Since January 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted repeatedly for an extreme anti-women agenda in the 112th Congress. The House voted 55 times to undermine women’s health, roll back women’s rights, and defund programs and institutions that provide health care and support for women.
When I research the reality about the Republican-dominated Congress, I’m chillingly reminded of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43—in reverse:
“How do you hate me? Let me count the ways . . .”
The Republicans have voted to (1) strip women of access to preventive health care and contraception, (2) eliminate federal funds for reproductive and maternal care services, (3) cut funds for nutrition programs for pregnant women, nursing mothers and families; they have also voted (4) to allow insurers to discriminate against women and charge them more than men for health insurance policies, (5) to end the basic guarantees that Medicare and Medicaid provide to low-income women and women who are seniors, (6) to increase the exposure of pregnant women and women of childbearing age to dangerous toxic chemicals, (7) to restrict women’s access to legal abortions, and (8) against passing, improving and funding important programs like the Violence Against Women Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The public record shows that the 112th Congress has averaged one anti-women vote for every week it’s been in session since the Republicans took control in January 2011. Those 55 votes against women (and children) break down like this:
• Seventeen votes allow health insurance companies to (1) discriminate by charging women higher premiums than men and (2) deny women coverage based on “pre-existing conditions” like being pregnant (yes, pregnancy can be a pre-existing condition).
• Eleven votes cut women’s access to preventive care. This includes votes to repeal Affordable Care Act provisions that provide free, preventive care for women, as well as votes to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund that supports breastfeeding and immunizations, and which was previously budgeted to pay for breast and cervical cancer screenings for hundreds of thousands of women in 2013 and beyond.
• Ten votes restrict or roll back abortion rights or access to legal abortion; this includes votes to ban the use of federal funds to train medical students in the provision of abortions. There were also votes to allow hospitals to deny emergency abortions to women whose lives are in jeopardy (yes, let’s repeat that—to women whose lives are in jeopardy).
• Seven votes cut funding for key nutrition programs for women, infants and children, such as cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children that provides nutrition, food counseling and support for more than nine million low-income pregnant women, new mothers and infants each month.
• Six votes were against protections for women from violence and discrimination; this includes votes against protecting the confidentiality of domestic violence victims and votes to oppose additional funding for grants under the Violence Against Women Act. It also chillingly includes votes to place new restrictions on the citizenship rights of legal, foreign-born women who are victims of domestic violence (yes, women who are legally citizens but who were born elsewhere).
• Three votes were to block access to reproductive and maternal care services, including votes for a budget that prohibits funding of Planned Parenthood and eliminates funding for the Title X Family Planning Program, which provides family planning services for millions of low-income women every year.
• Three votes were taken to undermine Medicare and Medicaid programs, including votes to end the basic Medicare guarantee and votes to turn Medicaid into a block grant, slash $800 billion in existing federal support for state Medicaid programs, and repeal $640 billion of new Medicaid funding from the Affordable Care Act over the next 10 years.
• Fourteen votes weakened environmental laws protecting pregnant women, including votes to block EPA regulations to protect pregnant women and women of childbearing age from exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin that poses particular risks to the brain and nervous system of unborn children. Although the new religious totem for the Republicans is the fetus, the love affair stops once the child is born, so obviously children with brain damage are not a priority.
I didn’t have to do any deep and difficult research to gather together this information. You can verify my facts; I’ve taken them directly from a report prepared by Democratic Congressmen and -women Henry A. Waxman, Frank Pallone Jr., Anna G. Eshoo, Diana DeGette, Lois Capps, Jan Schakowsky, Tammy Baldwin, Doris O. Matsui, Donna Christensen and Kathy Castor. I’ve also cross-checked these facts against the Congressional Record.
You can read detailed specifics (and I would encourage you to do so) about each bill the Republicans either sponsored or derailed in this report.
Read it and weep.
This column was originally published in the Journal Tribune,
York County, Maine.
Maureen McDermott Gill is a historian, educator, public speaker and novelist; a native Chicagoan, she now resides in southern Maine. Gill is also a contributing columnist at LGBTQNation.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.maureengill.net and follow her on Twitter @windycityauthor.