On Thursday, former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued that the contraceptive coverage in Obamacare, far from being a helpful medical service, is actually an “insult [to] the women of America.” By offering contraceptives without a copay, Huckabee explained, Democrats are telling women that “they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system.” Republicans, on the other hand — by cutting taxes on the rich and trying to outlaw abortion, duh — are the real pro-woman party. “Republicans don’t have a war on women,” Huckabee bellowed at the annual GOP retreat. “They have a war for women.”
The Republican Party is aware of its women problem, and it’s long been trying to figure out how to solve that problem without actually changing any of its policies. The latest idea, it seems, is for Republicans to simply proclaim that they’re “fighting a war for women” and hope no one questions the claim. Well, we’re more than happy to question that claim. The GOP is not, in any way, fighting a “war for women.”
Here are five reasons why.
1. MOST of the GOP OPPOSED THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
Back when he was a fresh-faced Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden spearheaded and passed the Violence Against Women Act. It tackles violence and sexual assault from a number of different angles — for example, by mandating that victims don’t have to pay for their own rape exams; increasing federal penalties for repeat sex offenders; preventing women’s sexual histories from being used against them in trial; and establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline, among other policies. While its initial passage was somewhat difficult, it’s become more or less noncontroversial since then, and Congress reauthorized it with ease for 18 years.
Until 2011, when congressional Republicans suddenly refused to renew it. They held the bill up because Democrats wanted expand the law’s protections to cover undocumented immigrants, American Indians, and gay people. When Democrats refused to strip those protections from the bill, Republicans crossed their arms, shook their heads, and refused to pass it. In early 2013, three months after Mitt Romney’s walloping in the presidential election, the GOP finally relented and voted to reauthorize it — but even then, they provided just enough votes for it to pass, and most of the Congressional GOP voted against it.
2. THEY WANT TO KILL PLANNED PARENTHOOD
“Planned Parenthood, we’re gonna get rid of that,” Romney casually remarked during his presidential run. This wasn’t just a one-off comment: Republicans have long demanded that Planned Parenthood, which is the sole source of health care for many low-income women, be placed on the chopping block. Does the GOP oppose the organization due to the mistaken belief that all it does is provide abortions, or are Republicans genuinely apathetic about whether or not women have access to affordable health care?
Whichever one it is, one thing is clear: Waging war on Planned Parenthood isn’t synonymous with fighting a war for women. One might even argue that it’s precisely the opposite.
3. THEY SAY THINGS LIKE THIS
Here’s Rick Santorum pontificating on birth control:
Many in the Christian faith say, ‘Well, that’s okay, contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage.
Here’s Congressman Steve Pearce on gender roles in marriage:
The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice...The wife’s submission is not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband.
Here’s Indiana Secretary of State and former Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock on rape:
I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
While actions ultimately matter more than words, words matter as well, especially for those in positions of power and influence. Saying stuff like this is hardly indicative of a party that’s fighting for women.
4. MANDATORY ULTRASOUNDS
A couple of years ago, Republicans came up with a brilliant way of discouraging abortions: require that women have and look at ultrasounds before they terminate their pregnancies. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a mandatory ultrasound bill into law last year. Back when he was still Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell upped the ante by pushing for transvaginal ultrasounds, which involve a long metal wand and arguably fit under the legal definition of rape (which is what one woman compared it to after a physician recommended she undergo the procedure).
Actually, it wasn’t such a brilliant idea: A study earlier this month showed that mandatory ultrasounds don’t discourage women from getting abortions, and last week, a federal judge ruled that North Carolina’s mandatory ultrasound bill was unconstitutional.
The thing is, these weren’t just fringe Republicans: McDonnell was on Mitt Romney’s shortlist for Vice President, and prior to his indictment last week, he was frequently touted as a possible presidential candidate. Walker still is.
5. THEY OPPOSE OBAMACARE
Shortly after the 2008 election, the Republican Party internally decided to fight any and everything with President Obama’s name on it, including the Affordable Care Act. The GOP’s assault on Obamacare has been well-documented and consistent, despite the fact that the structure of the law is based on ideas originally championed by Republicans.
The thing is, Obamacare is great for women. It requires that insurance plans cover maternity care, prevents insurers from charging women more than men for identical plans (yes, that was a thing), offers contraception and preventive care without co-pay, and lots of other things. Don’t take our word for it, though — here’s Forbes, which has generally been very hostile to the law, explaining that it’s nonetheless very good for women. War for women? We call bullshit.