The NVProgressive picks up the torch illuminating the fact that the Democratic Party doesn’t have to manufacture a War on Women — it’s right out there in the GOP legislative agenda for all to see. Or, as one wag put it: “Finally, the GOP is actually manufacturing something…” So, what armaments have come from the Republican Legislative Machine Shop?
Anti-Choice and Women’s Health
Return with us now to H.R. 3, introduced on January 20, 2011, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) which, “Prohibits federal funds from being used for any health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. (Currently, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services and plans receiving federal funds must keep federal funds segregated from any funds for abortion services.) Prohibits the inclusion of abortion in any health care service furnished by a federal or District of Columbia health care facility or by any physician or other individual employed by the federal government or the District.” [CRS]
In the midst of the controversy over the bill the Republicans inserted a bit of legerdemain exempting those who had been the victims of “forcible” rape. Huh? All rapes are “forcible,” unless perhaps, “she was asking for it?” [TCWC] The language was stripped from the bill, but remained in documents establishing legislative intent.
Nevada Republican Representatives Dean Heller (R-NV2) and Joe Heck (R-NV3) voted in favor of the bill on May 4, 2011. The bill passed in the House of Representatives on a 251-175 vote. Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) voted in opposition. [vote 292]
The same day H.R. 3 was introduced Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) brought out H.R. 358, the Protect Life Act. The bill would, “Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from being to used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services. (Currently, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services and plans receiving federal funds must keep federal funds segregated from any funds for abortion services.) Requires any qualified health benefit plan offered through an Exchange that includes coverage for abortions to also offer a qualified health benefit plan through the Exchange that is identical in every respect except that it does not cover abortions. ” [GovTrack] This restrictive bit of legislation passed the House on October 13, 2011 on a 251-172 margin, again with Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) voting against the measure while Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV2) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV3) voted for it. [vote 789 GovTrack] The bill attracted the nickname, “The Let Women Die Act,” because it would allow a hospital to let a pregnant woman die rather than allow a life-saving abortion procedure.
Republican John Fleming (R-LA) introduced H.R. 361, to “Amend the Public Health Service Act to codify provisions that prohibit the federal government and any state or local government that receives federal financial assistance from subjecting any health professional, a hospital, a provider sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, an accountable care organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan to discrimination on the basis that the entity refuses to participate in abortion-related activities.” [Thomas]
H.R. 374 was introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) establishing that life begins at contraception: “Declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being beginning at the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being. Prohibits construing this Act to require the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.” [Thomas]
Amendment #95 to H.R. 1 was introduced by Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) on February 17, 2011, removing Planned Parenthood from eligibility for any federal funding. His amendment was adopted by the House on a 240-185 vote. Representatives Dean Heller (R-NV2) and Joe Heck (R-NV3) voted in favor of the amendment, Representative Berkley voted against it. [vote 93]
Then there was the Great Contraception Flap, with Republicans arguing that the implementation of the health care reforms would violate “religious freedom,” (read a “violation” of the Catholic bishops’ violation of other people’s consciences.) [NYT] The Senate shot down a GOP offering, [S.Amdt 1520] to exclude contraceptives from insurance plans, when the Blunt Amendment was tabled on a 51-49 vote. Senator Dean Heller voted for the amendment. Senator Harry Reid voted to table it. [vote 24]
The Republicans who ran on “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” in the 2010 elections spent their first days introducing anti-abortion legislation. The Republican War on Women began early in the 112th Congress with some substantial volleys, and continues into the immediate present.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
The distinctly anti-woman opening of the 112th Congress should not have come as a surprise, considering the actions of Republicans in the 111th session. The House of Representatives passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (H.R. 11) on January 27, 2009, but without help from the Republican minority. The bill passed on a 250-177 vote, with Nevada Representatives Berkley and Dina Titus voting in favor of the bill, and Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV2) voting against it. [vote 37]
Nevada’s congressional contingent had a second opportunity to support the requirement of equal pay for equal work during consideration of the Fair Pay Act. The bill, S. 3220, introduced by Senator Barbara Milkulski (D-MD) “would require employers to prove that differences in pay are based on qualifications, education and other “bona fides” not related to gender. It also would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who ask about, discuss or disclose wages in response to a complaint or investigation. And it would make employers who violate sex discrimination laws liable for compensatory or punitive damages.” [USAT] We should note that the Ledbetter Act simply allows cases to come to the courts after a woman has discovered she’s been paid less for performing the same job as a male cohort — it doesn’t cover women who’ve been fired for finding out about unequal compensation. (Remember the movie “9 to 5” when the ladies find out about the pay differentials?)
Once more Senator Heller had an opportunity to support equal pay for equal work, and once more he begged off [roll call 115] excusing himself by saying those “floodgates of litigation” would spill forth if women were allowed access to their day in court should they discover they were not being compensated fairly. He’s not publicly indicated if he supports the actions taken by Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlinson in the movie version. The filibuster of the bill by Senate Republicans remains in effect.
No member of the Democratic Party delegation to the Congress initiated H.R. 3, or H.R. 358, or H.R. 361, or H.R. 374, or H.R. 1 amendment 95, or S. Amdt 1520. These were Republican actions, taken by and for the Republicans. Democrats had no hand in “manufacturing” these controversial proposals. Nor did the Democrats “manufacture” long standing opposition to the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, nor to the contemporary Fair Pay Act. Whingeing that it is icky to make Republicans vote on measures they don’t like during an election season is not only unseemly and a bit juvenile, it’s not like major parties haven’t been demanding votes on controversial issues during election seasons since time out of mind.
If the War on Women were solely a federal level assault there might be more support for the argument that anti-women measures are a distraction. However, legislation and legislative intent cease to be distractions when they become national patterns. This list from Jezebel compiles a state by state list of anti-women measures in state legislatures as of May 11, 2012.
And then there’s the Republican federal budget proposal
The Ryan Budget was analyzed by the National Women’s Law Center and found wanting. Under the provisions of this budget:
# approximately 17,000,000 women in this country would lose access to affordable health insurance and Medicaid, they would be subject to higher costs for prescription medications in the Medicare program, and would find preventative care (including contraception) harder to obtain.
# the repeal of the Affordable Care Act assumed in the Ryan budget would mean that health insurance corporations could continue to charge higher rates for women than for men.
# women make up about 70% of the Medicaid beneficiaries in this country, and cutting the program by 20% would mean that over 14,000,000 low income women would lose their health insurance coverage by 2021.
# the majority of Medicare recipients are women, and raising the eligibility age to 67 would therefore affect more women than men — further, the “voucher” program for Medicare which replaces the current Medicare program increasingly pushes costs onto the beneficiaries — mostly women.
# women constitute 66% of Social Security beneficiaries and about 86% of adult TANF beneficiaries. Plans to cut $463 billion from these income support programs would predominantly affect women.
# in 2010 women made up 62% of adult SNAP (food stamp) recipients, and 66% of elderly SNAP benefit recipients. [NWLC] The Ryan budget calls for cutting back these benefits by 17% over the next decade, no matter what the economic situation is at the time. Proposed cuts to the WIC program could hurt about 8.9 million low income mothers and their infants.
… and we’ve not even touched what would happen to women who need assistance from programs to provide housing for elderly women in poverty, women who rely on Child Care, Head Start, Pell Grants, and energy assistance…
War is, indeed, a strong word. However, when the attacks are coming from both the federal and the state legislative bodies, when the attacks are primarily aimed at women, when the attacks are accompanied by the slurs, jeers, and epithets from right wing media, then perhaps “war” conveys a more precise meaning than merely using terms like hostility, fights, antagonism, or assault.
It is time to ask our politicians — Which side are you on?