U.S. Senate

Opinion: Pence’s Rush To Break Senate Tie and Eliminate Women’s Access to Healthcare

One of the disasters of the 2016 election that doesn’t involve Russia, at least not directly, was the empowerment of the religious right and its drive to theocratize America. It is such a dangerous development that has been ignored for a couple of reasons and yet it is beyond refute that there are very few Americans who will not be adversely affected.

On Thursday, barely a couple of days after Trump revoked protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors enacted by President Obama, Senate Republicans led by preacher Mike Pence revoked healthcare protections affecting women; also enacted by President Obama barely six months ago.

One of the reasons few Americans are aware of what lies in store is that the media, particularly the liberal media, is absolutely terrified of even mentioning that a fair number of Republican-supported atrocities are founded on evangelical Christians’ intent to institute a veritable theocracy. That theocratic agenda was never more blatant than the past week when Trump removed employment discrimination protections from the LGBT community; an action the liar pledged he would not take but because he is a typical “American Christian,” he lied. Yesterday’s action was not unexpected but it was a blatant nod to evangelical extremists that with Republicans running the government, the religious right can openly use their bastardized version of Christianity to attack women with religious impunity.

First, the vote in the Senate to eliminate a vital women’s healthcare protection enacted by President Obama was a purely religious vote; one that could have been handed down by the Vatican, the Taliban or ISIS. The vote was so close that the evangelical preacher Mike Pence had to be summoned to break a tie and award religious extremists in Republican states full power to deprive women of healthcare that evangelicals don’t believe is approved by their version of god; their opposition has no basis in their version of the Christian bible.

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President Obama had issued the Department of Health and Human Services new rule that simply stated states cannot withholding Title X family planning money for any reason whatsoever “other than a provider’s ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner.” What that meant in real terms is that theocrats in Republican states can no longer even vote to withhold Title X funding from any women’s health care provider based on religion because they offer family planning services. At the time, women’s advocates celebrated the rule change because

This rule makes it clear that [preacher] politicians cannot ignore the law as they pursue their [religious] agenda to stop women from getting the care they need.

At the same time advocates for women’s health and those rejecting the unconstitutional “legislating by religion” breathed a premature sigh of relief, evangelical Republicans cried foul and pledged to do whatever it took to punish women according to evangelical extremism. For example, theocratic Republican Diane Black (R-TN) went into an evangelical fit and said that the President’s action protecting women’s constitutional rights to choose their reproductive care was a dirty stunt that the religious right and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were not going to let stand in their theocratic government.

Representative Black, like every evangelical Republican malcontent not only rejects the idea that America is not governed by the Vatican or any other theocratic extremist group, she openly rejects the provision in the U.S. Constitution that forbids Congress from legislating and enacting religious edicts. She said in a statement:

We must use the full force of Congress and grassroots strength of the [Catholic] pro-life movement to defeat this absurd rule and prevent the Obama Administration from carrying out political favors.”

Only in religious right Republicans’ minds is a President supporting and enforcing the provisions laid out in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarded as “political favors.” Yesterday Senate Republicans assisted by preacher Mike Pence followed through on Black’s threat and used the “full force of the religious Republican Congress and Catholic pro-life movement” to deny women, primarily poor women, from having access to healthcare such as breast cancer screening, family planning services, and access to contraception care that prevented 904,000 unintended pregnancies and births in 2014 alone.

There was no other reason for Senate Republicans to revoke President Obama’s Health and Human Services rule protecting Title X funding from religious Republican states other than imposing religion by legislation. And, the reason the evangelical Republicans continue unabated is, in great part, because Democrats, most left-leaning pundits, and even women’s healthcare advocates are terrified of even mentioning that these evangelical atrocities are purely religious and that being the case, purely unconstitutional. It is not about Christians exercising their religious freedom because there was nothing in President Obama’s executive action forcing religious Republicans, male or female, from using contraception, getting cancer screening, or seeking family planning counseling.

It is true that Republicans hate women nearly as much as they hate the LGBT community and non-Christians, and although all the outrage of the moment over this latest evangelical abomination is on their attack on women’s access to healthcare, that outrage would be better served by attacking the patently unconstitutional implementation of religious legislation. But this is America and there must be some kind of unwritten statute that most liberals and Democrats observe religiously that prohibits them from citing the real reason women, like gays and Muslims, are being attacked with impunity by religious Republicans doing their best impression of the Taliban and ISIS.

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