Why should women vote for a party that’s actively working against their needs and interests?
On Monday, the GOP released a report detailing its “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a new initiative that explores reasons for the party’s November defeat and posits strategies for winning future elections. If it wasn’t evident before, it is now abundantly clear that the Republican establishment officially attributes its November loss to a failure in style, not substance. The 100-page report details the party’s inability to effectively communicate its policies and priorities to women, immigrants, young people, and people of color. It largely ignores the possibility that what motivated the majority of American voters, and in particular women, to give President Obama a second term was an aversion to the GOP’s outdated vision for the nation.
Acknowledging that Obama won the single women’s vote by a “whopping 36 percent,” the report’s authors suggest ways the party can be more inclusive of this critical voting bloc: Making a better effort to listen to female voters; fighting against the Democratic rhetoric against the “so-called War on Women”; doing a better job communicating the GOP’s policies and employing female spokespeople to do it; and using Women’s History Month to “remind voters of the Republican’s Party historical role in advancing the women’s rights movement.”
I’m glad they specified “historical” role in advancing the women’s rights movement, given that their current role seems squarely focused on rolling back women’s rights. It’s encouraging that GOP strategists in Washington want to spend more time listening to women voters, but there is no indication that Republican lawmakers will respond to that feedback. As Rachel Maddow said on her program this week, while Beltway leaders are “preaching about how to appear more reasonable to the womenfolk among us,” Republican governance has become a competition – a race – “to see who can get the most extreme the fastest.”
And a race it is.
This week Andrew Jenkins of RH Reality Check reported on some of the most recent Republican efforts to chip away at women’s access to care:
Arkansas just passed a bill banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, while South Dakota just passed a bill to expand its 72-hour waiting period, which was already one of the longest in the country, in a state with only one abortion clinic. The North Dakota Senate just approved a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the most restrictive in the country. And in Kansas, a state House committee just passed a 70-page bill that defines life at fertilization and requires that physicians lie to their patients.
That’s not all.
Republicans in Texas remain hard at work leading national efforts in steamrolling access to women’s health care. Previous budget cuts and funding restrictions have already closed more than 50 clinics and are making it more difficult, if not impossible, for nearly 200,000 women to access care. Last week the Texas Senate Education Committee moved a bill forward that would ban Planned Parenthood and other organizations from providing sexuality education in schools, and the governor recently promised to advance a 20-week abortion ban.
In Wisconsin, four Planned Parenthood clinics closed as a result of a GOP-led ban that prevents the organization and other clinics from receiving state funds. In Oklahoma, a major Planned Parenthood facility closed after the state’s department of health cut off funding through the WIC program, forcing low-income women to go elsewhere to obtain vouchers for themselves and their children. Last month, Republicans in Michigan introduced a bill that would require women to get a vaginal ultrasound at least two hours before obtaining an abortion.
Mississippi is about to close its only abortion clinic thanks to a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital (and local hospitals’ refusal to grant those privileges) – a move the Republican governor has applauded as being the first step in ending abortion in that state. Earlier this year, a Republican (female!) representative in New Mexico proposed legislation that would have allowed for women who terminated pregnancies resulting from rape to be charged with a felony for tampering with evidence. (She promptly rescinded and then proposed a new bill that would instead charge abortion providers with facilitating the destruction of evidence.)
The new GOP report also suggested that Republicans “talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics.” In releasing his 2014 budget proposal last week, Paul Ryan certainly provided an interesting perspective into how the GOP proposes taking care of women and families. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Ryan budget includes significant reductions for “childcare and Head Start, K-12 education and Pell grants, job training, civil rights enforcement, women’s preventive health care, domestic violence prevention and more.” It would dismantle Medicaid, Medicare, and the food stamp program. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), denying nearly 15 million women access to affordable health insurance and Medicaid and forcing women to pay more for prescription drugs, including family planning. As NWLC pointed out, repealing the ACA would “allow insurance companies to continue charging women higher premiums than men, deny coverage to women with so-called pre-existing conditions like domestic violence, and refuse to cover maternity care.”
The ACA is certainly providing fertile ground for GOP lawmakers to show how much they care about women. Twenty states now restrict abortion coverage in health insurance plans that will be offered through the insurance exchanges, and 18 states restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees. Nearly all of those states are Republican-led. Additionally, 14 Republican governors have reported they will not participate in the Medicaid expansion programs that are a critical part of the ACA, denying access to a broad range of health services to millions of women.
On top of all this, 22 Republican senators and 138 Republican members of the House voted last month against the Violence Against Women Act, a critical piece of legislation that provides assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence.
In their report, the GOP strategists recommended developing training programs in messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. “Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them,” they state. Given the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, the GOP will be hard-pressed to convince women the party is fighting for them. It’s patronizing to think that using different language, new messaging, and female spokespersons will convince women to support a party that is so clearly working against their best interests. Women are smart enough to know that a party that calls itself home to lawmakers relentlessly fighting to chip away at family planning and abortion access, food stamps, affordable health care, education, civil rights, and a social safety net providing tenuous stability to millions of marginalized individuals is not a party committed to truly understanding or addressing their priorities.
Maybe next year the GOP will make a more earnest attempt at celebrating Women’s History Month. Although, by that time, their state leaders might have alienated half the women in the country, and it will be too late.
By: Andrea Flynn, Fellow, The Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, March 20, 2013
“Gatherings Of The Faithful”: The Dominant Class Fiercely Fixed On Keeping Their Privileges And Controlling The Destinies Of Others
How different are they, really, at the end of the day or week in winter—the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Vatican Papal Conclave? They were all the talk in Washington and Rome, superpowers of politics and religion.
So how do you feel about Pope Francis and President Rand Paul, R-Ky.? Call it the March epiphany, that they will rule the world. They were voted most popular.
Here’s mine: Rome and the current Republican party would tyrannize us if they could—by us, I mean girls and women. Boys are also secretly victimized in the Vatican’s vale of tears, likely for centuries. But boys grow up; women and girls never escape the yoke.
The “conservative” Republican party and the Roman Catholic Church under the “new” Pope Francis are desperately in need of progressive reform. They are each losing their audiences outside their brittle borders because they refuse to change going forward. Everybody knows it except their gatherings of the faithful. Columnist David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, suggested Rome take a more supple and open approach, in the spirit of St. Augustine, risking vulnerability instead of clinging to tradition.
I see it through a glass darkly. Our subjugation is in fact the common denominator and real reason why each is in crisis: the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and the Republican party. At the same historical hour, they become more retrograde with each passing year. Thus loyalty is paramount. Pope Francis is firmly old guard. Moderates and reformers, in each case, are rebuked or banished until their voices are no longer heard: not even Gov. Chris Christie’s, R-N.J. bellow.
Just look at the pitiless gaze of Ted Cruz, the freshman Republican senator from the Texas Tea Party who acts like he’s the new sheriff in town. The defiant way he presumed to challenge distinguished Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passing an assault weapons ban out of the Judiciary committee shocked Washington’s socks off.
Ain’t it because she’s a woman? Sojourner’s spirit still speaks truth. Gladly, the gentle lady from San Francisco gave Cruz the dressing-down he deserved. She leaned in like nobody’s business.
In each institution, white male elders are the smoke and mirrors, the dominant class fiercely fixed on keeping their privileges and controlling our destinies. Our bodies, of course, but also our destinies, human rights and liberties. That’s the larger truth, ladies and gentlemen.
The Vatican’s official investigation into the group representing 80 percent of American nuns, as shown on CBS News “60 Minutes” yesterday, shows what I mean—that’s how Rome under stern Pope Benedict XVI treated thinking women. In the political arena, let’s face it: Republican women have no choice left. Not a single 2012 presidential candidate supported a woman’s reproductive rights. This is also a shrewd strategy to keep the march for women’s advancement frozen in place.
Moreover, the handful of women chosen to represent national or party interests resemble ventriloquist dummies, Sarah Palin most of all. Cruz introduced the darling of CPAC, who called President Obama a liar, except she didn’t say the word “President.” That’s not on, as the English say. She also insulted Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the smartest former Republican in show business. He’s the kind of bright light they need in the winter wilderness.
Inviting the Alaskan hockey mom anywhere near the White House was the most cynical choice ever made when it comes to Republican womanhood.
Just conjure Pope Francis and President Palin.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 18, 2013
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has approved a controversial package of abortion restrictions that will limit abortion access for women who live in rural areas, require doctors to prove that mentally competent women haven’t been “coerced” into their decision to have the procedure, and enact unnecessary, complicated rules for abortion clinics and providers. The governor signed HB 5711 into law on Friday despite widespread protests against the omnibus anti-abortion measure.
Snyder claims that HB 5711 “respects a woman’s right to choose while helping protect her health and safety.” But women’s health advocates warn the law will seriously threaten women’s access to the health services they need by imposing harsh regulations on abortion clinics and providers:
Critics of the Michigan law fear its insistence on new, standalone facilities will hurt women in rural and low-income areas as it could force some clinics to close. They say questioning women on whether an abortion is voluntary subjects them to a type of interrogation.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group that opposed the measure, said it could force many existing abortion providers in the state to either tear down their offices and rebuild from the ground up — or shutter their practices. [...]
“Safety was never the intention of this law. The only thing this law accomplishes is to make a difficult decision even more difficult,” said Rana Elmir, the communications director for the Michigan ACLU.
Michigan legislators were quick to capitalize on this year’s lame duck session to push through controversial abortion restrictions, potentially because five anti-choice state lawmakers lost their seats in November’s election. The majority of Michigan voters support legal access to abortion services.
By: Tara Culp-Ressler, Think Progress, December 31, 2012
“Save The Babies Or Save The Budget”: Dear Conservatives, Your Opposition To Family Planning Comes With A Huge Price Tag
Conservatives have long painted themselves as the guardians of fiscal sanity. But they have also fashioned themselves as the guardians of the innocent babies being preyed upon at Planned Parenthood. Even though abortions make up just 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides—and many clinics don’t provide them at all because of restrictions placed on the funding they receive—conservatives have long held a legislative grudge against the organization and have even broadened their contempt to other family planning clinics.
That deep-held distaste for women’s health providers led Texas lawmakers last year to slash $73 million from all of its family planning services and shift the money to other areas of the budget. This blunt instrument hit all of the state’s women’s health providers, but was meant to target Planned Parenthood and deny it taxpayer dollars—even though the clinics that received state subsidies for care never performed abortions.
This may be in line with their staunch opposition to what they see as a baby-killer, but that ideology comes with quite the price tag. News has surfaced that for the two-year period between 2014 and 2015, poor women are expected to deliver nearly 24,000 babies that they wouldn’t otherwise have had if they had access to state-subsidized birth control. Those extra births will cost taxpayers as much as $273 million, with between $103 million to $108 million of that hitting the state’s general revenue budget alone. Much of the cost comes from caring for those infants through Medicaid.
Lawmakers may not care about what this means for the lives of the low-income women who are now bearing and raising children whose births they would have otherwise prevented had they had access to contraception. But conservatives, the fiscally responsible party, are now thinking twice about the budgetary implications. The New York Times reported last week that “a bipartisan coalition is considering ways to restore some or all of those family planning dollars, as a cost-saving initiative if nothing else.” It’s not like the budget hit should come as a surprise, however. When the cuts were initially debated, an estimate was circulated that they would lead to an extra 284,000 births at a cost of $239 million. Yet the cuts passed, “a price that socially conservative legislators were willing to pay in their referendum on Planned Parenthood,” as the Times reports.
And unfortunately, the ideological battle against Planned Parenthood will not be brought to a complete cease-fire, even in the face of these stark numbers. Planned Parenthood will almost certainly be excluded from any reinstated family planning funding because of an existing ban against taxpayer money going to providers who are “affiliated” with clinics that perform abortions, even if they don’t do so themselves. While there are other women’s health providers in the state, RH Reality Check’s Andrea Grimes set out to find out whether the hundreds of listings on Texas’s website actually provide the services women need. She found that “many of them don’t provide any kind of contraceptive care, don’t take Medicaid Women’s Health Program clients, or are simply misleading duplicate listings.”
And the ones that do offer the right services likely won’t be able to meet the huge increase in demand. Grimes cites a study that found that Planned Parenthood accounted for half of the state’s women’s healthcare, serving nearly 52,000 clients. The remaining providers mostly serve ten or fewer patients. That’s just not going to cut it for all of the women who now need to find care.
Continuing to deny funding to Planned Parenthood will keep costing the state, even if other clinics see their funding reinstated. To the tune of an estimated $5.5 million to $6.6 million as a result of paying for the entire women’s health program on its own, rather than receiving the 90 percent federal matching funds, as well as paying for a higher number of births that will have to be covered by Medicaid funds.
Texas is a huge state, so its case sticks out like a sore thumb. But it’s not the only one to go after family planning services and Planned Parenthood. As the Guttmacher Institute reports, last year some states felt compelled by the federal push to ban federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood to look at whether providers in their states that use private funding for abortion should be barred from receiving state funding or, in some cases, federal Medicaid reimbursements. Currently, six states prohibit some providers from receiving family planning funds and in three the restrictions apply to those that provide abortion or are affiliated with agencies that do.
So conservative lawmakers across the country will now be faced with a choice: save the babies or save the budget. Because it’s clear that you can’t do both. Organizations that provide contraception—and, it must be said, abortions—not only do great service to the women who need to control their fertility and their lives. They do great service to taxpayers. By giving women access to contraception, publicly funded family planning organizations save us $3.74 for every dollar we spend in avoided Medicaid costs associated with unplanned births. Their services saved federal and state governments $5.1 billion in 2008.
As Texas has just found out, those aren’t imaginary numbers. They are very real. Whoever says that contraception and abortion aren’t economic issues should take a second look. They have a huge impact on women’s financial situations. But, perhaps higher on conservatives’ checklist, they have an enormous impact on the budget.
By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, December 10, 2012
State lawmakers in Michigan are using their lame-duck session to pass a bundle of bills that would significantly restrict women’s ability to access and pay for abortions in the state.
The state Senate passed three bills on Thursday that would ban abortion coverage in state-based health insurance exchanges and all private insurance plans, and another bill that would allow employers and medical professionals to refuse to cover or provide health treatment to which they morally object. State lawmakers are also expected to pass a so-called omnibus bill on Thursday that would impose prohibitive building regulations on abortion clinics and ban the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion medication.
“It feels like [state legislators] are completely tone-deaf to what Americans want in general, which is for legislators to pay attention to the economy, particularly in Michigan, and to women and their power to say, ‘This is what we want, and this is what we don’t want,’” Desiree Cooper, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, told The Huffington Post.
Senate Bills 612, 613 and 614, which passed along party lines in the State Senate on Thursday, will prevent all insurance plans in Michigan from covering abortion unless a woman would die without the procedure. The measures do not include exceptions for rape, incest or pregnancy complications that would jeopardize the mother’s health. Private insurance companies will be given the option to carry a separate abortion coverage policy that the woman would have to pay for in addition to her regular coverage.
Republicans said they support the bills because they allow people who morally object to abortion to ensure that their money doesn’t feed into a pool that pays for the procedure. Reproductive rights advocates argue that the bill is unreasonable, because insurance companies are not likely to offer that separate rider.
“It’s somewhat of a false promise,” said Meghan Groen, director of government relations for PPAM. “No insurance company currently offers a rider for abortion coverage, and no woman is going to purchase a separate rider for something she hasn’t planned. You’re talking about an unexpected pregnancy, or a fetal anomaly.”
State senators also passed a bill on Thursday by a vote of 26 to 12 that would allow employers, doctors, nurses and pharmacists to conscientiously object to providing or paying for certain medical services, including birth control and abortion. Senate Republicans argued that the bill protects religious freedom. The Detroit Free Press reports that one Republican doctor, state Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw), broke with his party to oppose the bill.
“I don’t know how this doesn’t violate the oath I took, when I promised to resuscitate someone with TB or treat someone with AIDS,” he said.
The House is expected to consider those bills next week. In the meantime, it is expected to pass an omnibus bill that would further restrict abortion access. House Bill 5711 would regulate abortion clinics as surgical centers by imposing strict physical building requirements on them, such as minimum doorway sizes and minimum square footage. The regulations could effectively shut down some clinics in the state.
The omnibus bill also includes a provision that ends telemedicine abortions, which are commonly used by women in rural and medically under-served areas of the state. According the Groen, 21 out of 83 counties in Michigan have no local OBGYN, so telemedicine allows doctors to prescribe medication abortions to women in early stages of their pregnancies through a phone or internet consultation. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) recently signed a bill that expands the use of telemedicine in other areas of health care.
State Sen. Coleman Young II (D-Detroit) sharply criticized his Republican colleagues on Thursday for pushing forward with the anti-abortion agenda. “Get the government from underneath women’s clothes,” he said. “We’ve already had this conversation. Obama won, Romney lost, get over it.”
By: Laura Bassett, The Huffington Post, December 6, 2012