Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what Republican House Speaker John Boehner said would be priority No. 1 for Republicans after sweeping the House of Representatives and many state legislatures in 2010. This, Republicans said, was why they were elected: People wanted to see changes in the economy fast.
But, apparently, there was one other priority.
Almost immediately after coming into office in 2011, Virginia Republicans set the national stage for vital women’s health issues. House Bill 1 — the first bill Virginia Republicans chose to take on — was a personhood bill, a bill that define life beginning at conception. Not only would the bill have banned abortion, it would also have banned the birth control pill, which sometimes prevents birth by stopping the implantation of a fertilized egg.
An impartial observer might wonder why a personhood bill would be a top Republican priority. After all, the same election that put all these Republicans in power also had a personhood bill overwhelmingly rejected in Mississippi — a state so socially conservative that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want to make interracial marriage illegal, according to a recent poll from Public Policy Polling.
Nonetheless, this was the issue Virginia Republicans decided to give serious attention. In an economy with a 9 percent unemployment rate at the time, this was the most important issue to Virginia Republicans.
Ohio wasn’t much luckier with its crop of Republicans. Five months after inauguration, the Ohio House passed its “heartbeat” bill, or H.B. 125. To this day, it’s the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. Not only would it ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest or life-threatening circumstances.
Ohio and Virginia were not alone. Republicans were pushing anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills all around the nation. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas all made national headlines with their own bills. In more than 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict insurance coverage of abortions, according to ABC News. At the federal level, Republicans have made funding for Planned Parenthood a top issue time and time again, and insurance companies covering contraception recently became such a big issue that the White House had to step in.
So much for keeping the government out of health care. The same political party that clamored for small government now couldn’t wait to regulate women’s health care. Apparently, the economy is too much for the government to handle, but every woman’s uterus is fair game.
There has been some backlash. After Virginia tried to pass a bill that would force doctors to give patients seeking abortion a transvaginal ultrasound, women’s health advocates in states across the nation organized protests, leading to governors and state legislatures beginning to back down in their rhetoric. Even Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who originally supported the transvaginal ultrasound bill, has been downplaying his involvement in Virginia’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception bills.
Now, Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee for president, is facing some of the backlash. In a recent Gallup poll, women came out severely against Romney. In the category of women under 50, Obama held 60 percent of voters, while Romney held only 30 percent. That’s right, Obama now leads with women under 50 by a two-to-one margin.
But while that may stop some rhetoric, the bills and laws are still coming forward. The Ohio heartbeat bill is still being pushed by some Republicans in the Ohio Senate, and a personhood initiative could show up in Ohio’s 2012 ballot after a stamp of approval from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Mississippi also plans to reintroduce its personhood initiative in the 2012 ballot, and other states are beginning to pass around petitions for their own initiatives as well.
In the end, one is left to wonder what could stop social conservatives. Public backlash and poor polling don’t seem to be enough to stop the Republican war on women, and in some cases it might have actually emboldened them.
Child poverty and its causes will be one of the main focuses of the conference. Nearly 15 million children in the United States, or 21 percent of all children, live in families below the federal poverty level, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). A study from the NCCP found Cincinnati has the third-worst children’s poverty rate at 48 percent. Only Detroit and Cleveland were worse, with 53.6 percent and 52.6 percent, respectively.
“We’re going to look at all the range of policies and practices and the impact of those and what we can do,” CDF President Marian Wright told WVXU today. “It’s going to be a real teach-in on what we must do to move forward and stop the move backwards, which I think we’re in the midst of.”
The conference will also look at education issues. It seeks to shine light on the issue of the achievement gap between the poor and non-poor and racial disparities. A 2011 analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics found black and Hispanic students are behind their white peers by 20 test-points in math and reading tests provided by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The difference equates to about two grade levels.
The conference will also look at child health care services, zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools and tools and programs that can be used to improve the lives of struggling children.
Anyone is free to register at CDF’s website to join the conference. Experts, doctors and activists will also be there.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a court brief Wednesday supporting an anti-abortion group that is being investigated for its plans to erect billboards that Congressman Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill) said contained false information.
The ACLU's brief supports the Susan B. Anthony List's complaint in federal court that alleges the Ohio law restricting false statements is unconstitutional.
The "Highway to Health Care" tour rolls into town Saturday, stopping in Bond Hill to help local people contact their members of Congress to demand real health care reform. Sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the tour features an RV outfitted as a mobile activism center, complete with on-board laptop computers, cell phones and postcards for participants to contact their Senators and Representatives.
A forum on health care reform featuring people who have been adversely affected by the current system that relies on private insurance will be held Thursday. Entitled “National Health Care Reform: The Time Is Now,” the forum will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. at St. Monica/St. George Parish Center, 328 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights.
Among panelists who will speak at the forum are uninsured people, small business owners who can't afford premiums for their workers and physicians.