Female pawns in the political game

The women of this country represent views across the political spectrum and are a major, albeit diverse, force in elections. Yet women and the issues they care about are manipulated to suit the needs of political power players.

In the nearly 40 years since the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, the “abortion issue” has been point of the spear for divisive gender-based politics. We’ve watched as women and the issues they care about have been moved around like pawns to suit the needs of political power players.

Along the way, three generations of women have become over 50 percent of the workforce, the primary decision makers for car purchases, the majority of entrepreneurs starting small businesses — succeeding at them at a faster rate than men. And very importantly, women have become a major, albeit diverse, force in elections.

Along with women’s economic gains came dominion over their bodies and their sexuality, including if and how they would use birth control and whether they would undergo an abortion if they found themselves in those circumstances. While women were striving to make informed decisions about their lives and their health care, politicians were deciding how, for their own purposes, to leverage the right to make those decisions.

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One of the most recent examples of this grandstanding has occurred in Pennsylvania, where State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th Dist.), has introduced the “Women’s Right to Know” law, mandating that a woman seeking an abortion be shown an ultrasound image of her fetus and that the doctor record her eye movements to document whether she looked at the screen or not. The law currently has been shelved in committee but may reappear after the April primary.

In the middle of all the wrenching and ranting left and right, it is important to focus on one very important fact that is true for many women: Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. Most women, for whom the core of their being is one of nurturer and life-giver, find the thought of abortion anathema, but that belief does not alter the feeling that government does not belong as a factor in their decision-making process.

A new round of charges and counter-charges began with the Jan. 20 announcement from the Obama Administration that religiously affiliated institutions such as universities and hospitals would be required to pay for employee health insurance plans that include birth control coverage.

Particularly outraged were Catholic leaders and conservative Christians. Labeled as an assault on America’s First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom, the move brought such a hue and cry from Middle America that, by February 10, the Administration had offered a compromise. But that compromise still involved mandated birth control now provided for free by insurance companies.

Since when does the government force private sector companies to give their product or service away for free to a narrowly defined segment of the population?

Combine all this government intervention with a Republican primary careening dangerously close to the abyss of absurdity, and you have a destructive discussion of women’s reproductive rights that has reached a new level of hyperbole and political grandstanding.

Exhibit A: U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Ca.), held a hearing that was touted as being about religious freedom and the contraception mandate, but it quickly degenerated into a circus when it became apparent that no women were represented on the committee or allowed as witnesses. As the popular expression goes, “You can’t make this stuff up”.

The women of this country represent views across the political spectrum. Whether they lean left or right or, like most, are somewhere in the middle, they have worked hard to reach their goals; crashing into glass ceilings till the shards cut through the discrimination.

We are not a monolith, but we are a force to be reckoned with and treated with respect.

So to the current crop of political manipulators, both Republican and Democrat: Be on notice.

You alienate us at your peril. Stay out of our bedroom, doctor’s office and church. We do not want nor will we tolerate you interfering in personal decisions that should involve no one but a woman’s conscience and her God. If you’re really looking for something to do, please lower the national debt, produce your first budget in three years, and create a reasonable, rational tax code.

Pamela Varkony is a writer, columnist, commentator and life-long Republican. She resides in Allentown, Pa.

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