Conservatives Double Down on the War on Women

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Commentary Abortion

Conservatives Double Down on the War on Women

Amanda Marcotte

With all the complaining about the phrase "war on women," you'd think conservatives would stop waging it. Instead, they're doubling down, and things are guaranteed to get worse before they get better. Time to buckle in for a long, arduous war to protect women's rights.

With all the moaning and wailing at Fox News and other right-wing media outlets about the supposed unfairness about the phrase “war on women,” you’d think conservative politicians would try to avoid the charge by, you know, not waging it. Or at least laying off it a little. Instead, the opposite is happening. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fears this will be the worst year on record for reproductive rights, possibly worse than the previous two worst years, 2011 and 2012. The group has a map of the legislation offered and passed on the state level. Click through to see the interactive version:

This is not a matter of politicians cleaning up leftover business or trying to finish what they started before moving on to other issues that are much less likely to get them accused of waging a war on women. These pretty much all indicate new legislation that politicians are introducing, despite their strongly stated desire not to be accused of waging a war on women. Apparently, people are just supposed to look the other way and pretend the war on women isn’t happening.

Not only is the war intensifying in terms of number of bills, but the bills themselves are getting worse. Ohio and Texas are good examples of how ugly things are getting, and how rapidly. Ohio Republicans have introduced an omnibus anti-abortion bill that would require forced ultrasounds, a 48-hour waiting period, a mandatory script full of lies, detailed instructions for doctors on exactly how they’re supposed to deliver the mandated shaming, and, bizarrely, a requirement that doctors tell patients how much they’re getting paid per abortion, as if doctors are salesmen working on commission. The myth that abortions are the result of profiteering instead of patient demand remains one of the primary examples of how the anti-choice movement never lets logic or sense factor into things; your average childbirth costs about 17 times as much as your average abortion. Just on that stat alone, we can safely assume doctors provide abortion because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s some kind of awesome money-maker beyond all others.

Roe has collapsed and Texas is in chaos.

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Texas has its own omnibus bill, and Rick Perry’s misogyny is so completely out of control that he called a special session to try to get it passed. The bill’s requirements of hospital admitting privileges and making every abortion clinic an ambulatory surgical center are designed to shut down all but five clinics in the entire state, which is over 800 miles wide. While Texas anti-choicers have it out for all women, they apparently especially want to punish women in rural or suburban areas by forcing them to make long, expensive journeys to get abortions. (Or to buy black market abortion pills, an increasingly popular, if iffy on the safety front, option.) This is after, as Andrea Grimes reports for Rewire, Texas voters were promised that Republicans would hang up the religious extremism for a while. Their religion supposedly forbids abortion, but apparently not dishonesty.

Needless to say, this kind of politically unpopular woman-hating garbage can no longer be seen as an attempt by politicians to get votes. On the contrary, these politicians are doing this despite the fact that voters don’t like it. At the end of the day, we have to accept that the rash of anti-choice legislation is due mostly to the fact that state offices have been positively filled up with men (and a handful of women) whose intense dislike of female autonomy and desire to strip women of their basic human rights overrides other concerns, such as maintaining their popularity. In some cases, they are hoping the voters aren’t paying attention enough to throw them out over it. In other cases, like Texas, they know that voters will hold their noses and re-elect a Republican even if he eats a live puppy on TV. Either way, they are determined to get this business of ending women’s basic human rights done.

A new report from the Census showing that the number of white people who died exceeded the number of white people who were born for the first time last year will only make things worse. The only thing that freaks out the conservatives who are pushing anti-choice legislation more than female autonomy is the possibility that white people won’t have a death grip on power for the rest of time in this country. That’s why, along with all this anti-choice legislation, Republicans are pushing for stringent voter ID laws, the only purpose of which is to harass and deny the vote to eligible voters who tend to lean left, to target people of color to prevent them from voting.

The perception, rightly or wrongly, on the right is that the decline in the white birth rate is because white women are too busy getting educated and leaning in to bother with babies. Of course, most of the decline is due to contraception more than abortion, but that’s OK from the anti-choice perspective, because they’re opening up the war on women to attack contraception too. Not that this is simply about trying to get white women to breed more (an attempt that’s probably doomed anyway). Restricting contraception and abortion access makes it harder for women to lift themselves out of poverty, and women of color are disproportionately harmed by such policies. Forcing women in poverty to pay hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars they don’t have just to get an abortion is a nifty way to set these women back financially, sometimes so much so that they never really recover. For conservatives who are trying to preserve white privilege, then, attacking reproductive rights is a twofer.

That’s why this isn’t going away, and even though it’s incredibly exhausting, pro-choicers have to settle in and realize the war on women is going to be a long, protracted fight. Conservatives, probably correctly, believe that if they don’t stomp out women’s hopes and dreams for better, more just, more liberated lives now, then they will probably never have another chance. That’s what we’re up against, and at least by knowing it, we will have a better chance of defeating them.