Playing Doctor with Women’s Bodies

By Chris Cronin
Staff Columnist

Last week my colleague, Kyle Sepe wrote that President Barack Obama’s vision for the country involved the government acting as your doctor. Kyle is not alone; rather, he is echoing a common Republican criticism of health care reform—that the government would be expanded to make choices about your health care that it has no right to make.

But even as Republicans are hammering health care reform, they are fighting their own battle to play doctor and to extend their radical social views into hospitals across the country.

They are fighting a war on abortion in the case of incest and rape. In Georgia for instance, state legislators passed a law banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, including cases of rape and incest. In Iowa, Republican state legislators pushed to have abortions in the case of rape and incest excluded from Medicare coverage, adding financial damage to the suffering of low-income rape and incest survivors. Similar attempts to restrict the availability of abortion in the case of rape and incest have occurred in Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country.

They are fighting a war on routine abortions. In Iowa, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, Republicans have passed “mandatory ultrasound” bills, requiring women getting abortions to undergo ltrasounds of the fetus. As many of these abortions are not far enough along in the gestation period for a traditional ultrasound, a technique known as “transvaginal ultrasound” would have to be employed, requiring the woman to be penetrated by a metal probe. When asked if the law he had just signed went too far, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett replied that women just had to “close their eyes” when they were shown pictures of the fetus.

And they are fighting a war on victims of domestic violence and on the legal protections for rape survivors. With regards to domestic violence the Violence Against Women Act, a law providing shelters and treatment programs for female victims of domestic violence, and which has been renewed by two Republican congresses, in 2000 and 2005, still has not been renewed. The Senate passed a new, expanded version of the bill, which would provide increased protection for immigrant farmworkers and gay and lesbian victims, which passed with the support of every female Republican senator, but the House of Representatives refused to pass the Senate version.

And while debating the language of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a largely Republican bill which would prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions, Republicans attempted to include a provision that would provide taxpayer funding for abortions only in the case of incest and “forcible rape.” There was no explanation given as to what “forcible rape” consists of, but critics allege that it would exclude a large number of crimes—date rape, or rape involving diminished mental capacity, for instance.

Even as Mitt Romney was forced to declare that he, like the vast majority of the country, supports abortion in the case of rape and incest, his own running mate Paul Ryan emphatically does not, and has stated as such on a number of cases. Paul Ryan also voted for the version of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act which included the term “forcible rape” and voted against the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act.

The bottom line is this: even though Romney may personally be moderate on women’s rights issues, he has chosen as a running mate a man who has through his actions declared war on women’s rights. And even as Romney attempts to define himself as the candidate who can fix the economy, he is supported by a vast cadre of radicals who are attempting to strip women of their legal protections. We can’t let them.

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