re well-off, you can afford whatever kind of contraception you like whether your insurance company reimburses for it or not. And abortion restrictions don’t impose much of a burden on you either. The federal government bans Medicaid from paying for abortions, but that only affects poor women. A law mandating a 48-hour waiting period before getting an abortion may be an inconvenience for a wealthy woman, but it can make it all but impossible for a woman without means. In some states, it means taking (unpaid) time off work to travel to one of the state’s few abortion clinics, driving hundreds of miles, and paying for a hotel room.
While they’re going to use a lot of buzzwords like “access” and “choice,” the net effect of the policies these candidates are advocating would be to make birth control less available to women. And I think that’s why we haven’t seen any public blowback from the Christian right on this issue. The articles written about the new Republican enthusiasm for OTC birth control sometimes include a disapproving quote from a representative of the Catholic Church. But none of the bevy of organizations with the word “Family” in their name, which are so vehemently opposed to any kind of reproductive freedom for women, are loudly condemning these candidates. Nor are any of their Republican colleagues. So what does that tell you?
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 8, 2014
“The Profound Depth Of Religious And Male Norms”: The Supreme Court Ruled In Favor Of Patriarchy, Not Democracy
On Monday morning, the Supreme Court delivered a severe blow to women in the United States when it ruled that “closely-held” corporations, such as Hobby Lobby, can refuse to provide insurance coverage for birth control based on owners’ religious beliefs. Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor partially joined Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in a 35-page dissent against the majority decision of the five conservative, male justices.
That the Court ruled this way should surprise no one. What should surprise, however, is the continued expectation that we overlook patriarchal religious fundamentalism, its collusion with constitutional “originalism” and its discriminatory expression in our political system.
Most analyses of this case will parse the law and, in doing so, make no challenges to two fundamental assumptions: 1) that the law and the Court are both “neutral” to begin with and 2) that we should not question the closely held religious beliefs of judges and politicians, even when those beliefs discriminate openly against women. This is a judgment. And judgments come from norms. And norms are based on people’s preferences. The Court is made up of people who have beliefs, implicitly or explicitly expressed.
In the practice of many religions, girls’ and women’s relationship to the divine are mediated, in strictly binary terms, by men: their speech, their ways of being and their judgments. Women’s behavior, especially sexual, is policed in ways that consolidate male power. It is impossible to be, in this particular case, a conservative Christian, without accepting and perpetuating the subordination of women to male rule. It is also blatant in “official” Catholicism, Mormonism, Evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Judaism and Islam.
The fundamental psychology of these ideas, of religious male governance, does not exist in a silo, isolated from family structures, public life or political organization. It certainly does not exist separately from our Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia, for example, makes no bones about his conscientious commitment to conservative Catholic ideals in his personal life and the seriousness of their impact on his work as a judge. There are many Catholics who reject these views, but he is not among them. These beliefs include those having to do with non-procreational sex, women’s roles, reproduction, sexuality, birth control and abortion. The fact that Scalia may be brilliant, and may have convinced himself that his opinions are a matter of reason and not faith, is irrelevant.
What is not irrelevant is that we are supposed to hold in abeyance any substantive concerns about the role that these beliefs, and their expression in our law, play in the distribution of justice and rights. They are centrally and critically important to women’s freedom, and we ignore this fact at our continued peril.
Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women will use birth control at some point in their lives. The Court’s decision displays the profound depth of patriarchal norms that deny women autonomy and the right to control our own reproduction—norms that privilege people’s “religious consciences” over women’s choices about our own bodies, the welfare of our families, our financial security and our equal right to freedom from the imposition of our employers’ religious beliefs. What this court just did was, once again, make women’s bodies, needs and experiences “exceptions” to normatively male ones. This religious qualifier was narrowly construed to address just this belief and not others, such as prohibitions on vaccines or transfusions. It is not a coincidence that all three female members of the Court and only one man of six dissented from this opinion.
While there are hundreds of bills and laws regulating women’s rights to control their own reproduction, I’m not aware, after much looking, of any that similarly constrain men or tax them unduly for their decisions. As a matter of fact, we live in a country where more than half of our states give rapists the right to sue for custody of children born of their raping and forcible insemination of women. Insurance coverage continues to include medical services and products that help men control their reproduction and enhance their sexual lives.
As Ginsburg outlined in her dissent, the costs that this decision will accrue to women are substantive. The argument that employers shouldn’t pay for things they don’t believe in is vacuous. Insurance benefits are part of compensation. Even if you reject that notion, it is clear that we all pay for things we don’t like or believe in through our taxes and, for employers, through insurance. That’s how insurance and taxes work—except when it comes to women and their bodies. That’s sexism.
That we live with patriarchy is evident. That this dominance is and always has been the opposite of democracy is not to most people. SCOTUS’ decision is shameful for its segregation of women’s health issues and its denial that what should be valued as “closely held” in our society is a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions. American women’s equality continues to be undermined by the privileging of religion in public discourse.
By: Soraya Chemaly, Time, June 30, 2014
“The Majority Has Ventured Into A Minefield”: Here Are The Highlights Of Justice Ginsburg’s Fiery Hobby Lobby Dissent
On Monday morning, the Supreme Court finally released its much-anticipated decision on the Hobby Lobby case, a decision that lived up to expectations by being split along ideological lines (the court’s five conservatives overruling its four liberals) and severely weakening Obamacare’s birth control mandate.
Also living up to expectations? Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s blistering dissent, which excoriated the court’s majority for its ruling, describing it as a “radical” decision “of startling breadth” that would have chaotic and major unintended consequences. You can read her dissent in full here (it starts at page 60) but we’ve also compiled some of its best, key parts.
Ginsburg opens with a bang, immediately describing the decision as one that will have sweeping consequences:
In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
She frames the decision as one that denies women access to healthcare, rather than as one that upholds religious liberty:
The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.
In a similar vein, she rejects that the birth control mandate should be seen as an act of government coercion, describing it instead as one that provides women with the ability to make their own choice:
Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.
She affirms her belief that religious organizations and for-profit corporations serve fundamentally different purposes and have fundamentally different rights (and throws some shade at the majority in the process):
Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. … The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.
She claims that the majority has actually undermined the very principle, religious freedom, it claimed in its ruling to have upheld:
Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.
She writes that the majority has pushed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act past its original intent:
In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent.
By: Elias Isquith, Salon, June 30, 2014