by German Lopez
Election year causes GOP candidates to downplay rhetoric, but legislation remains
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
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
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,
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.