What’s really driving the GOP’s abortion war

The economy is reeling and we're in three wars, but Republicans across the country are focused on ... abortion?

Topics: Abortion, War Room,

What's really driving the GOP's abortion war

When Republicans profited from the miserable economy to sweep up huge wins in last fall’s election, most political watchers figured they knew what was coming: budget cuts, privatization of more government functions, and tax cuts for the wealthy. The push to dismantle public sector unions has been a bit of a surprise, but not a jarring one.

But what seems to have thrown everyone — save for a handful of embittered and neglected pro-choice activists — for a loop is the way Republican lawmakers at both the national and state levels have focused so intently on the uteruses of America. Republicans appear to believe that the women of America have wildly mismanaged these uteruses in the four decades since the Supreme Court gave them control over them — and now that Republicans have even a little bit of power, they’re going to bring this reign of female tyranny over uteruses to an end.

After all, the Republican House speaker, John Boehner, has identified limiting women’s access to abortion and contraception as a “top priority” — this with the economy is in tatters and the world in turmoil. Boehner’s and the GOP’s abortion fixation raises an obvious question: Why now, when there are so many other pressing issues at stake?

There isn’t just one explanation. The assault on reproductive rights is intensifying now because of a convergence of several otherwise unrelated events that have created the perfect moment for the anti-choice movement to go for the kill.

Republicans have managed to score a couple of major victories against women’s rights in the past few years. Both of the main obstacles to dismantling reproductive rights — the Supreme Court and the Democrats — have buckled under anti-choice pressure, emboldening the movement to demand even more, including rollbacks on contraception access.

In 2007, the Supreme Court, with a 5-4 vote, upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Act, which not only set a precedent of the court validating a ban on an abortion procedure necessary to preserve some women’s lives, but also introduced a new justification to limit women’s rights. Justice Anthony Kennedy argued in the majority opinion that the D&X procedure could be banned in order to save women from the possibility of regret down the road. After this ruling, anti-choice bills sprung up like weeds, many of them rooted in this same assumption that women are too silly to be trusted to make their own decisions. Waiting periods, ultrasound requirements and forced “counseling” all make accessing abortion that much harder — even as each step is dressed up as protection for women against their own flightiness and inability to make good decisions.



But the bigger victory was getting a Democratic president to sign an executive order barring insurance companies from offering abortion coverage to customers who are using federal subsidies to pay for insurance. Barack Obama signed the order under duress; there was no way to pass his healthcare reform bill without doing so. But the lesson for Republicans was clear: When it comes to reproductive rights, they don’t actually need to be in charge to get their way. If reproductive rights can be exploited to nearly derail healthcare reform while the Democrats control Congress and the presidency, think of how much leverage the issue gives them now that they’ve gained control of the U.S. House and a bunch of new statehouses.

It’s hard to overstate how much Republican energy is invested in bringing the uteruses of America under right-wing control. The House went into an anti-choice frenzy upon being sworn in in January, passing two bills that would eliminate private insurance funding for abortion, one that would dramatically cut funding for international family planning, and the Pence Amendment, which would ban Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding. And in case the Pence Amendment doesn’t work, the House also zeroed out all funding for Title X, which subsidizes reproductive healthcare for low-income patients, in the continuing resolution that funds the federal budget.

For the right, rolling back reproductive rights is considered a worthy goal in its own right, but since the issue could also provoke a budget showdown that could result in a government shutdown, it’s also a useful tool in their effort to force Democrats to blink. As with their push to bust unions at the state level, Republicans stand to gain electorally by wreaking havoc on the pro-choice movement and undermining its ability to get out the vote for Democrats.

On the state level, an unprecedented number of anti-choice bills are being introduced in response to the perceived anti-choice bent of the Supreme Court. Florida alone has introduced 18 separate anti-choice bills. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has declared mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients an emergency priority, and fast-tracked it through the Legislature. Three separate states have introduced bills that could legalize domestic terrorism against abortion providers, though a bill in South Dakota was withdrawn under pressure. Instead, that state’s Legislature moved on to pass the most draconian abortion law in the country, one that would require a woman to wait 72 hours for an abortion and listen to a lecture from an anti-choice activist before having an abortion. These examples represent just a tiny fraction of the anti-choice bills percolating through state legislatures.

Maybe this is all surprising. After all, haven’t we heard for the last two years that the Tea Party is more libertarian and less socially conservative? If you bought that line, congratulations — you’re ensconced in Beltway wisdom. The truth is that a new name for the same old conservative base hasn’t changed the nature of that base. Just as before, the “small government” conservatives and the religious right have a great deal of overlap. With gay rights waning as a powerful wedge issue, keeping the religious right motivated and ready to vote is harder than ever. Reproductive rights creates new incentives for church-organized activists to keep praying, marching, donating and, most important, voting for the GOP.

Amanda Marcotte is a freelance writer, a blogger, and the author of two books, “It’s a Jungle Out There” and “Get Opinionated.” You can follow her through her Twitter feed @amandamarcotte.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and journalist. She's published two books and blogs regularly at Pandagon, RH Reality Check and Slate's Double X.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>