If there was any doubt that the GOP still has a “woman problem,” the past 24 hours have certainly cleared that up—yesterday was a red-letter day for anti-choice politicians claiming that abortion hurts the economy and even equating the anti-choice movement with the fight to abolish slavery.
The latest salvo in the right’s stepped-up war on abortion came during a debate on the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” when Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) made the dubious statement that restricting abortion access would be good for the economy. The bill would eliminate tax benefits for small businesses and individuals who buy private insurance plans that cover abortion services. Opponents of the bill say that the government should be focusing on job creation rather than on the GOP’s culture wars. In response, Goodlatte expressed support for the bill during a committee mark-up because “it is the morally right thing to do, but it also promotes job creation for all the care and services and so on that need to be provided by a lot of people to raise children.”
That’s basically the opposite of what the Congressional Budget Office found this past summer. In a review of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which has been ping-ponging around the House and Senate, the CBO found that restricting access to just late-term abortions would ultimately cost the government between $75 million and $400 million in Medicaid costs associated with additional births. And of course, that’s not even getting into the ethical thorniness of Goodlatte’s logic, which asks women to bear the burden of unwanted pregnancies for the sake of the nation’s bottom line.
Not to be outdone, in his State of the State address, Kansas’s Republican Governor Sam Brownback equated anti-choice protests with his state’s 19th-century fight against slavery and praised the wingnuts who attacked an abortion doctor in the early ‘90s. “The chains of bondage of our brothers rubbed our skin and our hearts raw until we could stand it no more and erupted into `Bleeding Kansas,’” he said. “The Summer of Mercy sprung forth in Kansas as we could no longer tolerate the death of innocent children.” The Summer of Mercy was a six-week long protest in 1991, during which thousands of anti-choice activists descended on the clinic of Dr. George Tiller, harassing him and his patients. Tiller was ultimately murdered for his work.
By the way, Brownback’s comments were not that out of the ordinary. Paul Ryan made essentially the same comparison between abolitionists and anti-abortion advocates. It’s sad that these Republicans are, as Steve Benen at MSNBC said, stirring up “another pointless culture-war fight” that only makes the party look more wasteful and out of touch with actual problem-solving. And, shockingly, it’s not winning them any fans among women. “It’s almost back to the old days. Let’s tell the little lady what she can do. Well, ladies are not going to put up with that anymore,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) at a press conference yesterday.
While Brownback’s and Goodlatte’s comments may appeal to ardent anti-abortion advocates, they make them appear disconnected from the real economic and health problems facing the nation, and even more specifically, those facing women. If they keep up this rhetoric, things will be looking pretty bleak for the GOP in 2016.