Politics Straight, No Chaser
‘War on Women’ may decide election
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 02:04
There has been a lot of talk in politics recently about a “War on Women” currently being waged in the United States. The term is somewhat of a political football designed by one party to take voters away from the other party. But even if the campaign rhetoric is removed and the facts are examined, it’s hard to say it isn’t on some level the truth and, at the very least, should be clarified to a “War on Women’s Health.”
The women’s movement began in this country roughly 165 years ago. It has seen many different causes and phases and though progress has been slow, it has also been successful. Laws were enacted ensuring equality in the workplace and for respecting women’s rights, and social revolutions have given women more independence than they have seen before. But it appears one of the final issues that continue to brace the glass ceiling, preventing women from full equality, is sex.
In state legislatures around the country, politicians have increasingly tried to monitor what goes on in the bedroom in ways that disproportionately target women and their personal freedom, specifically women’s health. Members of the Republican Party, who traditionally champion a smaller government where its presence is minimally felt in people’s lives, are overwhelmingly those taking these actions.
In the first two months of 2012, there have been 430 bills set forth in state legislatures attempting to limit women’s ability to have an abortion. Bills have been introduced requiring that women listen to their fetus’ heartbeat before an abortion can be performed. Bills in Mississippi would eliminate 90 percent of the state’s abortions. Last year, Texas cut nearly two-thirds of funding for women’s health services. A few weeks ago, the Virginia legislature passed a law requiring a medically irrelevant ultrasound before an abortion is administered. Because most abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, it means a vaginal probe will be required to penetrate a woman to obtain this ultrasound. To many women, and to some legal scholars, this constitutes a rape. A government-mandated, medically unnecessary and most likely unwanted, rape.
Recently a budget fight on Capitol Hill turned into a standoff on women’s health care, with GOP leaders demanding that funding for Planned Parenthood , a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health, maternal and child health services subsidized by the federal government, be eliminated. Planned Parenthood, among other organizations, provide abortions and contraception according to state laws but also offer breast exams, cervical exams and other basic forms of women’s health care.
In early March, controversy ensued in the U.S. Congress over what was called the Blunt Amendment, an addition to a highway funding bill that would have allowed employers to deny contraception coverage to women on the basis of any moral or religious objection. The amendment would have put the decision of whether a woman receives birth control in the hands of her employer. It failed to pass in the Democratically-controlled Senate, but only by a margin of 51 to 48.
This issue has been a rallying point for the liberal base of the Democratic party, which has managed to raise millions of dollars for the 2012 elections around the issue of women’s rights. Polls demonstrate wide leads for President Barack Obama against the most likely Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, when it comes to women’s votes. Historically, more women than men vote in presidential elections, and women tend to vote for Democrats in those elections at the national level. While women are by no means predominantly single-issue voters, the attacks on their fundamental rights may drive women to the polls next November.
Romney and other GOP figureheads have orchestrated a loose political strategy to answer the question, “Are Republicans waging a War on Women?” Republican leaders have said that the real “War on Women” is being conducted by the Obama administration by way of his economic policy. Women have been disproportionately feeling the brunt of the nation’s economic struggles over the past few years, but so have nearly all minority groups. In months past, when questioned about which party has more to offer toward Latinos, the same GOP leaders have offered the same retort—that Obama’s economic policies have hurt the Latino community—while at the same time rejected equal opportunity and immigration reform legislation.
Whether the issue of women’s rights has peaked in this election cycle or if it continues as a major issue throughout the summer and closer to the general election is hard to predict. It is clear that on every level of government in the country, people are making an issue of women’s health and invading women’s rights to choose their own care. Almost always, these pieces of legislation are put forth by men, behind the veil of religion. It seems that as women become increasingly independent, some are making last-ditch efforts to control them and their bodies. It is regressive and, as women and supporters of women’s rights rally, may determine the outcome of the next presidential election.