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Republican Policies on Women are Behind the Times


1-woman-flickr-Kheel Center, Cornell University
Photo credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University / Flickr

Today the Republican Party is in a state of disarray on multiple issues. The most significant of them may be the issue of women’s rights involving access to health care and equal pay for equal work.

The GOP has never been farther out of step on an issue than it is on its current representation of women. And at a time when the party needs to expand its base with women, it seems neither willing nor able to do so.

The left has adopted a catch-phrase on the subject, popularizing it at great expense to Republicans who can’t seem to extinguish, or for that matter, even dim its negative impact. That phrase, the Republicans’ War on Women, has grown quite loud in the left’s public discourse. And try as they might to deflect the focus of public attention elsewhere, instead Republicans continue to find new and disturbing ways to reinforce the notion.

On employment in general, Republicans can’t seem to find the handle to open the door to discussion. But their specific denial of focus on equal rights for women in the workplace graphically illustrates their backward-thinking stance.

The microcosm of equality in the workplace represents the larger picture of a GOP united against equality on all fronts. Women are second-class citizens, therefore equality must be (and probably cannot be) earned. Women don’t deserve equal pay because women simply are not the equals of men.

Reducing it to religion

When GOP State Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said that pregnancy from rape is “something that God intended to happen,” as reported by The Huffington Post, he put the “finishing” touches on both his 2012 candidacy and the party line on women’s rights. The obvious party line is that women have no rights and deserve none.

They exist as nothing more than a vehicle for God’s intentions. “Women’s rights” is a misconception. So, in the workplace as in every other sphere, women deserve no protections or guarantees of equality.

Colorful quotes

Back in 2012 GOP candidate Todd Akin crammed his foot in his mouth up to the ankle. He said that women’s bodies have some mysterious capability to cancel a pregnancy from rape, because they can simply “shut that whole thing down” as covered by The New York Times. The implication is that any woman who claims rape and is somehow still pregnant from the encounter, is automatically a liar.

Because women’s rights have been redefined as a religious issue rather than an equality issue, we find an array of consistent opinions from the GOP. Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck’s infamous contribution was that pregnancy is like cancer – this coming from a cancer survivor who earlier denigrated a female political opponent by saying that at least Buck didn’t “wear high heels,” as reported by Salon.

According to The Huffington Post, in February, Republican Virginia State Senator Steve Martin referred to pregnant mothers as “hosts,” which effectively turned fetuses into parasites – decidedly NOT what the right-to-life party had in mind.

While he quickly back-stepped away from his statement, it did continue to reinforce the notion that women were not to be granted any exceptional rights with regard to pregnancy, contraception, or anything else.

Damning votes

However, nothing is more revealing about GOP sentiments regarding women’s rights and equality in their employment situations than the voting records of Republicans on equal pay issues.

Republicans opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, defeating its first version in 2008, and falling short of defeating the second version in 2009.

Senate Republicans overwhelmingly defeated the Equal Pay Act, HR 2831, in April 2008, on a cloture vote.
Senate Republicans defeated the Paycheck Fairness Act, S 2199, in April 2014, on a cloture vote.

A CNN telephone survey conducted earlier this year supports the premise that the GOP has a retrograde line on women. The survey concluded that most Americans, and especially most women, feel the GOP is decidedly out of touch with women and women’s issues.

Republicans characterize this problem as a communication issue rather than a policy issue. But the point is that Republicans acknowledge there is a problem. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told CNN, “[I] it’s the way that we talk about [some things] that doesn’t resonate and we have to do a better job … I think it’s fair to say there have been some comments which are offensive and they’re not representative of the entire Republican Party.”

The crux of the problem is that Republicans need the support of several minority groups, including women, to do well in the upcoming midterm election and beyond. The demographic for GOP voters is getting far older, whiter, and more male. That spells trouble for a party that scares off entire blocs of voters – including women – with its careless and irresponsible remarks, and its obvious voting record.

It may prove difficult to pin down exactly what decade the Republican Party is living in, but it is clearly behind the times on women’s issues and so much more.

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