It was recently proclaimed, as a passing point from one of the talking heads on some news station or other, that two thirds of conservative women are anti-abortion. But it gave literally no mention to that other third. The third that likes low taxes, aggressive foreign policy, and small government. Government that stays out of people’s private lives, and especially their uteruses. That’s right, I’m talking about you, Conservative Pro-Choice Woman. It was like you didn’t even exist. You represent a third of conservative women and yet you barely warranted a mention. Who’s been keeping you locked up?
The Republican line on all this lately is that “all issues are women’s issues” and that it’s actually offensive to women to reduce them to nothing but their reproductive organs (irony, much?). This was an argument I’d seen coming long before the right-wing pundits decided to shine it up and make it a talking point. I visited a Facebook page a while back, called “Conservative Women Rock,” out of curiosity to know what issues were of importance to conservative women. I found it virtually indistinguishable from any other conservative page: the requisite Obama bashing, complaints about health care, stuff about taxes and lots of reductive meme jokes about how stupid liberals are. When I asked, “Where are the women’s issues?” …I got banned.
Yes, it’s true that all issues are women’s issues; since women are the primary breadwinners in a little more than half the households in America now, the economy is a women’s issue. Sure. The debt ceiling, which affects all the interest rates that we pay on, well, everything… Sure. And if we weren’t in the position of constantly having to slap down some “conservative,” usually male, lawmaker on the subject of whether we need an invasive transvaginal ultrasound and explanations in small words about what is going on with our pregnant bodies, or whether our rapes are rape-y enough, or whether lesbians and mail-order brides should be included in laws that protect against domestic violence… Yeah. We’d love to talk about these other issues. Believe me. We would rather not be talking about whether we have Martha Plimpton’s “magical vagina death venom” to protect us from pregnancy in case of rape. Shouldn’t everyone know the answer to this already? Really. I’d rather be writing about the impending collapse of the Euro Zone. Bombing Syria. The tax code. Anything but this.
But we didn’t start this argument. Your supposedly so-concerned-with-jobs Tea Party Congress did. You, conservative woman, probably elected this Republican, Tea Party congress to create jobs and improve the economy and maybe to get rid of the Affordable Care Act or at least alter it to your liking. Not to give them greater access to our uteruses and what does or doesn’t go into or come out of them. I’ll be honest. I am not a fan of the current Tea Party line on tax policy but I’d love to be having that debate with you. It would be infinitely preferable to having to write this. In 2012.
Maybe you don’t believe that they will really manage to pass all of these anti-choice laws, no matter how many times they bring them to the table. But look at the actual numbers and the truth is really scary:
HR358, charmingly referred to in pro-choice circles as the “let women die bill”, among other things, allowed hospitals to refuse an abortion to a woman on “moral and religious grounds” even if her life was in immediate danger. It was passed in the House, 251 to 172. That’s the work of your Vice Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, by the way.
HR3 passed the House by nearly the same margin. Sponsored by Paul Ryan and Todd Akin, among others, HR3 sought to expand the Hyde Amendment; but it went so far as to not only ban directly federally funded abortions (of which there are a miniscule number to begin with due to the Hyde Amendment), but also to even deny tax credits to companies that offer health plans which cover abortions. It of course included exemptions for incest, life of the mother, and something called “forcible rape” (as opposed to… consensual rape?). The bill passed, after the “forcible rape” language was removed due to some outcry, but this wasn’t just another run of the mill piece of anti-choice legislation; it also put these conservative, mostly male legislators, in the position of getting to decide whether someone’s rape was really rape-y enough… or, “legitimate”, if you will. Still sound like small, non-invasive government to you?
The Senate is hardly much better. Senator Roy Blunt infamously attached an amendment to a highway bill that allowed any employer with a “religious objection” to refuse to cover not only contraception but… ANY health care service required under the new law, as long as they had a “moral objection”! Let’s see beyond the myopia of women’s reproductive issues to see what a stupid, slippery slope that could take us down! The Blunt Amendment failed… by one vote. That moderate from Maine. Yeah, even your supposedly moderate, supposedly pro-choice Scott Brown whiffed on that one. And remember: Olympia Snowe is retiring.
Maybe you think to yourself, “I’m a powerful woman, even if they pass it, I can handle anything that comes my way.” And maybe you are. In fact, if you’re a pro-choice conservative woman, I’ll bet you’re pretty tough. You’d have to be, to walk around with a differing opinion in the rabid baboon pack that passes for a Republican party today. But this isn’t just about being tough. And it’s not us liberals having wild, hysterical fantasies; extreme anti-choice is the official GOP platform that they unveiled for this convention. No exceptions, end of story. It’s been baked into literally hundreds of laws and amendments that have come before this Congress and state houses across the country. And even if you are tough enough to handle anything that comes your way, is it the world you want to leave your daughters? One where they can’t get the care they need, where men can push them around and tell them what they can’t do with their own bodies? I understand that conservatism at its best is about rugged individualism and not expecting other people to take care of your problems… But is it really just going to be “not your problem” that, for example, the Republican Congress and statehouses’ massive hard-ons to get rid of Planned Parenthood have prevented more pap smears and breast cancer screenings for low-income women than they have abortions? Rich women can still go to Canada for their abortions. Poor women, not so much.
Is this all a distraction? To some extent, yes. I suspect that all of this action on women’s issues, and the reproductive rights issue in particular, is partly so that they have an excuse for why they have been busy doing nothing on jobs. Why they damaged our credit rating due to either willful ignorance of, or malicious disregard for, the way that the debt ceiling works. Not that they don’t believe they should have the right to make more regulations on our uteruses than they want on carbon emissions. They do. But reproductive issues are just the distraction, the thing they do to appear busy, and as a bonus, it gets their “base” (I believe that’s a polite term for “loonies”) riled up. “Look! We’ve been earning our taxpayer dollars!” I know these guys sure as hell don’t represent me. But they don’t really represent you either, and you know it.
So I ask you to consider voting Democrat. Just this time. Your representatives are not doing what you elected them to do anyway, instead opting to run around trying to strip our rights away. If you hire a guy to do data entry, and instead of entering your data, he lights the recycle bin on fire and kicks a hole in the glass on the vending machine, you fire him. They need to be shown that their efforts are an overreach and that they need to get to the real business of the people, and unfortunately, electing more radically conservative people will not really send that message. So please, Conservative Pro-choice Woman. Think long and hard about whether you want to give these legislators the terrible misimpression that their behavior is OK. Consider that maybe the (D) column is where you want to be, maybe just this time around. We can get a beer together and argue about taxes during the next election cycle. I hope. Assuming someone hasn’t repealed the 19th Amendment by then.