What a “war on women” really looks like


    Which is worse for America’s women: A few Democratic guys with sexist personal lives, or a Republican party that treats women badly as a matter of policy?

    It’s the latter, obviously. And women voters have long been hip to the truth about the GOP. By big majorities, they have abandoned the party in every presidential contest since the late ’80s; they’ve been a big reason why the GOP has lost the national popular vote in five of the last six elections. Clearly the party needs to find a way to lure them back, so this morning, they came up with an idea. A dumb idea that won’t work.

    Seizing on the sleazy antics of Democrats Anthony Weiner and Bob Filner – Weiner, you already know; Filner, the San Diego mayor, is a serial sexual harasser – the GOP is floating a new memo that deplores what it calls the “Democrats’ War on Women.” A key passage: “Democrats want voters to think they’ll do anything to defend women. But when women in San Diego were allegedly harassed, marginalized and exploited by a Democrat mayor, most Democrats said nothing….That’s not mentioning the Weiner campaign official who went on a tirade against a female intern while she was talking to a reporter….This is how Democrats really talk about women when they think no one will find out.”

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    Another key passage: “In New York, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have ducked and dodged questions about Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer and have not called on either to leave the race. Another New Yorker, Hillary Clinton, has stayed mum about all of it. For someone who has not-so-veiled aspirations to lead her party, she’s failed to show any leadership in publicly denouncing Weiner’s habits or his candidacy. Speaking of Clintons, Democrats running in 2014 are counting on Bill Clinton to be a top surrogate and fundraiser. So while they’re claiming to defend women, they’re celebrating with a man who’s (sic) record with women is notorious. Does this sound like a party that cares about women?”

    Invading women’s lives

    The Republican memo is essentially accurate – most Democrats have indeed been mum about those miscreant men. But its basic premise is fatally flawed. It suggests that women voters en masse should dump the Democrats because a few male politicians (abetted by Democratic silence) have indulged in misogynistic behavior – while totally ignoring the fact that Republicans, state by state, have been systematically indulging in misogynistic policy.

    It’s simple, really. If you’re a woman in North Carolina seeking to exercise your constitutional right to a first-term abortion, which scenario more directly threatens your personal life: A clownish mayor out in San Diego who complains that he never got anti-harrassment training – or an extremist North Carolina Republican legislature and extremist Republican governor who, earlier this week, concocted a new law that will likely shutter as many as 15 of the state’s 16 abortion clinics?


    North Carolina – long considered the most progressive southern state until January of this year, when it fell to all-Republican rule – has now joined the ranks of GOP-run states that are steadily chipping away at the abortion guarantee codified 40 years ago by the Roe ruling. By all accounts, 2013 is shaping up to be a banner year for new restrictions on Roe, with a record number of Republican state legislatures using government to invade women’s lives and tell them what they cannot do.

    When Pat McCrory was running for governor last autumn in North Carolina, he publicly promised not to sign any new abortion curbs. So much for his pledge. This week he OK’d new provisions – actually, amendments that were slipped into a motorcyle safety bill – that impose severe code restrictions on the 16 abortion clinics (making it financially unfeasible to stay open); that make it much harder for public employes to get abortion care on their health plans; that prohibit North Carolinians from using the Obamacare online marketplace to buy health insurance that covers abortion.

    This is the drill in Republican-run states like Michigan (where new restrictive codes are designed to force clinics out of business), and Mississippi (where the governor recently said, “My goal, of course, is to shut it down,” referring to the state’s sole functioning clinic), and Virginia (home of the new transvaginal untrasound probe, and a new rule which requires clinics to mirror the architectural standards of hospitals), and South Dakota (where a woman seeking an abortion is required to visit a “Crisis Pregnancy Center” typically run by conservative Christians), and Kansas (where each clinic procedure room is required to have a 50-square-foot janitor’s closet), and Ohio (which now bars state hospitals from performing abortions).

    “Your voice here on all matters”

    Most Americans don’t like this Republican tactic. According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 54 percent say states should not pass laws that make it more difficult for clinics to operate; only 40 percent said otherwise. And, more broadly, 66 percent said that abortion policy should be “decided for all the states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution”; only 30 percent said that each state should write its own policy. But Republicans control 26 state legislatures, and they’re using their clout to indulge their ideology – unfortunately for women.

    No matter how many times Weiner tweets his crotch, here’s what a war on women really looks like:

    In North Carolina, on the eve of the July 4 break, Republican state senators brought up the new abortion restrictions without any public notice in the dead of night. (At the time, the restrictions were attached to a bill banning the invocation of Sharia law in family courts – Sharia law being such an epidemic in North Carolina.) Women with an abding interest in making choices for their own lives rushed to the chamber, hoping to give testimony. But the Republican lieutenant governor, presiding over the chamber, told them: “The senators are your voice here on all matters. They are the only ones we’ll be hearing from today.”

    The restrictions were speedily passed. Ninety percent of the votes were cast by Republican men.

    The party can’t change the subject by talking about Weiner and Filner, Spitzer and Clinton. Their peccaddilloes are indefensible, but this is a war about policy. And, state by state, women are the casualties.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1



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