Republicans Speak Out Against Their Own Party
Over the last few weeks, the battle over birth control and women’s health has dominated the national conversation. From Rush Limbaugh’s degrading comments about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke to Mitt Romney’s saying he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, women’s health has become a defining issue ahead of the 2012 election. And now, a number of Republican elected officials are speaking out on women’s health, distancing themselves from the so-called “war on women,” even suggesting women may deserve a choice.
Last week, we heard from Senator John McCain, who was asked on Meet the Press if there was “a war on women among Republicans.” McCain responded, “We need to get off that issue, in my view. I think we ought to respect the right of women to make choices in their lives and make that clear....”
A few days later, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison spoke out and expressed concern with Rick Perry’s decision to cut off health care for more than 130,000 women.
And even later, at a rally for the Equal Rights Amendment, Republican Congressman Richard Hanna said the following: “[T]hese are very precarious times for women” and “many of your rights are under assault.”
Later, in an interview, he said:
“I think you’ve watched a number of things come up recently, like the proposal to defund Planned Parenthood. And I’ve gotten to feel that I owed it to my friends in the Republican Party to stand out a little bit and say, ‘Everybody doesn’t feel the way you feel.’”
Most recently, former Senator Arlen Specter spoke out on the issue. In his memoir, he lamented at the hyper-partisanship that persists in Congress due to wedge issues like women’s access to comprehensive health care, "The abortion issue continues to drive Senate polarization and paralysis.”
As a pro-choice Republican himself, he knows how lonely this position can be among members of his party. In an interview with the Huffington Post, when asked if the GOP is hurting its prospects with women voters he said, “Terribly! Terribly!” As Specter acknowledged, women’s health has become a partisan issue — a political football to be tossed around. And not only is it bad for women, it’s leaving pro-choice Republicans without much of a choice in candidates.
Republicans may be defecting from their talking points and acknowledging that this battle over birth control has gone too far, but unfortunately their actions have not always matched up with their rhetoric. Both McCain and Hutchison voted for the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed any employer the right to deny coverage for birth control based on a so-called moral conviction. So if these Republicans, who voted for the Blunt Amendment, think the fight over birth control has gone too far, it's frightening to think what the presidential primary candidates -- all who have pledged to eliminate funding for family planning and further restrict women’s access to health care-- would do if elected..
As we head into the November elections, one thing is clear: women’s health will be a defining issue.