Political Animal


January 03, 2013 11:33 AM Cold War on Women

By Ed Kilgore

The House’s implicit decision to kill reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act at the end of the 112th Congress didn’t get as much attention as the Sandy Funding Fail, but it was an appropriate exclamation point to a two-year cycle after the GOP landslide of 2010 when it has been open season on women’s rights.

All those pundits who keep telling us the culture wars are over should pay attention: the primary stated rationale for the House GOP’s opposition to a Senate-passed version of the VAWA (as opposed to less seemly, muted rationales involving a general hostility to feminism in any form) was an objection to the extension of rights to people in LGBT couples—who presumably deserve whatever they get after defying God’s Law—undocumented folk, and Native Americans. As a result, the entire law was deep-sixed for the first time since its enactment in 1994.

Meanwhile, the Guttmacher Institute reports that 2012 was the second-worst year since it began keeping records in the mid-1980s when it came to new state-imposed restrictions on reproductive rights—second to the previous year, 2011. A mere 43 new laws were enacted restricting abortion rights, as compared to 92 a year ago. Abortion rights supporters actually launched a bit of a comeback:

Against the backdrop of a contentious presidential campaign in which abortion and even contraception were front-burner issues —to a degree unprecedented in recent memory—supporters of reproductive health and rights were able to block high-profile attacks on access to abortion in states as diverse as Alabama, Idaho, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Similarly, the number of attacks on state family planning funding was down sharply, and only two states disqualified family planning providers from funding in 2012, compared with seven in 2011.

Note this kicker:

That said, no laws were enacted this year to facilitate or improve access to abortion, family planning or comprehensive sex education.

Guttmacher suggests the Virginia fiasco in February involving legislation requiring a pre-abortion ultrasound procedure helped make 2012 a less toxic year for reproductive rights:

In February, a firestorm erupted in Virginia when it became known that the proposed mandate would, in practice, necessitate performance of a transvaginal ultrasound. The controversy not only led to passage of a somewhat weaker requirement in Virginia but also is widely seen as having blunted efforts to mandate ultrasound in Alabama, Idaho and Pennsylvania. With the addition of Virginia, eight states require an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion

The big pro-choice victory, of course, was in November, when a presidential candidate leading a party sworn to overturn abortion rights in the Supreme Court and via federal legislation failed to win the White House. But the consolidation of the anti-choice movement’s control over the GOP is now complete, and there are few if any signs of a reconsideration. Yes, now as ever, you’ll hear GOP pols say the assault on reproductive rights is a low priority. But in practice, that just means the war on women is a cold one, carried out quietly, and sometimes by simple inaction.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on January 03, 2013 11:49 AM:

    The Houseís implicit decision to kill reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act at the end of the 112th Congress didnít get as much attention as the Sandy Funding Fail, but it was an appropriate exclamation point to a two-year cycle after the GOP landslide of 2010 when it has been open season on womenís rights.

    I want to say something witty and insightful, but what can you say about a party that is literally devolving as we watch?

  • c u n d gulag on January 03, 2013 11:51 AM:

    Will there be a new VAWA?
    And when?

    I need to know how many more days I can go and rape and beat the living sh*t out of and any all women, and not just the LGBT, immigrant, and Native American ones, like the Republicans will surely let me keep going to town on.

    A good law-abiding citizen like me doesn't want to go to jail for doing something illegal.
    So, if I need to know who I can rape and beat-up, and until when?

    GOP POV:
    'Like carrying any kind of gun is a right for everyone, beating the living sh*t out any and every woman, should be every man's right!'

  • boatboy_srq on January 03, 2013 1:27 PM:

    the GOTea seems commited to a Global War on [insert undesirable populace/government/faith/ideal here]. forget Communism, forget Islam; those are small potatoes. The GWoW is officially launched - and the the "threat" is fully half of the human race.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 03, 2013 2:19 PM:

    Random, though kinda-sorta relative, tangent...

    So over the holiday I started reading the quaint "Gaslight Mystery" series by Victoria Thompson. In a nutshell they're armchair mysteries in late 19th-century New York with the protagonist being a widowed midwife. As lightly entertaining as the books were, I couldn't help being morbidly depressed when I finished them.

    Why? Because the midwife took it upon herself to investigate the murders of young women whom the police (and society) felt "had it coming" and, therefore, were unworthy of justice. Yes, these were fictional stories but I was pretty damn disturbed that hardly 100 years ago violence against women was an expected fact of life, whether it was at the hands of a father, brother, husband, employer, or stranger. In a way it made me infinitely grateful that there were women, particularly in the temperance and suffrage movements, who were brave enough to stand up--in those days--to say "We ain't takin' this shit!"

    But then I'd get depressed thinking that there are cretins nowadays who would love to take us back to the dark ages on matters of women's rights...

  • R on January 03, 2013 3:02 PM:

    Sgt. Gym Bunny, thanks for the not-so-random addition. Another instructive novel is _The Round House_ by Louise Erdrich, which illustrates some of the present-day issues concerning violence against Native American women.

    For morbidly depression nonfiction, check out http://www.chicagomag.com/core/pagetools.php?url=%2FChicago-Magazine%2FJanuary-2013%2FLet-Us-Prey-Big-Trouble-at-First-Baptist-Church%2F&mode=print .

  • Kathryn on January 03, 2013 5:21 PM:

    Read "The Round House" which not only brilliantly points out the all too common cases of rape against native women but also opened my eyes to the other many inequities in the administration of laws in those communities. This country's treatment of it's Native People is unspeakable.

    By the way, as Rachel pointed out last night, Gov. Bob McDonnell just last week on a slow news day signed a bill which will effectively close abortion clinics in the Commonwealth of Viriginia. After successfully bullying the Health Department which originally declined to support the bill, these clinics now have to meet impossible "safety" standards written only for their demise. There has been no media coverage about this after the original outrage a few months ago, only Rachel has covered it to my knowledge.