While it’s true that President Obama’s re-election campaign is gearing up a major push this week to win over female voters, the fact is that Republicans have been helping him out on this front for weeks.
From the GOP primary to the conservative airwaves, in state legislatures and in Congress, Republicans are playing politics with women’s health and basic liberties, driving a wedge among conservatives and driving women voters toward the Democrats.
It all started with Eve. Adam, whom I suspect was a Republican, was angry that after Eve got his rib, she wanted to vote and get a job and be fairly paid. That ungrateful woman! Adam argued back and then Eve registered as an independent, and eventually became a swing vote soccer mom. But anyway…
Fast-forward to February 2011 when anti-choice Republicans pushed a rogue measure to cut off all federal funding from Planned Parenthood, even though less than 3% of services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions, none of which are paid for using federal grant dollars.
Still, Republicans saw an opportunity to fire up their fringe base while undermining a liberal-leaning advocacy organization. And if the five million American women who get affordable health care from Planned Parenthood every year had to be thrown under the bus, so be it. All’s fair in politics.
Almost a year later, a Republican operative at the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation pushed for the organization to cut its support of Planned Parenthood. Uproar from women was swift and strong, prompting Komen to reverse the decision and fire the ideologically-driven instigator.
But Republicans kept pushing their anti-choice, anti-women’s health agenda.
Republicans in Virginia proposed a law that would require women seeking abortions, even those resulting from rape or incest, to first submit to mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds -- a further invasion of their bodies.
And Republicans in Texas pushed through a law defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, cutting off at least 60,000 low-income women from their health care providers.
Thursday, the New York Times reports, "Senate Democratic women plan to march to the Senate floor to demand quick action on the extension of the Violence Against Women Act." The Times goes on to say that the act, "once [a piece of ] broadly bipartisan legislation...now faces fierce opposition from conservatives." The article also mentions this point from a female, Republican Senator: "At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as anti-woman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall."
Which is all to say that when President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued preliminary statements on how the contraception mandate would be applied to religiously-based institutions like hospitals and universities with a primarily public purpose, the Republican Party pounced on the situation with the hopes of exploiting it for political gain.
Never mind that 28 states had already instituted similar regulations with no fanfare or uproar from religious conservatives. This was different.
Republican strategists saw this as a slam dunk opportunity to criticize health care reform and paint President Obama as opposing religious liberty. If basic contraception access for women was the casualty, who cares? In fact, for some Republican politicians, like Rick Santorum, that was an added bonus!
Whether or not you think this amounts to a Republican “war on women,” it’s definitely a “war on women voters.”
Consider Mary Russell, a retired teacher from Iowa City, Iowa, who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and “old school” Republican of the moderate mold. Regarding the Republican presidential candidates, Ms. Russell says, “If they’re going to decide on women’s reproductive issues, I’m not going to vote for any of them. Women’s reproduction is our own business.” Now she reports she may vote for President Obama.
In a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll while in an imagined face-to-face match up, President Obama currently trails Mitt Romney by six percentage points with male voters,but the president has an 18 point lead with women --- across political parties.
It’s no wonder. As divisive as abortion rights still are as a political issue, women voters (and most men) are overwhelmingly supportive of basic contraception. That's no surprise considering that 99% of reproductive-age women have used birth control.
While women voters might rather focus on jobs and the economy, watching Republicans jeopardize women’s health and reproductive freedom while slandering those who try and stand in their way is enough to make women demand not only good jobs and fair pay but political leaders who respect the liberty and rights of women in America.
President Obama’s campaign may be paying for fliers and advertisements to attract women voters, but in this regard, Republicans are giving him the kind of help that money can’t buy.
Sally Kohn is a Fox News Contributor. You can find her online at http://sallykohn.com