No longer just a punchline from Blazing Saddles– “Where are all the women at?” became a rallying cry for feminists across the country when a male-dominated Congressional committee refused to allow women to testify about insurance coverage for birth control.
Two Congresswomen– Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes (D-DC)–walked out of the committee hearings because no women were included in the list of wittnesses dominated by male religious leaders. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif) made the now-infamous decision to block Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke from testifying and labeled her an “inappropriate” wittness.
That fateful day in February, the Republican Party’s latest barrage in the War on Women unfolded.
What began as political grandstanding on contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act, snowballed into dozens of invasive, crackpot bills proposed by Republican Legislatures across the country. Requiring women to submit to (and pay for) vaginal ultrasound examinations prior to having an abortion, requiring women to watch an abortion before having one, giving employers the right to deny insurance coverage for contraception based upon any vague “moral” grounds, giving employers the right to question female employees about their contraception usage, defunding Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions… the list goes on.
Couple these bills with the Bible-thumping piety from all of the Republican Presidential candidates, most notably Rick Santorum, and you have a bare-knuckle fist fight over women’s health, contraception, and choice.
Two months into this latest round in the War on Women, the Republican attack on the country’s largest voting block has resulted in an 18-point lead by President Obama among women voters. Obama leads R2publican challenger Mitt Romney 2:1 with women under 50. In this MoveOn.org video, women quote the nonsense the Republicans have been spouting.
On the local level, Republican candidates for CD8 (former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ district) have all jumped on the anti-woman bandwagon–ironically, even Martha McSally. In a recent Arizona Public Media televised debate, candidates Frank Antenori, Jesse Kelly, Dave Sitton, and McSally all agreed that contraception should not be covered by insurance, that a fetus’ life sacred (unlike the lives of people they would bomb), and that women don’t have the right to choose. Senatorial candidate, right-to-lifer, and current Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake–a hardened Teapublican–voted for the Blunt Ammendment which would have vastly expanded conscience exemptions to birth control coverage.
As for the Democrats, Senatorial candidate and former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona has been the most outspoken critic of the Republcan’s wrongheaded fight against women’s health. In a commentary on the Huffington Post, Carmona wrote, “A recent push to block women from getting access to contraception shows the Arizona legislature is not operating from an evidence-based or reality-based point of view.”
Congressman Raul Grijalva and Phoenix-area State Senator and Congressional candidate Kyrsten Sinema also have made strong statements, attacking the Republicans’ War on Women.
In my opinion, the political upshot of the War on Women will be a rebirth of the feminist movement. You can see it on facebook and Twitter; social media has fueled the outrage. Prime examples are the backlash against Rush Limbaugh for his slutty comments about Fluke (and resultant loss of advertisers) and the flood of bad publicity targeting the Komen Foundation when it tried to defund Planned Parenthood (and the resultant fundraising loss to Koman and boon to PP).
You can also see it in the nationwide Unite Against the War on Women movement, which is organizing women and protest marches across the country on April 28– including a march in Phoenix. Although the Republicans wanted to frame the anti-abortion and anti-contraception debate as a fight for religious freedom, it is all too obvious a continuation of their long-standing War on Women. They can’t put this genie back in the bottle.