Something that serves to guide or direct the solution to a problem or mystery is a clue, and they are often missed by the unobservant. In last month’s election, voters sent several clues to Republicans that their extremism on myriad issues was unacceptable, and yet they seem oblivious to the will of the people as is evident in the fiscal cliff negotiations over raising taxes on the rich. There is little doubt the election was a referendum on tax policy, but it was also a rejection of Republican extremism on women’s reproductive rights that began in earnest after the 2010 midterm elections, and in states with Republican majorities, there is still a crusade to restrict choice.
Any reasonable human being would have thought the vicious war on women culminating with comments from religious candidates about “legitimate” rape that resulted in repercussions at the polls would have sent a strong message to Republicans, but apparently, state-level Republicans are continuing the war on women unabated and undeterred. Women’s overwhelming support for President Obama was a rejection of GOP anti-choice misogyny, and exit polls revealed abortion rights was an important women’s issue, but some GOP-controlled states are using lame duck sessions to finish what they started in 2011.
One of the worst anti-choice offenders, Paul Ryan, lost his bid to be vice-president, but he earned a return trip to Washington to carry on what he and failed senatorial candidate Todd Akin began with their vile Sanctity of Human Life Act that effectively bans contraception. Even though Wisconsin endorsed President Obama’s re-election, the state’s Republican majority, in conjunction with Wisconsin Right to Life, seeks to require women considering abortion to view an ultrasound of the fetus, and prohibit state employees from using their state healthcare plans to access abortions. Wisconsin is also attempting to ban abortion based on dubious claims a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. Arkansas Republicans are following suit even though the measure previously failed to clear the state’s Public Health Committee, and Arkansas Right to Life will push the measure again at the beginning of the next legislative session despite Arkansas attorney general’s warning it conflicted established law and likely unconstitutional. However, religious fanatics never acknowledge constitutionality if it conflicts with bible ideology.
Shortly after Ohio’s lame duck session began, state Republicans took up where they left off and proposed a “heartbeat ban” that can potentially lead to death in a similar manner of the woman in Ireland who died from septic shock after complications of a pregnancy because “Ireland is a Catholic country” and Catholics hate abortion. Ohio Republicans also began efforts anew to defund Planned Parenthood. Apparently, Ohio Republicans missed the message that Planned Parenthood provides free and low cost contraception helping reduce the need for abortions, and is the only outlet for many women to get family planning counseling and cancer screenings leading one to wonder just how “pro-life” Ohio Republicans are, or if they are only interested in the life of a fetus.
In Mississippi, the state’s only abortion clinic is fighting a law designed to shut it down and is in danger of closing because according to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CCR), “ideology trumps medical sense” because for evangelical fanatics, religion supersedes science. All doctors currently providing abortions at the lone Mississippi clinic are board certified ob-gyns, but they have not been granted privileges to practice by any area hospitals. Several hospitals will not process the physicians’ applications and they cited the physician’s biased policies and practices towards abortion care as the reason for refusing to accept an application. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit to prevent enactment of the law to shutter the clinic, while anti-choice protesters continue to “harass and terrify” the clinic’s patients as an exercise of their religious liberty.
In Arizona, Republicans are fighting in court to prevent Planned Parenthood funding despite they already lost in lower courts. As a tactic to manipulate women from having abortions, they created a website, “A Woman’s Right to Know,” that says, “If your doctor performs an abortion on you without obtaining your voluntary consent or without allowing a private medical consultation they may be liable to you for claims in a civil action.” Instead of explaining why a woman might seek an abortion, or even defining the procedure, it says “offering women medically accurate information” like your doctor may give you an abortion without your consent and you might have to sue them.
Republicans did not get the message that women will fight back at the ballot box if they continue being assaulted by the GOP because the House still needs to pass the Violence Against Women Act the Senate passed (S. 1925). The Senate version was an inclusive, bipartisan effort that contained improvements strengthening protections for a number of vulnerable populations. The House version (H.R. 4970) reduces services and protections, and in fact, follows the “legitimate rape” model by leaving out protections for anyone who isn’t considered a “real” victim of violence. If the Senate version is not passed and reauthorized before the end of this year, it may face steep cuts in the 113th Congress, and there is always the prospect of drastic fiscal cliff cuts during negotiations, so it is crucial for Boehner to get it passed immediately. However, at the rate Republicans pant to cut social program funding coupled with their war on women; it is likely they are deliberately sitting on the VAWA to punish women for supporting President Obama.
If one considers that Republicans spent nearly all of the 112th Congress prosecuting the war on women after winning in 2010, the prospect for them letting up after losing in 2012 does not portend good things for women’s rights. They have shown themselves to be poor losers in pushing their drastic agenda in fiscal cliff negotiations, and it is a sign that not only did they ignore the voters’ rejection of their extremism, they may start the 113th session with a new resolve to escalate attacks on women’s rights. Since it will be two years before women can finish the job and evict every last one of the religious misogynists from Congress, they should brace for another two years of attacks on their rights.