House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Wednesday that he won't seek re-election this year, effectively ending his 20-year run of pushing legislation that ultimately harms women. In his two decades representing Wisconsin in Congress, Ryan has stuck by his conservative agenda; he's remained loyal to President Trump since Inauguration Day, too. In doing so,
Paul Ryan made life harder for women in America — especially when it comes to their health and finances.
In his announcement on Wednesday,
Ryan said he's retiring to spend more time with his kids. "The truth is, it is easy for it to take over everything in your life and you can’t just let that happen because there are other things in life that can be fleeting as well: Namely your time as a husband and a father," he told reporters. Unfortunately, most women today can't afford to retire at 48 to spend more time with family.
His departure creates more uncertainty for Republicans ahead of the November midterms, but is good news for Ryan's Democratic challengers, Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers. It was also applauded by women's groups, including the Democratic pro-choice political action committee Emily's List. "So long and good riddance.
Paul Ryan's legacy will be defined by his viciously anti-woman budgets and his efforts to dismantle access to women's health care," EMILY's List tweeted. Ryan's policies effectively made it harder for women to make their own health care choices and become financially stable.
He Tried To Limit Abortion Access At Every Turn
In 2017, Ryan declared: "
We are a pro-life Congress." He has spent years attempting to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortion services. Most recently, this plan surfaced in Congress' failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. The legislation would have kept federal funds from the sexual health organization for one year.
Although Ryan wasn't successful on that front, he did help pass federal laws
outlawing intact dilation and extraction abortion procedures. He was also successful in upholding the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from paying for abortions. He also perpetuated the myth that fetuses feel pain by supporting multiple failed bills that would have completely banned abortions at 20 weeks, requiring doctors to tell patients that a fetus could feel pain at that point.
His Beloved Tax Reform Will Cost Families
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Ryan will retire after achieving his long-term goal of reforming the U.S. tax code. Although
he called it "pro-family" legislation that would benefit the middle class, his tax reform eliminated the personal exemption — a change that will negatively impact families with two or more children. The child tax credit was increased to make up for the smaller deduction, but it's not enough to keep families' taxes from increasing.
His Tax Bill Also Could Make Women's Insurance Unaffordable
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The same tax bill removed a previous Obamacare requirement that all Americans have health insurance. Experts predict this change will cause
health insurance premiums to rise as healthy Americans cancel their insurance plans. Two-thirds of women received free birth control under Obamacare in 2014, a 15 percent increase from 2012. With more women opting out of insurance, and the subsequent price increases pricing other women out, the number of women with access to free birth control will likely drop.
He Fought Equal Pay Measures
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The House speaker voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that ultimately extended the statute of limitations for equal pay lawsuits.
He has opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act,
too. Democrats say that they now have bipartisan support for the measure seeking to better enforce equal pay, but they claim Ryan won't bring it to the House floor for a vote.
His Plan To Fix The Economy Was For Women To Have More Babies
In December, Ryan asserted that "
we need to have higher birth rates in this country" in order to restore the economy. "So what do we have to do? Be smarter, more efficient, more technology — still going to need more people," he said. "And when we have tens of millions of people right here in this country falling short of their potential — not working, not looking for a job, or not in school getting a skill to get a job — that’s a problem.”
Though he immediately contradicted himself by pointing out that millions of Americans are currently unemployed, his suggestion that women should start procreating at higher rates to fix the economy sounded like a line straight out of
The Handmaid's Tale. Not to mention, it failed to address the fact that many young women are putting off having kids because of high student loan burdens and millennials' inability to buy homes.
He Backed A Law That Will Put Sex Workers In Danger
Ryan enthusiastically supported the Allow States and Victims to Fight Sex Trafficking Act (known as the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act in the Senate), which President Trump signed into law on Wednesday. The law enhances penalties for websites that facilitate illegal prostitution or sex trafficking, but sex workers and advocacy groups have pointed out that it will make it more difficult for sex workers to make a living and stay safe.
The advocacy group The Sex Workers Project wrote in a February Facebook post that the new policy will "turn the
harm reduction tools like bad date lists, online community support and opportunities for screening for violence into a Federal crime, punishable up to 10 to 25 years."
He Opposed Paid Family Leave, Despite Wanting More Time With His Own Family
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Most ironic of all, the congressman, who is retiring to spend more time at home,
came out against expanding paid family leave in 2015. "I don't think that sticking up for being a person with balance in your life, for wanting to spend your weekends in your home with your family ... I don't think that means signing up for some new unfunded mandate," he told CNN at the time. The United States is currently the only developed nation without universal paid maternity leave.
It's still unclear who will replace Ryan in Congress and as speaker of the House come January, but his record opposing women's autonomy won't be quickly forgotten.