As I write this, Roe vs. Wade is turning forty years old. The landmark Supreme Court decision that made abortion services legal in this country, protecting them from state laws that would bar women from terminating their own pregnancy was decided exactly forty years ago to the day. For four complete decades now, women have ostensibly been given free reign over their reproductive health and the United States government has given its full blessing to do so, not because everyone in America believes in it, but because we had an adult conversation and the risks of illegal abortions, so-called “back alley” abortions, were deemed too great, and so the practice was deemed legal and protected, touching off four decades of sycophancy that’s led to abortion clinics being bombed and doctors who perform abortions murdered.
Because nothing says “the land of the free” like telling a woman what she can do with her genitalia.
You’d think the GOP would have learned its lesson in 2012 though. All the talk of “legitimate rape,” and “transvaginal ultrasounds” cost the Republicans dearly. Any candidate that was caught on tape making absolutely ridiculous and scientifically unfounded statements about women’s health issues was trounced. Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, gone. Paul Ryan won his seat in Wisconsin back, but he was trounced mightily in the presidential election, due in no small part to being one of the Akin co-sponsors of the personhood bill.
One other target of Republican derision last year was their renewed attacks on Planned Parenthood. Forget that the non-profit organization offers vital free and cheap health services to millions of American women a year. Republicans only care about the fact that they are the country’s largest provider of abortions, despite the fact that abortions are only a percentage of the work they do. Mitt Romney famously said he was going to de-fund Planned Parenthood if he won, which activated Planned Parenthood and a whole bunch of women both conservative and liberal who said “enough is enough.”
But there are two female United States House Reps that apparently did not get the memo. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black have introduced legislation in the House that would bar abortion providers from getting access to Title X federal funding for family planning services. So apparently deciding when you’re going to have a baby is not legitimate family planning. Reps. Blackburn and Black must feel that the only family planning you need is when and where the man ejaculates.
So here we see yet another way in which Republicans will continue to alienate voters on a large scale. They are running their national efforts like they’re sequestered among their own constituents. Perhaps in Tennessee, where Black and Blackburn hail from, abortion is the devil. And perhaps there in Tennessee they can come out and demagogue Planned Parenthood, spout some nonsense about what they do, and then get huge support for their efforts to take Planned Parenthood down. But on a national scale, that kind of politicking doesn’t work. There are certainly millions and millions of Americans who would not consider an abortion under any circumstance, but most of those same people believe that they have no right to dictate to another person what they do with their bodies.
But even more insulting than the sheer ideology of what the two Tennessee reps are proposing is the notion that these are the kinds of legislation that America needs to debate right now, at least in their minds. Instead of focusing on economic policy, they focus on divisive social policies that will die on the Senate floor and they know it. Perhaps they’re focusing on the social stuff because that’s what energizes their base, and after all the gerrymandering they did to set up a Congressional representation map that somehow lets Democrats get a million more votes on aggregate and still not carry a majority in the house, they don’t intend to piss off that base. Or perhaps they know the majority of the country rejected their fiscal policies, which means that conservative ideology when it comes to both foreign and economic policy now smells worse than any garbage heap anywhere.
Whatever the reason, this bill is further proof of the vast disconnect that the religious right, paired with the Tea Party, suffers from the rest of society. Maybe if our economy was bustling again, and we weren’t also talking about immigration reform, the war on drugs, and the war on terror, then we could focus on re-litigating something we already agreed to forty years ago. The Republicans are literally the party of the past, continuing to fight programs like Social Security and Medicare decades after their worth and value have been proven, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that they can’t let go of the abortion thing either.
The good news for progressives is that this kind of legislative tactic cost the GOP dearly last year so for Republicans to continue the crusade against the changing demographics and sentiments in this country only bodes well for the Democrats’ chances. Perhaps the gerrymandering will keep Tea Party Republicans in power for years to come, but all that means is that a stubbornly antiquated minority party will remain in power in Congress. We’ll smile at them, nodding like you do to a toddler who’s pulled the cup of water down onto themselves again. It’s cute, but for their own sake you hope they learn from their mistakes eventually.
The abortion issue is a losing one for Republicans. Most Americans understand that it’s a topic that was settled years ago and on relatively equal footing. It’s meant to be safe, legal and rare. Most Americans don’t want to see a rise in botched abortion deaths or disabilities. So regardless of one’s personal feelings on the issue, the wise and prudent thing to do is to keep them safe, legal and rare.
Just don’t tell that to the Republicans. They’re too busy marginalizing themselves and their party.