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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/2/12

Liberty And Freedom But Only If You Are A Man

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Howard Schneider
Message Howard Schneider

The hypocrisy of Republicans and social conservatives has hit an all time high. They are the grand champions of free markets and liberty for all. Unfortunately these doctrines end when it comes to the subject of free choices for women. I do not like the current use of the hyperbolic and violent term "War on Women" and I will not utilize it here. I do believe that social conservatives and religious fundamentalists have an overarching doctrine of placing and keeping women in the traditional roles of homemaker, wife, and mother. They are essentially uncomfortable with women in any other roles and they continually campaign against them if they deviate.

Furthermore, they are exploring every avenue they can to limit women in their exercise of free choice in their reproductive lives as well as other personal decisions. Religion plays an enormous role in these viewpoints. This informs their beliefs that they know what is best in regards to women's choices and roles. Abortion and contraception are vitally important issues for them. They firmly believe that the Bible endows them with the ultimate authority over women in making their life decisions and thus taking choice away from them. This stance can also be discovered within many other issues.

I will describe to you in this article what I believe their socially conservative dogma is regarding family roles, women's reproductive issues, and other important concerns. In conclusion I will sum up these views and show how they are totally contradictory with their free market and personal liberty proclamations.

The latest incarnation of social conservative attempts to limit women's choices can be readily observed by way of the Hillary Rosen and Ann Romney flap. Ms. Rosen, a Democratic consultant, made a comment on a CNN political talk panel stating that Mitt Romney should not use his wife Ann as his political guide regarding women's economic struggles because she never had to work a day in her life. Her statement was poorly structured and clumsily delivered. The entire Republican and social conservative establishments pounced on this utterance in an attempt to swing the political pendulum on women's issues back in their favor. In actuality, Ms. Rosen meant to state that Ann Romney has never had to face the circumstance where she had to work to balance the family budget along with all the other complications that this decision creates.

Most American women in this day and age must work to make ends meet. Mitt Romney was born into a wealthy family and has made himself into an even wealthier man. No one is denigrating him for this wealth and success. Nor are they belittling Ann's role as a housewife in their family. Hillary Rosen was attempting to state that Ann Romney never has had to make these difficult choices that most women are forced to face today. Therefore her experience is limited regarding these issues making her opinion on them also limited. Republicans turned this into an opportunity to idealize the role of the housewife and in turn de-valuing the other roles women must perform in the United States. It was a deceptive and dishonest argument with purely political motives. True social conservatives and religious fundamentalists consider Ann Romney's role as a housewife to be the only proper role for women. The truth of the matter is that Democrats and progressives attempt to maximize women's capabilities and choices in our society instead of limiting them.

The issues that the Republicans were diverting most of the attention from are their policies regarding the reproductive rights of women. Abortion has been the issue that ignited these controversies dating back to 1973 when the United States Supreme Court legalized it with their Roe v. Wade decision. Religious fundamentalists stayed out of politics for the most part prior to this decision. Sometimes they ventured in by way of such issues as poverty, racial equality, or war and peace. The Catholic Church and others have always had strict rules prohibiting contraception of all types. Most rank and file Catholics have acknowledged these rules but they have ignored them for the most part. Otherwise female contraception was never more than a peripheral issue in religious and political circles.

Unfortunately Planned Parenthood has united these two issues and has made them a target for social conservatives. Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides low cost health care to women with an emphasis on reproductive health. A very small percentage of their services involve abortions. These abortions have created a firestorm among social conservatives that has set Planned Parenthood on their schedule for elimination. The fact that the vast majority of their services are vital to the health of millions of low income women makes no difference to them. They are on a holy crusade to eradicate abortions and in turn Planned Parenthood. Contraception of all types is now an issue they wish to control for women.

This came to a head recently in regards to whether or not Catholic run organizations should be required to offer healthcare insurance policies that pay for contraception. The Affordable Healthcare Act requires this and the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued rules to ensure that this provision is followed. Many Catholic Church entities loudly criticized these rules on the grounds that they violated the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Sebelius reached a compromise with many of these critics by amending the rules so that the healthcare insurance companies would pay for contraceptives directly rather than by these religiously based organizations.   This issue is still highly controversial and is now making its way through the courts. Social conservatives and Republicans thought this issue would bolster their standing with the American public. It backfired on them by portraying their positions as extreme and immutable. They seem to believe that by controlling a woman's ability to decide her reproductive future they can also prevent her from having an abortion. Ironically these strategies will have the exact opposite effects.

The stated goals of Planned Parenthood are to promote women's health and help them manage their reproductive systems. Abortions will surely rise if women, especially the poor among them, are precluded from taking advantage of Planned Parenthood's reproductive services. The abortion option is available to them when contraception and other reproductive services fail. These policies are meant to give women better control over their reproductive health which in turn minimizes the need for abortions. Social conservatives want to wrest that control away from women.

Conservative Republican opposition to women's issues does not stop at the doors of family and reproductive health. Violence, economics, business, and labor to name just a few are areas where they oppose the interests of women. Firstly, the "Violence against Women Act" is under threat of not being extended by the Republicans in Congress. This act was passed with bipartisan support in 1994. It provides funds for the investigation and prosecution of crimes against women. Restitution and criminal redress are imposed on those convicted. The Office on Violence against Women was also created under this act. These Republicans claim that they are opposing the law's reauthorization on the grounds that it can be extended to same sex couples and illegal immigrants. I believe this is a dishonest "red herring" and simply a manufactured excuse to gut the law.

Another law opposed by conservative Republicans is the "Lily Ledbetter Act". This law made it easier for women to sue for redress regarding wage discrimination. Prior to this law, plaintiffs only had 180 days from the first alleged discriminatory paycheck to file their lawsuit. The Lily Ledbetter Act allows this 180 day limit to reset with each subsequent discriminatory paycheck. The "Paycheck Fairness Act" seeks to close the gap in wages between men and women that exists today. Women currently earn only 77% of what men earn for similar positions in our workforce. The Paycheck Fairness Act seeks to remedy this by allowing employees to share information on their pay rates. It also forces employers to prove that these discrepancies are based on work conditions and not gender based when they are sued under this legislation.

Republicans have so far been successful in blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act. They are also zealously attempting to repeal the Lily Ledbetter Act. All of these social conservative actions are further proof that the base of the Republican Party wishes to return to their preferred version of women in secondary roles within their ideal of a traditional family. It does not matter to them that the majority of American women are against this and that it is impractical to do so.

Family roles, reproductive rights, violence against women, and income disparities are only the most visible and injurious areas where social conservatives attempt to control women and restrict their rights and choices. All of the government spending cuts the Republicans are clamoring for will adversely affect issues women care about most dearly. These include education, children's nutrition, and many others. This is symptomatic of the total disregard they hold for women's opinions and capacity to make their own choices.

Free markets, freedom of action, and liberty of choice are consistent mantras for conservative Republicans. Apparently the phrase within the Declaration of Independence, " All men are created equal ", is taken literally by most of these Republicans. It appears that they consider women to be less equal than men and as a result not able to make most of their critical life decisions for themselves. After all, you never hear Republicans crying out for an end to Viagra or any other erectile dysfunction medication within healthcare insurance policies. Yet female contraception is a consistent target for them.

Freedom of action and liberty of choice are legitimate ideals for socially conservative Republicans to pursue just as it is for all of us. My contention is that these ideals should be for all Americans and not just the male population. Our founding legal document is the U.S. Constitution. It is a brilliant creation yet also very flawed. Slaves had no rights and only propertied men were allowed to vote under its original form. These glaring inequities took many years and much blood to remedy.

Social conservatives and religious fundamentalists want to usher us back to an earlier era where the only rights women had were by way of her husband or father. The woman's suffragette movement began in the mid 1800's and culminated in 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote. Since then women have made major strides in all areas providing them with most of the freedom of action and liberty of choice that all Americans should enjoy. This exemplifies the brilliance of our Constitution and our nation.

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I am a 54 year old financial services professional. I graduated from Wagner College in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Business Administration with a minor in Sociology. My interests beyond economics lie in politics, literature, (more...)
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