Is This the Return of Back Alley Abortions?
OK, we’ve had no crazy Todd Akin-style comments this cycle. But the Texas law that will close abortion clinics is more revealing.
Sometimes, women have sex. Sometimes, that sex is unprotected. Sometimes, women get pregnant. And sometimes, they chose to terminate their pregnancies by having abortions. In fact, one in three American women will have an abortion by the age of 45. These are all basic and undeniable facts of life, facts just like evolution and climate change and the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage that both universal truth and voter opinion plainly endorse. And then there’s the Republican Party, determined to face these facts in the same way it faces its inevitable substantive and demographic irrelevance — in other words, not at all.
According to a recent poll conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, almost 7 in 10 Americans “believe having an abortion is morally acceptable and should be legal” or are “personally against abortion” but “don’t believe government should prevent a woman from making that decision for herself.” Included in that number are fully 53 percent of Republicans who say they don’t support government limits on abortion.
The Republican Party has a major — and growing — problem not only wooing women voters but also male voters who support women’s reproductive freedom, let alone economic equality. And yet confronted with facts, including that Republicans in Texas are forcing the closure of the majority of the state’s abortion clinics, what does Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican Party, do? Distract from the facts.
On Meet The Press this past Sunday, Chuck Todd asked Priebus about last week’s ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court to allow Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law to take immediate effect. Here’s their exchange via RH Reality Check’s Jodi Jacobson, who has characterized Priebus’ response as a downright lie:
TODD: A court upheld a new law in Texas. One of the things about the Republican Party is you don’t like a lot of regulation on businesses, except if the business is [an] abortion clinic. Eighty percent of these abortion clinics in Texas are going to be basically out of business because of this new law. Too much regulation, is that fair? Why regulate on the abortion issue now until maybe the law is—and maybe wait until you win a fight in the Supreme Court where you outlaw abortion altogether. Why restrict a business now in the state of Texas?
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, you obviously have to talk to someone in Texas. But the fact of the matter is that we believe that any woman that’s faced with an unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling, whatever it is that we can offer to be—
CHUCK TODD: But 80 percent of those clinics are gone. So that they have to drive 200 or 300 miles for that compassion?
REINCE PRIEBUS: No, look, listen, Chuck. The issue for us is only one thing. And that’s whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion. That’s the one issue that I think separates this conversation that we’re having.
Wait a second! The Texas law has absolutely nothing to do with taxpayer dollars — after all, Texas banned public support for reproductive health a long time ago. No, the Texas law merely places extremely onerous and unnecessary requirements on abortion providers for the sole purpose of forcing those providers to stop performing abortions. Which, by the way, is working — as a result of the Fifth Circuit ruling, seven or eight additional clinics in Texas will close, forcing women in many parts of the state to drive 300 miles or more to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. The Texas policy, after all, is the manifestation of GOP-led attacks on abortion across the country, which have gone to such an extreme that 87 percent of counties in America do not have abortion providers and medical training on abortion care has been so undermined that, as The Daily Beast reported, a new online course is trying to fill the gap.
Maybe Priebus was confused. Republicans also oppose government funding for contraception — or even, in the case of Obamacare, government requiring private insurers to cover contraception — despite the obvious fact that affordable access to contraception lowers the rate of unintended pregnancies and thus the need for abortions. Then again, I give Priebus more credit than that — and assume that his words weren’t accidentally misspoken but deliberately misleading.
Again and again, as I have written, it seems to boil down to Republicans being offended that women — especially poor women — even want to have sex. How dare they! Soon they’ll be wanting equal pay. “You could argue that money is more important for men,” Republican congressional candidate Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin once said, explaining his opposition to equal pay laws. Birth control is for women who “cannot control their libido,” said former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
These attitudes, along with backwards policy stances, paint a picture of a GOP not only out of touch with women’s reproductive and economic freedom but downright opposed to it. Is it any wonder that women, especially young liberated women, are fleeing from a party that is so profoundly and anachronistically condescending to more than half of the population?
Rank-and-file conservatives by and large do not share these extreme anti-equality, anti-abortion, anti-women attitudes. But such views are becoming dangerously prevalent among Republican leaders and candidates — and being translated into policy at a record pace, with results so frightening that Republican leaders realize they can’t even be honest with voters about the effects. In other words, the “Republican War on Women” isn’t a politically convenient construction of the Democrats, it’s a fact — one that voters are certainly aware of.