Last week’s firestorm set off by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has brought into sharp focus the problem Republicans have in their outreach to women. Rather than Utah Senator Mike Lee et al taking a victory lap over Hobby Lobby’s exemption from covering 4 types of contraception that it (wrongly) classifies as abortifacients in its health care plan, what should trouble Conservatives is the effect this decision may have on the midterms and 2016 elections. They cannot seem to keep from 1) gloating, and 2) talking about women as though they were “sluts” and “hysterics” who depend on “big daddy” government.
Here are a few choice tidbits:
Senator Lee (UT) agreed that contraceptives are used for “recreational behavior.”
Per Conservative thinker, Erick Erickson: “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer subsidized consequence free sex.”
Foster Friess, prominent Rick Santorum backer, offered his old standby for birth control: “…put an aspirin between your knees.”
FOX’s Greg Gutfield referred to women upset by the Hobby Lobby decision as “shrieking” “activists”: “Screaming is what they majored in.”
Grouping women who disagree with you as hysterics may not be the ticket. All three female Supreme Court Justices dissented, included the eminent Ruth Bader Ginsburg. By Mr. Gutfield’s logic, these women are “shrieking” hysterics as well. Way to earn the female vote.
While FOX News, light bringer for the right wing entertainment complex, cannot be said to represent all Conservatives, what do you think will happen with characterizations like this one from Bill O’Reilly stalwart Jesse Watters at election time? He refers to single women as “Beyoncé voters” who “depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands. They need things like contraception, healthcare, and they love to talk about equal pay.”
So married women in great numbers do not make a living but are beholden to men to pay the bills? And how many other men in power agree with him? He must have forgotten that 40% of the nation’s women are now head of household or the sole breadwinners, not to mention the 73% in the workforce. As to the Beyoncé characterization, which in itself has offensive interpretations, is his idea that it’s the women with their heels to the ceiling who have nothing better to do than have lots of recreational sex at his expense? I was shocked to see the amount of vitriol over the internet echoing just these sentiments.
These gentlemen are passing over research and common sense. Republicans may want to look at these numbers:
According to the CDC, the fact that “…more than 99% of women 15-44 years of age” utilize contraception (at least one method) should be an alarming statistic to conservatives.”
“[W]omen report using contraception for economic and medical reasons. Sixty-two million women in the U.S. are currently in their childbearing years and most — 99 percent — use birth control to prevent pregnancies, the National Women’s Law Center finds. Nearly 60 percent have relied on contraception for medical reasons like reducing cramps or menstrual pain, ensuring menstrual regulation, treating acne, and treating endometriosis. And according to a recent study from the Guttmacher Institute, 63 percent of women who use birth control say that they rely on contraception to take better care of themselves and their families.”
Also from the Guttmacher Institute,
Some 1.5 million women use birth control to help with medical issues such as ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis and endometrial cancer. …
The intrauterine device, which was one of the contraceptive methods at issue in the court case, is by no means a rare form of birth control and is commonly used for medical issues. In 2012, an estimated 8.5 percent of all contraceptive users said they used an IUD. The T-shaped copper or plastic devices are considered the third-most-effective contraceptive method, after vasectomies and implants.”
The IUD is now one of the Hobby Lobby banned devices, and involves up-front costs amounting to one-month’s salary of a women working full time at minimum wage. This represents a hardship expense, which women need to undertake for medical, not recreational reasons. Since we are talking about millions of women here, the insensitivity of this male-centric decision also need to be considered by pols looking to celebrate.
Irin Carmon penned an article debunking some of the myths surrounding the Hobby Lobby case. In pertinent part:
Believing women’s equality matters is a value – one that, clearly, not everyone holds. But contraceptives’ public health benefits are inarguable. Just ask the leading group for obstetricians and gynecologists, who wrote in their brief, “Pregnancies that are too frequent and too closely spaced, which are more likely when those pregnancies are unintended, put women at significantly greater risk for permanent physical health damage … The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified family planning as one of the greatest public health achievements of the twentieth century, finding that smaller families and longer birth intervals contribute to the better health of infants, children, and women, as well as improving the social and economic roles of women.” They added, “Contraception also helps to protect the health of those women for whom pregnancy can be hazardous, or even life-threatening,” which Justice Kennedy does note in his concurrence.
There are also benefits unrelated to pregnancy, the ACOG amicus points out: Hormonal birth control “helps address several menstrual disorders, helps prevent menstrual migraines, treats pelvic pain from endometriosis, and treats bleeding from uterine fibroids.”
And this from Dr. Jeanne Conry, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists past president, per U.S. News/The Daily Beast:
“You have a 34-year-old woman with diabetes and hypertension, she’s not going to be served as well with an oral contraceptive as she is with an IUD,” Conry said. “It’s such a personal decision, that should be made between a physician and patient based on the risks and benefits. Having Supreme Court justices make that decision is just inappropriate.”
Since the five men who determined this ruling will never have these health issues, perhaps they see them as less than vital. But women will not forget at election time.
In 2012, even some conservative women voted against their own party, disturbed that certain Republicans seem not to understand basic science. The numbers don’t lie. Per AP’s Julie Pace, Conservatives’ Hobby Lobby Win Could Hurt the GOP in 2016,
“A Gallup survey conducted in May also found that 90 percent of Americans, including 88 percent of Republicans, see the use of birth control as morally acceptable.”
Governor Chris Christie, devoid of his typical bluster, did not dare to weigh in: “In the end of the day, they did what they did.” Arguably, he understands what a bear trap he’d be walking into ahead of his hoped for Presidential bid in 2016.
Per the New York Times, single women represent a group growing in number and in power:
Half of all adult women over the age of 18 are unmarried — 56 million, up from 45 million in 2000 — and now account for one in four people of voting age.
They also tend to vote for Democrats in overwhelming numbers. Another thing Conservatives should consider in their outreach to women. Speaker Boehner just might have to hold another class to counsel his compadrés to ix-nay the offensive remarks.
While Republicans may fool themselves into thinking that offering up a purely ‘economic message” will do the trick in the upcoming election cycles, they cannot run from their current platform, one which has not been able to carry the popular vote but once in the last six presidential elections.
Per Paul Waldman of the Washington Post, “…as long as the loudest GOP voices are from the sex-is-dirty corner, Democrats will be only too happy to talk about the Republican position on contraception.” Words matter. And while an argument can be made that Democrats do plenty of pandering, using women, and women’s rights, as a political football at election time, when faced with an opposition that makes remarks like “Some girls rape easy,” the choice in the voting booth is pretty simple.
Whether or not one agrees with the Court’s decision, even the whiff that men are insensitive to the needs of women’s health care, particularly women earning the minimum wage (women outnumber men in poverty 3 to 2) will hurt Conservatives going forward. When these guys open their mouths, they reinforce ignorance of science, of women and their obsession with women’s sexuality and need to control them.
Justice Sotomayor’s comments were also well taken: “This means the corporate boss gets a say over the religious beliefs of the employees. What if they do not agree?” The Conservative argument is that there are other types of contraception available. But women tend to worry when their freedoms are restricted, particularly with the knowledge that a number of other companies are now preparing just such cases.
In the 2004 presidential election, anti-gay marriage sentiment was used successfully as a powerful wedge issue. 10 years later, those laws are falling around the country.
Conservative pundits and select politicians given to insulting women with the “recreational use” comments may tout the Hobby Lobby decision as a victory of sorts, but their satisfaction may be short lived. Women (and fair minded men) are angry. The ones who are angry do not vote for the Rick Santorums of this world. That may also not be good news for men like Christie who are not taking a stand.
Messrs. Lee, Watters, and Erickson, better hope women are so busy with all that recreational sex, or are distracted by getting mani/pedis that they forget all about voting in November. Since Midterms elections tend to inspire lower turnout, Republicans might get away with it, but anger has a funny way of influencing turnout.
2016 will be another matter. If the Republican platform - and attitudes - remain unchanged, it will also be another rout.
Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin. Sharing the untold story of Hillary's 2008 campaign, Dirty Words exposes media sexism in a society not as evolved as advertised. "The book tells it like it is for women aspiring to power." #1 on Amazon's Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.
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