Party’s lawmakers have hit rights, health, pay, safety

Posted on May 16, 2012

Orlando Sentinel, May 16, 2012 by Susannah Randolph

Let there be no doubt that the Republican war on women is coordinated, intentional and dangerous. The first battles began in state legislatures, and what most people don’t know is that the GOP‘s war on women has been quietly raging for years.

Like a stealth attack, model, uniform legislation targeting women’s healthand reproductive rights was filed simultaneously in several states. Forced ultrasound bills, virtual bans on abortions, and the de-funding of Planned Parenthood all came out of a central command — Americans United for Life, which functions alongside the American Legislative Exchange Council as a GOP legislative factory focused solely on women’s issues.

In 2010, Republicans in the Florida House voted against expanding unemployment benefits to women who were victims of domestic violence, leaving many women with a choice between protecting their children from their attackers and providing for their children. That same year, then-Rep. Sandy Adams, a Republican who now serves in Congress, sponsored a bill that would have required some women to pay $200 to get a domestic-violence injunction.

In 2011, our own Gov. Rick Scott held a party at the Governor’s Mansion to “celebrate” the signing of five anti-women bills, most of which originated as model legislation provided by AUL.

By the start of 2012, AUL had helped a record number of laws get passed in more than 20 states to restrict women’s personal health-care decisions, and its efforts continue.

The attacks moved to Congress, where GOP extremists pushed hard to defund Planned Parenthood — an organization that provides mammograms, contraception, cancer screenings and other critically important health services for women who cannot afford them otherwise. Women fought back, threatening to shut down the government, and won an important battle in the GOP’s war.

The attacks intensified and began to expand to issues other than reproductive rights such as jobs, the economy and sexual assault.

In 2009, almost every Republican in Congress voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. In 2012, extremist Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker repealed a similar state law passed in 2009 to protect women from wage discrimination.

This spring, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Scott vetoed $1.5 million in funding for 30 rape crisis centers, claiming that the funds “weren’t a good use of taxpayers’ money.”

Adding injury to insult, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida voted against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act along with 30 other Republican senators just this April.

In the most absurd attack on women, GOP extremists went after contraception. For many women who were not already called to battle, this was the breaking point. Birth control, used by many as responsible family planning, and treatment for fibroid cysts and other conditions, has been part of women’s lives since the 1960s.

Just recently, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation that would allow employers to interrogate female employees about contraception use.

Those waging this war will say that this is “manufactured,” but one has to look no further than the GOP legislation factories such as AUL and ALEC to see that there is a central command in this war on women and Republican legislators are happy to act on their marching orders.

Unfortunately, when middle-class women are forced to undergo unwanted procedures at their doctors’ offices, receive paychecks that are smaller than their male counterparts, find themselves lacking protection from abusers, or are told that their insurance doesn’t cover basic medicines, they realize they have been ambushed.