Women’s 
lives at risk

In America, women’s lives are expendable. That’s the latest message from the Tea Party Republicans’ war on women. Sound extreme? So does the idea that a woman could be denied a legal procedure that could save her life, not because she or her doctor made the personal, private decision about her healthcare, but because a member of Congress (possibly not even her own representative) said so.  

For the seventh time last week, led by Eric Cantor, congressional Republicans (aided and abetted by 15 Democrats) decided that rather than have a vote or serious conversation on job creation, their time was best spent voting on H.R. 358. Having nothing to do with Americans’ most urgent priorities, H.R. 358 does two things: prohibits federal funds from being used toward any healthcare plan that covers abortion care services (despite the fact that that is already law); and permits hospitals to deny a woman a legal medical procedure even if her life is at stake — in other words, letting her die. 

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With only 20 days left to go in the legislative session, members of Cantor’s own caucus questioned the rationale for the timing of the vote. His excuse was cynical politics at its worst: Tea Party Republicans were keeping a promise made in their pledge to make something already prohibited by law even more so. Huh? What about promises to “focus like a laser” on creating jobs? Or restoring Americans’ trust in the People’s House? And while he was scheduling a vote on one of our country’s most divisive issues, he righteously accused the Occupy Wall Street/99 Percent protesters of trying to divide Americans.  

Apparently this is the 2012 election playbook for Tea Party Republicans.

Lacking legislative accomplishments that either saved or created jobs for 99 percent of Americans, they will instead campaign on their efforts to restrict a legal procedure in the name of freedom, cut funds for women’s healthcare services like pap smears and mammograms and repeal the Affordable Care Act, which ended the practice of charging women higher premiums; ends the practice of treating rape as a pre-existing condition; and covers birth control, taken by scores of American women not only to prevent unintended pregnancy, but also treat debilitating migraines and lower cancer rates. 

While the Tea Party Republicans endanger women’s physical and economic health at the federal level, women continue to face danger from a litany of Republican measures at the state and local levels, designed to systematically undermine women’s rights, question our judgment and put women “back in their place.”

In one of the most egregious examples yet, women’s well-being became a bargaining chip in a budgetary turf war last week between the city of Topeka, Kan., and Shawnee County. Facing a 10 percent budget cut, the county prosecutor announced that his solution was to stop prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence cases, dumping the issue in Topeka’s lap. In response, the city of Topeka voted to take laws against domestic violence off its books. Meaning domestic violence is no longer illegal in Topeka. Women involved in at least 35 cases awaiting action and countless others who might have feared coming forward were caught in the middle. The county has since backed off and says it will consider again prosecuting cases.  

Still, the message sent time and again by elected leaders at all levels is loud and clear: When political or fiscal times are tough, our lives are expendable, making women’s health and well-being the political football of choice.

Karen Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant.



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