Women facing sexual McCarthyism
By Jennifer Granholm, POLITICO
Guys, I’m thinking it’s hard for you to imagine what it’s like to have your most private decisions made for you. By women.
Let’s put it this way: Imagine that you need Viagra. Imagine that a law passed by an 80 percent female Legislature mandates that to obtain a prescription, you have to procure an affidavit from a sexual partner verifying that you are indeed incapable of an erection.
Or maybe, before obtaining a vasectomy, you have to undergo an ultrasound on your testicles — wherein a technician must apply gel and press a hand-held transducer on your private parts. The legislation mandates that you watch images of your sperm on a monitor as a doctor describes the millions of pre-human lives you are about to end.
Far-fetched? A female legislator in Virginia introduced an amendment to the ultrasound bill that would have required men to undergo a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before getting prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs. It was narrowly defeated 21-19. There were just not enough women in the Legislature to make the point.
The “war on women” can be measured, in one sense, by the volume of demeaning and physically violating measures that not only force women to undergo procedures against their will, but force doctors to perform procedures that are medically unnecessary.
Virginia may have backed away from the invasive transvaginal ultrasound law, but requiring a standard ultrasound runs contrary to the guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nine states now mandate this “overreach” of government into a very personal and private decision between a woman and her doctor.
Look, it’s obvious that abortion is the most sensitive of public policy issues. Women deeply understand the wrenching trade-offs they must make in weighing such a personal decision. So, in addition to legislatively forced physical procedures, it should come as no surprise that women are angered by patronizing bills mandating waiting periods or forced “reflection” on images or on text written by legislators — bills that assume women are empty-headed children.
So much for “trusting” the citizens. So much for Republicans as the party of small government.
Consider this: After the election of 2010 that saw Republicans gain control of state Legislatures across the country, more than 1,100 anti-choice laws were introduced in 2011 — a new record. Eighty-three measures have been passed into law. So far in 2012, an additional 430 were introduced. We may break the record again this year.
In some cases, these bills are reaching beyond abortion and right into control over women’s health care in general.
Take Texas. Gov. Rick Perry and the 80 percent male state Legislature. They said they would forgo $35 million in federal funding to keep Planned Parenthood from getting one dime of it. Eleven Planned Parenthood clinics have shut down. This comes even though Texas already bars clinics that take such money from performing abortions.
After an uproar, Perry has since said that Texas will find the money “somewhere” for these clinics — but the Legislature has already cut the budget for care from $111 million to $38 million this year. It’s estimated the cuts would lead to 400,000 women losing health care services. This could mean 20,500 additional births because of lost access to contraception — costing the state $57 million in maternity bills.
Hmmm. Seems a pricey way to make a political point about Planned Parenthood.
On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that Texas would not be receiving federal Medicaid money under its waiver anymore because the state was unlawfully limiting access to health care choice.
As seven other states controlled by Republican Legislatures move to defund women’s health care by attacking Planned Parenthood, women everywhere are saying, enough is enough.
Rush Limbaugh did more than insult a law student with his diatribe about Sandra Fluke; his words revealed a mind-set about women. Republicans have been chanting that they want to “take our country back.” Sure they do … back in time. Back to the good old days when women didn’t have the opportunities for personal and professional advancement that they do now.
Republicans are doing this by waging a war against contraceptive choice. Not just abortion, but birth control in general — the very thing that set women free to pursue equality in the first place.
Studies have shown that since women have had access to the pill and family planning measures, they have made huge gains in both wages and in careers that were dominated by men. Which is why we’re seeing an outpouring of outrage from women. The legislation being advanced threatens those gains.
Now, there are some Republican pundits who have been dismissing women’s concerns, basically saying that this is just a distraction.
Distraction? It’s an obsession.
It’s an obsession on the part of de facto Republican Party leaders like Limbaugh; Republican Legislatures and governors, and those beholden to the far right in the House.
Indeed, Republican obsession with Planned Parenthood alone has become a form of legislative sexual McCarthyism. Any program that has a remote link to Planned Parenthood is targeted for eradication — regardless of the collateral damage to poor women.
That unhealthy obsession could be why Democrats are polling 15 points ahead of Republicans with women voters as to who should control Congress. It’s why President Barack Obama is outpolling his rivals by 20 points among women.
I hope it serves to create a whole new generation of activists. Unfortunately, those activists may need to fight the same fight their grandmothers fought in the ’60s. A woman protesting in Virginia held a sign that summed it up: “I can’t believe we still have to protest this sh—.” Elections have consequences, and today we are seeing the consequences of the nation falling asleep during the election of 2010.
If Republicans continue the war on women, you can be assured that women won’t be asleep again this year. We’ll be up, and we’ll be out, and we’ll be voting. 3/12/2012