House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made an astute observation: on the very first day of Women’s History Month conservative Republicans led almost entirely by white males pushed an amendment to a transportation bill in the U.S. Senate that could put 1.8 million workers back to work in coming months that would permit insurance companies and your employer to claim a religious or moral exemption from covering you for anything they choose. This is what is called a “rider” to the bill that effectively rides along with a proposed law that has nothing to do with the proposed legislation. Sometimes it is called a “poison pill” to force a party to vote against something they want. In this case Republicans got two for one: they keep millions out of work and delay much needed improvements in infrastructure that could make us more economically competitive and then accuse Obama of being a do nothing and ineffective President. Second, they help cut off all but the wealthiest women from a great deal of reproductive health care.
This is not about religious freedom. Those Americans that do not wish to be tarnished by contraception, abortion, cancer screenings, and the full range of reproductive health care for women can refuse to have that care provided to them and no one, especially the government, will bother them about that at all. Millions of other women, and the progressive men who truly love them can have this care covered by insurance and reap the benefits of the health care that women need.
The Catholic Church or any group of religious believers in any faith are not forced or even asked to pay for contraception, abortion, and a number of women’s health care procedures commonly employed by competent doctors to keep women healthy. President Obama quickly compromised on this issue permitting this exception in the new Affordable Health Care Act. It was the right thing to do. Many conservatives do have true objections of faith or moral principle to having churches fund it in any way. That was over and done in a matter of days. So no, the present Republican charge to keep expanding the range of denying women access to the basic health care in this area they need, want, and deserve is about something less moral, less inspiring, and less praiseworthy.
On the floor of the Senate today, a number of white men asserted that the Blunt Amendment that would deny essential reproductive health care coverage to American women would prevent the Federal Government from “intrusion” into the private lives of Americans and from denying them their long protected and respected religious liberties.
Just days before, a Republican Governor in Virginia and his male dominated and Republican legislature proposed that the way in which government could be less intrusive was to force doctors to perform what are called transvaginal ultrasounds in any case where a woman becomes pregnant and might at all be contemplating terminating that pregnancy as is her Constitutional right by law. Doctors and women interviewed have testified that the procedure is very invasive and uncomfortable. When necessary it is a good tool for doctor and patient to know more. When not needed it is just the kind of intrusion of the government into the private lives of American women Republicans claim to be fighting against. The State of Alabama is rushing to cover itself with glory too, by introducing and voting on the very same kind of legislation.
Dozens of other States, all controlled by Republican legislatures and Governors are rushing to cut funding for women’s health screenings that may be conducted by organizations they do not like such as Planned Parenthood, when no other organization has stepped forward to provide the health services to women who may not have the resources or whose insurance may not cover it. Why not put something into that Obamacare thing to make sure insurance companies offer this coverage you say? Well, that is what the Affordable Health Care Act does, and now, thanks to the President’s willingness to compromise, the government of the United States will not intrude into your lives to provide such care unless you want that. And your church does not have to have any involvement with it at all. So we are back to square one with the new law and the Blunt Amendment designed to fully thwart it.
The Blunt Amendment actually is more intrusive than anything Democrats have or ever will devise. It makes the choice for millions of American women what their religious views and moral principles ought to be and forces them to adopt the ones that the Republican Party says we all must have. How strange for the Party of small government and liberty and freedom and parties where tea can be dumped overboard.
Susan Fluke, a 24-year-old Georgetown University Law student, and already a legal citizen of the United States of America, wanted to come and tell a Congressional committee why their debate over religious freedom would have serious impact on the real health of millions of American women strictly as a health issue. She was turned away. Then Rush Limbaugh who is heard by twenty millions on 600 radio stations around the nation and who is immensely influential in GOP circles, told the country that this young woman wanted taxpayers to pay for her sexual promiscuity and that of millions of other “Feminazis” out there. Ms. Fluke was called a “slut” and instead of apologizing for slanderous remarks he came right back again today and was even clearer. Mr. Limbaugh wants any American woman using contraception (the pill IUD’s etc.) to send videotapes of them having sex for men to view. That went out over the air today. Mr. Limbaugh also suggested other Georgetown University coeds were sexually promiscuous and prostitutes too. Georgetown is a Catholic Jesuit University of some distinction where students are largely more conservative and Catholic and whose parents are great parents who have raised and developed strong families. How do Susan Flukes parents feel tonight? I bet they’re damn proud of her as I am but deeply hurt too.
All four Republican candidates for president support the Blunt Amendment as did every Republican U.S. Senator but one Olympia Snowe who voted against it saying it was far too broad. She speaks the truth. Three Democrats voted with the Republicans but they all come from more Red States with conservative constituencies and they did not have the courage of their convictions. Scott Brown, a Republican Senator from Massachusetts up for re-election in that liberal state supports limiting women’s access to health care too. Do you think his opponent; Elizabeth Warren will mention that to voters in the upcoming campaign, just over half of which are women themselves? Bet on it. The vote was 51-48 against the amendment but Senator Blunt was as his name suggests was adamant the fight was on. John Boehner spent the day caucusing with fellow House Republicans on job creation then came out and told the press that Republicans must win this fight to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care.
Up in Montana a U.S. Federal Judge admitted his mistake in forwarding a highly racist joke about President Obama to six judicial colleagues. He is a Bush appointee and revealed his dislike or pehaps something stronger of the President in his remarks on the e-mail forward.
In Arizona, Joe Arapaio the Sheriff of Maricopa County continued his baseless attacks on the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate. “Swift Boat” hatchet man Jerome Corsi was at his side. Arpaio is a prominent Arizona Republican conservative who has been under investigation by the Justice Department for the intense racial profiling that is central to Arizona’s Anti-Immigration law SB 1070.
There is something very wrong with the Republican Party and I must say now truthfully, anyone who continues to support them without serious reservations is one of them. The party is sick; rotten to its core. It is out of control. You can find a ton of things to criticize Democrats about on policy issues. But they are not being at all so disrespectful, openly and vigorously misogynous and racist as their political rivals.
It would be nice if the posts on this blog were more filled with honest policy disputes. That I have had to editorialize on so many hundreds: yes hundreds of hurtful and inhumane assaults on the human dignity of people are disgusting.
As a man, I can’t say how it feels to be a woman. And no, I’m not heading for Sweden or getting female hormones or anything. But I have a boatload of compassion for the length, breadth, and depth of humanity; humanity my Creator has listed as one of the two greatest commandments I obey: to love one another.
When will the GOP respect the dignity and rights of American women? As the nation looks to that herd of rogue elephants on the run for answers as to how to get us all back to work, and how to continue to protect us from real dangers and perhaps soon to address the real moral question of later term abortions and how to drastically reduce them, they continue to rail and push to humiliate human beings; to persecute them. If you are of color, a Latino who is suggestive of an immigrant, a woman, someone who has been fortunate enough to get an education, or who even wants one, or who is Gay or Lesbian, or with honest liberal viewpoints you are not “one of us.” You are under assault every day as the “other” the “stranger.” Just ask President Obama.
The women in my life far exceed those in Rick Santorum’s. I don’t even have to check. My mom has got his beat. Sorry Rick, but I know what I know. I have a wife, daughters, a granddaughter and lots of sister-in-laws, a dear sister, a cousin who is like a sister to me and well, really is for all intents and purposes. There are dear nieces I treasure along with a mother-in-law. I even care compassionately for the well- being of my ex-wife from a long ago marriage that didn’t work for the two of us. She feels the same way toward me. I have a whole storehouse full of women friends who I respect for their intellect, leadership, goodness, common sense, compassion and dare I say, beauty? Why can’t the GOP respect women? When will they?
What do GOP wives say to their husbands as they sit late at night watching TV and the kids have been put to bed? What do the thousands of coeds at Georgetown University think of the GOP’s antics on women? What do women in the Congress think? If they’re Democrats their foghorn voices are blowing and I’m proud! Four Republican women Senators backed the Blunt Amendment. How can they? Do they hate their gender too?
50.3% of the population of this nation are women. They need this healthcare. They will speak at the Ballot Box in November. GOP white male bull elephants are you listening? Even more, women need and deserve fully the dignity and respect their place among humanity that God-given natural rights entitles them to. Yes, the question tonight and for many a night will be, when will the GOP respect American women?
Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
For Struggles for Justice