Since the beginning of 2011 and the 112th Congress, instead of creating jobs or addressing the nation’s economic slump, the Republicans’ driving ambition has been prosecuting a war against women and their right to choose their own reproductive health. In states with Republican majorities the assault on women has been as brutal as in the Republican-controlled House, and the past month has been extraordinarily savage for women with the GOP presidential hopefuls ratcheting up the pressure to ban contraception coverage in health plans, and eventually banning birth control entirely to satisfy an increasingly zealous evangelical segment of the population. There is little doubt that Republicans are now the strong legislative arm of the extremist religious right in the war on women, but their primary focus now is on low-income women.
Republicans in Congress have attempted to defund and eliminate Planned Parenthood in their war on women’s rights to restrict low-income women from having access to birth control and other health services such as cancer screenings and AIDS/HIV testing, and focusing on information services such as family planning including abstinence, family life education, parent-child communication, puberty education, safe sex, sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy, and many others. In 2012, Planned Parenthood provided 11 million medical services for nearly three million people, and helped to prevent approximately 584,000 unintended pregnancies. Seventy-six percent of their clients have incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level giving observers a clue to the Republicans real motive in eliminating Planned Parenthood.
Presidential hopeful Willard “Mitt” Romney announced in an interview that one of his first tasks as president would be to “get rid of Planned Parenthood” as a means of controlling government spending. Willard’s campaign strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, attempted to downplay the Planned Parenthood statement saying, “It would not be getting rid of the organization. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions about spending. The test that Mitt Romney will apply is, is this program so worthwhile and valuable that we’ll borrow money from China to [fund] it?” If spending is Romney’s focus, why did he not call for ending subsidies to big oil or tax cuts for the richest Americans? According to Romney, his focus is getting rid of Planned Parenthood because they provide abortion services. In 2002 Romney sought Planned Parenthood’s endorsement in his bid for governor of Massachusetts, and switched positions in 2005 when he came out against abortion. In February he supported the Komen Foundation’s decision to defund breast cancer screenings through Planned Parenthood that proves his focus is not on the nation’s budget or abortion, but on restricting health services for low-income women.
Republicans in various states are also on a rampage to restrict contraception and healthcare services to low-income women based on their extremist religious ideology. In North Carolina, county commissioners in New Hanover County voted unanimously to turn down an $8,899 state family planning grant that would “provide medical services related to family planning including physician’s consultation, examination, prescription, continuing supervision, laboratory examination and contraceptive supplies.” The county would not have to match or augment the funding so there was no expense whatsoever to the county. The county chairman said, “It was a sad day when taxpayers are asked to pay money to buy contraceptives” for women having sex without planning responsibly. Another country commissioner said, “If these young women were responsible people and didn’t have the sex to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” and that he was “one of those abstinence guys.” There is the crux of the matter; the commissioners are forcing low-income single and married women to abstain from having sex unless they intend on giving birth. It is an all-too-common theme in the war on women that men get to decide when any woman has sex and if they do, they better give birth nine months later. It is another case of misogynists dictating their forced-birth ideology on low-income women, and in Arizona, Republicans are taking women’s contraception use one step farther.
In Arizona’s legislature, House Bill 2625 gives employers the right to fire women if they use birth control “for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes” that goes against the employer’s moral objections. Under the proposed bill, if a woman wants contraception coverage she has to “submit a claim” to her employer providing evidence of a medical condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome that can be treated with birth control. The sponsor of the bill said it was a matter of an employer’s 1st Amendment religious liberty, but the ACLU disagrees and says, “The bill goes beyond guaranteeing a person’s rights to express and practice their faith and instead lets employers prioritize their beliefs over the beliefs, the interests, the needs of their employees, in this case, particularly, female employees.” Besides imposing an employer’s religious convictions on women, the bill forces female employees who can’t afford to pay full price for birth control to share private medical information with her employer in order to get her prescription covered.
The Republican war on contraception coverage is singling out low-income women as a precursor to the outright ban on birth control. It is a matter of forced birth or abstinence regardless if a woman is single or married, and whether or not they have the means to provide for another mouth to feed. President Obama summed it up from a woman’s choice and equality point of view in 2005 when he said, “A woman’s ability to decide how many children to have and when, without interference from the government, is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice, but equality and opportunity for all women.” It is unfortunate, but Republicans do not believe in equality for women, especially if they are poor or low-income women.
It is hypocritical of Republicans to rail against government intrusion in people’s private lives unless it is religious Republicans intruding in women’s lives. Romney wants to “get rid of Planned Parenthood” to save the federal government’s money, but he advocates for giving the oil industry taxpayer dollars. The North Carolina county commissioners rejected a family planning grant that would cost their county zero dollars out of religious beliefs that a woman cannot have sex unless they intend on giving birth. The proposed Arizona law is an outright ban on contraception regardless if a woman pays for coverage themselves if their employer has moral objections to birth control. For Republicans, the notion of women making their own reproductive health and family planning choices is abhorrent and better left in the hands of religious Republican men.
These assaults on low-income women, although egregious, are examples of extremist Christians practicing fascism under authority of the federal and state governments. They are extremely misogynistic because there are no laws regulating men’s sexual activities whether it is erectile dysfunction pills or condom use, and it is not about religious liberty because none of the Republican men are being prohibited from their particular cult’s practices. These contraception issues are expressions of Christianity’s edict to dominate poor women who lack the means to haul these patriarchal sycophants into court to challenge the unconstitutional imposition of religion under the auspices of the government. If Republicans think low-income women and the men who love them are not going to turn out in November and vote against the Christofacist’s laws, they are deluded because women are not going to sit back and be dictated to any longer when, how, and why they have sex or give birth.