Paul Ryan Loves Freedom--Except When It Comes to Women and the Poor

5 years ago

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make writing about Paul Ryan entertaining. Sure, Romney’s vice-presidential pick has inspired endless material about his killer work-out routine, his obsession with high-school philosophy favorite Ayn Rand his ability to catch a catfish bare-handed. I just read on Twitter that there’s a media competition to find photos of him shirtless. (Which, for the record, I am not participating in.) Ryan's getting a lot of female attention, but unfortunately many are focusing on Paul Ryan the P90x toned body, rather than what Ryan would like to legislate over women's bodies.

And the hair. I almost forgot about Paul Ryan’s hair.

Also, he and his wife, Janna, a former cigar and nuclear industry lobbyist got engaged on a hunting outing together.


Reporters, for better or worse, love these kind of loopy personal details. Chiefly because it alleviates the boredom of the campaign trail, especially when candidates are about as accessible as catfish in a swimming pool.

It’s also a whole lot easier to keep track of than, say, Paul Ryan’s shape-shifting, sleight-of-hand budget plan. But the gist of it is that it would repeal tax breaks for poor families with children, decimate social programs that predominantly help women like Medicaid, cut Pell grants for college students, food stamps, and keep the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and tack on a few big new ones for corporations. It also wouldn’t balance the budget for 30 years.

But never mind inconsistency.

Credit Image: © Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/

So. Given all the delightful material about the “bold” Wisconsin congressman, why am I in such a funk over his candidacy?

Because his views on women are so incredibly terrifying and out of touch with modern women’s lives.

Where to begin? Ryan is not simply anti-abortion. He’s against all abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Or at least he was until a day ago, when Todd Akin, the Missouri congressman who doesn't think women who are raped can get pregnant, caused a national uproar over his insane comment that women who are "legitimately raped" cannot get pregnant.

Ryan, just so you know, co-sponsored a bill in Congress with his pal Akin that would have enshrined into law the astonishing term "forcible rape." But today, as the G.O.P. struggled to contain the damage from Akin's outrageous remarks, Ryan dramatically switched his position. Now he'd make an exception for abortion if a woman is raped.

Did he mean forcibly raped? Or just raped? I wish he'd clarify that because I'm still confused.

The politically expedient V.P. candidate also personally called Akin and asked him to resign.

Still, it's going to be tough for Ryan to run away from his record. Ryan also voted for the so-called Protect Life Act, or more accurately called the “Let Women Die Bill” because it would have allowed hospitals to refuse women emergency abortion care, even if a woman was at risk of dying. Needless to say, he’d love to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Ryan doesn’t just support personhood, the idea that life begins the second a sperm fertilizes an egg. He co-sponsored the federal Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that would have given a fertilized egg “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” To give you a sense of how radical the bill was, not even the state of Mississippi was down with personhood when it came to a vote.

Here’s another irony. Because of the way the bill was written, it not only would have banned certain forms of birth control--it also would have outlawed in vitro fertilization. I wonder if Romney was aware of this when he so thoughtlessly chose Ryan? Because here’s the thing: No fewer than three of Mitt Romney’s grandchildren were born using IVF.

According to Mother Jones:

In May, Romney's son Tagg became father of twin boys thanks to help from IVF and a surrogate mother. Tagg's son Jonathan was also produced this way. Two of Tagg's brothers reportedly have struggled with infertility issues and resorted to IVF as well.

As for the new health care law, Ryan was also adamantly against the mandate requiring employers to pay for birth control—and not just religious institutions, either.

Yet for all Ryan’s horror about government being too big, government being too intrusive, government helping people who don’t have the benefit of his and Romney’s advantages of family money and wealth, he seems to have no conflict at all about inserting the government into the most utterly personal decisions governing women’s lives.

Also, Ryan put himself through college on Social Security benefits after his father died when he was a teenager. I don't fault him that. What I do fault him for is hawking a budget that would make it much harder for future generations of teens to get those same benefits.

I could go on and on. He wants to overturn the Affordable Care Act. He voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Like most right-wing conservatives, he has an obsession with Planned Parenthood and voted repeatedly to strip it of funding, even though none of that funding goes to abortion and the group predominantly provides women with essential preventive services like breast exams and cancer screenings.

Ryan’s a devout Catholic, but his mean-spirited budget hasn’t inspired much faith. This summer a group called “Nuns on the Bus” has been traveling around the country to churches, food pantries, and shelters denouncing the plan because of its brutal effects on the poor.

The Sisters invited Romney and Ryan to spend a day hanging out with poor people, but so far the Dream Team has been notably mum. Even the Conference of Catholic Bishops --hardly a group you'd call liberal--sent letters to Congress decrying Ryan’s Dickensian budget.

You think women haven’t noticed, Paul? Can I call you Paul? Because even thought it’s only been a little over a week, I feel like I know you already.
But just in case you’re interested, here’s the latest on how you and Mitt are faring with women:

The latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll showed that President Barack Obama leads Mr. Romney 54% to 39% among women. The gap gets truly staggering when it comes to college-educated women. Here, Mr. Obama leads 63%-32%.

Lest you think feminists are completely depressed by Ryan's nomination to the GOP ticket, we do have a sense of humor, too. Since he was declared Romney’s best buddy and V.P., I’ve seen at least three Ryan memes explode on Twitter mocking his Victorian ideas about women.

But my favorite is @PaulRyanGosling, a political take on the Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" meme:

The tag #ChooseRyanLoseChoice has also inspired pages of tweets and its own Tumblr blog:

Maybe I can have some fun with Paul Ryan after all?

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