Republican congressman urges donations to Democrats over women’s issues

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"This is a dogfight, it's a fistfight, and you have all the cards," he said. "I can only tell you to get out there and use them. Tell the other women, the other 51 percent of the population, to kick in a few of their bucks. Make it matter, get out there, get on TV, advertise, talk about this. The fact that you want [the ERA] is evidence that you deserve it and you need it."

The Equal Rights Amendment passed Congress in 1972, but has not yet been ratified by the 38 states necessary to make it part of the Constitution. The proposal says that "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

Hanna told the Huffington Post that he was helping — not hurting — his party by telling women to put pressure on their representatives through political contributions.

"I'm trying to help [the GOP]," he said. "I think it's the appropriate thing to do."

Hanna, who faces a tough reelection fight in New York's newly redistricted 22nd, has often bucked Republican orthodoxy. John Zogby, founder of Zobgy International polling and a resident of Hanna's district, told the Utica, N.Y., Observer-Dispatch Hanna "is not a creature of the Republican party" and had "carved out his own independent persona." On Thursday, Hanna touted his endorsement by the Independence Party.

Women's issues have risen again to the political forefront after the Obama administration moved last month to require employers to provide free access to oral contraception. That drew fire from Republicans, who argued employers who objected on religious or moral grounds — like the Catholic Church — should be exempted. The Obama administration modified the rule so that in such instances, insurance companies would instead be forced to cover the costs.

Women's advocacy groups have also objected to proposed or recently passed laws in states like Virginia and Texas that would require women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound performed beforehand.

Democrats believe the issues — and some of the heated rhetoric from Republican commentators and candidates surrounding the issue — could result in an electoral advantage in November.