Paul Ryan, in an interview soon after the Akin comments, reiterated his opposition to a rape exception for abortion laws, casually grouping rape with other “methods of conception.” Ryan, unlike Akin, was at least scientifically accurate in his comments; but by insensitively characterizing rape as just another method of conception, he exposed the deep disconnect that exists between many male Republican policymakers and the women whose bodies they seek to legislate. The same empathetic disconnect led Republican policymakers in Texas and Virginia to propose — and, in Texas, pass — bills mandating pre-abortion transvaginal ultrasounds. The same disconnect led Republican Congressman Darrell Issa to convene an all-male panel to address the House Oversight Committee about President Obama’s birth control mandate and then deny the Democrats’ request to add a single woman to the panel.
The reaction from the religious right regarding that mandate was instantaneous and vociferous — Obama’s “War on Religion” assumed the place of a war on women. In the eyes of the Catholic bishops (who, you might be unsurprised to learn, are all male and, given many of their public statements and actions during this election cycle, Republican-leaning), the mandate is a trampling of their religious freedom because it forced Catholic institutions to pay for contraception — an objection that continued after President Obama made an accommodation that pushed the payment from the religious institution to the insurance companies. Despite its name, however, birth control is not only used for contraceptive purposes; in fact, it is used quite commonly as a means to treat endometriosis — which, perhaps to the horror of zealous proponents of reproduction, can lead to infertility if left untreated — ovarian cysts and other painful, potentially harmful conditions. You can rest assured that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who called the mandate a “radical intrusion” — and whom the Republicans selected to give the benediction on the final night of their convention — has never been afflicted by any of these conditions.
Effectively conceding that the Republicans have problems with women’s issues, the Romney campaign has stressed that women are “pocketbook voters.” But what is more economically sensible for a poor single woman: to abort an unintended pregnancy for a (relatively) small cost or to have the child and pay the many thousands of dollars in costs that come with raising a child? Now let’s think like Republican legislators: How do we best reduce entitlements and welfare and reduce the abortion rate? Isn’t it better to provide birth control, proper sex education and other similar measures that work to limit the number of unwanted pregnancies, especially among poor women who may require government assistance to raise their children? Romney, a wealthy male, can’t seem to comprehend the fact that for many women, birth control, abortion and other similar issues are economic issues.
I realize that there is a certain level of irony in a man writing a column about women’s issues in which he criticizes other men for their involvement in women’s issues. But I have realized what many Republican legislators have not — that I and other men will never face nor fully comprehend the unique issues that confront women and that it makes no sense for us to push legislation that limits how a woman can choose to respond to these challenges. Luckily, President Obama has realized this as well: responding to the Akin affair, the president observed, “What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women.”
Dan Fallon is a member of College Democrats. He is a Classics major from South Bend, Ind. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/27/31282/