If Scott Walker Were President & Treated America’s Women Like He’s Treated Wisconsin’s, Here’s What You Should Brace Yourself For
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who survived a tumultuous recall election by simultaneously crushing the unions in his state, may well be the frontrunner presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2016. That's scary news for a lot of people, including women who would prefer not to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound just because it's, and I quote, "a cool thing." Walker's track record on women's rights in Wisconsin has been anything but the small government the governor claims he favors, and it doesn't take much to glean from his time in the Badger State that women will be the most impacted if he ever makes it to the White House.
Oh, but how do we count the ways in which Walker turned back the clock on women's rights? There's his most recent promise to sign a 20-week abortion ban with no exemptions for rape or incest; his efforts to chip away at equal pay laws; and his commitment to ensuring no Wisconsin girls (or boys) receive comprehensive sex education.
We see you, Walker. And starting Wednesday, the rest of the nation will, too.
Wisconsin's Descent From Reproductive Choice To Reproductive Battleground
When Walker took office in 2010, Wisconsin had few abortion laws on the books — a parental consent measure for minors and a ban on Medicaid funding for abortion in cases other than rape, incest, or medical emergencies. Now, Wisconsin has become one of the toughest places in America for women seeking abortion, as Walker has led a crusade against abortion providers and their clinics.
Here's some of the laws targeting abortion, contraception and general reproductive health that Walker has signed since 2010:
- A measure mandating ultrasounds at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure. Doctors must provide patients with the opportunity to see the ultrasound image, listen to the heartbeat, and hear a description of the image.
- A provision that levies felony charges against doctors who don't meet with a patient for one-on-one counseling, with no friends or family members present, at least 24 hours before the procedure.
- A ban on health insurance policies obtained through a state exchange from covering abortion procedures.
- A measure requiring physicians at all clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius (this law was struck down by a federal court earlier this year).
- A measure defunding Planned Parenthood entirely; the funds did not go toward abortion, but toward breast cancer screenings, wellness exams, birth control and other general and reproductive health care.
- A law that placed limitations on medication abortions, including threatening to charge doctors with a felony for administering abortion-inducing drugs. Several clinics in Wisconsin, including Planned Parenthood centers, suspended medication abortions for several years until the law was recently clarified.
Walker is on a roll. And even though he played down his anti-abortion and anti-contraception stance during his reelection campaign in 2014, the governor seems to be back on track. This time last year, Walker had no position on a 20-week abortion ban; now, Walker is championing one of the most extreme 20-week abortion bans in the nation. Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told The New York Times this week that Walker is ready to sign the 20-week ban with no exemptions for victims of sexual assault or incest.
Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood Action Fund called it "a remarkably extreme position that the vast majority of Americans" don't support. "It's impossible to understand why Scott Walker thinks that being pregnant as the result of rape or incest gets easier after a couple of months," Richards added. "But what's crystal clear is that he has no regard or respect for women's health."
And What About Those Funding Cuts?
“In our first budget, we defunded Planned Parenthood in the state of Wisconsin," Walker proudly stated while speaking at the Faith and Freedom Summit in Iowa earlier in 2015. But the funding cuts had no impact on abortion — instead, it negatively impacted the health care for low-income women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood clinics for exams, STI and HIV testing and low-cost contraception. Through the cuts, Walker also ended the state's 16-year contract with Planned Parenthood that specifically provided breast and cervical cancer screenings under the state's well-woman program.
According to Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, the funding cuts shuttered five rural clinics, impacting roughly 3,100 patients. These closures resulted in a lost of nearly 20,000 health care services over the last four years.
Sara Finger, executive director and founder of Wisconsin’s Alliance For Women’s Health, told Bustle's Lauren Holter earlier in June: "It’s incredibly frustrating and disheartening to see so many legislators, including our governor, dismiss the healthcare experts and standards of care used to treat Wisconsin women."
(No) Equal Pay For Equal Work
In an interview with Boston Herald Radio last week, Walker attacked Hillary Clinton's position on equal pay laws, claiming the Democratic candidate was trying to "pit one group of Americans versus another." We really shouldn't be surprised — in 2012, Walker repealed Wisconsin's Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which allowed victims of wage discrimination to take their cases to state circuit courts, a more cost-effective way for employees to bring a lawsuit against their employers. As such, the law was created hoping it would deter pay discrimination because of the stiffer penalties it placed on employers. Wisconsin is now one of a handful of states without an equal pay law, though the state still has a statute on gender discrimination in the workplace.
At the time of the repeal, state Sen. Chris Taylor said the equal pay law was "having positive effects on reducing wage inequity." Taylor said the state jumped 12 spots in gender earnings parity rankings in the few short years the law was in effect. Currently, the median earnings ratio for women working full-time compared to men is 79 percent in Wisconsin, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), reflecting no change from after the equal pay law was repealed in 2012.
Images: Getty Images (1), Whole Woman's Health Baltimore, Matt Baran/Flickr