Mischaracterizing positions: “The War on Women”
Jordan Ryan | Monday, January 18, 2016
Of the many metaphorical political wars that have been launched in recent years, few have stirred as much passion as the alleged “War on Women.” Often in furtherance of creating a political divide, the political left’s attack on conservatives’ lack of support for the liberal policy agenda has used anything from the wage gap to armed military invasions. While there are too many issues with too many explanations to detail over the course of this article, reproductive rights, including contraception and abortions, have become especially incendiary.
Liberals aim to paint a picture of regression in terms of women’s rights and equality, concluding that conservative backed pro-life policies will relegate women to second-class citizens. This tactic is nothing new. In 2011, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republican lawmakers of letting women “die on the floor” by putting a bill up for vote in the House that would limit the circumstances under which a woman could have an abortion. However, this purported “war” is certainly not an act of aggression directed at women. This is instead a clash of social, ethical and religious values with far-reaching implications.
For example, liberals were up in arms following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow religious exceptions to the Affordable Care Act mandate requiring employers to provide access to birth control to its employees. The left argued this decision would inhibit women’s right to birth control. Yet the reasoning underlying the Supreme Court’s decision is based strictly on religious grounds, not on any finding concerning the scope of reproductive rights. Conservatives do not want employers to be legally compelled to pay for something that violates their personal religious beliefs, which Obamacare unfortunately mandates. The Supreme Court has endorsed this view.
Republican lawmakers may have found a better alternative to increase access to birth control while preserving constitutionally recognized religious freedoms. Republican Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire introduced legislation in 2015 that attempted to increase access to over-the-counter birth control options and reduce the overall cost of insurance to employers who provide contraception. The liberal counter to this legislation was that under the bill, many women would not be able to afford birth control because their access comes from the money the insurance companies provide. But the proposed legislation was not designed to impair women’s rights. Rather, it was directed to stop the violation of employers’ religious freedoms as recognized by the nation’s highest court. While some conservatives may well be opposed to birth control, no legislator is attempting to deny access to birth control merely because he or she personally opposes the practice. There is a now-confirmed constitutional right of employers to not be compelled to provide a service if doing so violates their religious freedoms.
A further example of the far left’s mischaracterization of opposing viewpoints relates to the current controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood. Social conservatives are opposed to further funding Planned Parenthood, not because of a desire to eliminate access to cancer screenings and STI treatments, but because Planned Parenthood performs over 300,000 abortions annually, provides over 2.1 million reversible contraception kits per year and, most notably, has confirmed that it sells the body parts of aborted babies for profit. Perhaps U.S. Representative Tim Walberg of Michigan said it best: “No matter what party you belong to, we should all agree that taxpayer dollars should not be used for harvesting baby parts for profit.” Men and women across the political spectrum are justifiably disgusted by certain practices of Planned Parenthood. Though the liberal left may attempt to mischaracterize this national revulsion as part of a “War on Women,” the fact remains that many of the core values of this organization directly clash with the fundamental moral principle held by the majority of Americans that any life is a life to be valued. The reaction to the Planned Parenthood practices isn’t an attack on women; it simply recognizes the dignity of human life.
There are obviously a multitude of issues involved in this so-called “War on Women.” Though some of the positions taken by those such as Donald Trump do not help my argument, the clash is not what the liberal left, including Hillary Clinton, makes it out to be. Ms. Clinton formulates a great sound bite by framing the argument as a woman’s “right to her own body.” The problem is that no conservative is trying to take that right from her. Rather, conservatives are attempting to vest that right where it belongs, strictly with the individual. We need to tone down the political rhetoric and debate the opposing core value positions rather than avoiding meaningful dialogue by mischaracterizing positions as a “War on Women.”
Jordan Ryan, sophomore resident of Lyons Hall, studies political science and peace studies along with minors in Constitutional studies and business economics. She can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.