Hoping to appease the anti-women’s health throngs who gathered on Jan. 22 in DC to condemn the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, the Republican leaders in the House of Representatives initially planned to pass a blatantly anti-women's health bill banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
GOP Congresswomen Concerned about Losing the Youth Vote
In a sudden move, House majority leadership retreated from this attempt. They did so after a group of GOP Congresswomen, led by Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, balked at the over-the-top bill — apparently because of the political ramifications: She is concerned about the losing the Millennial vote, she says.
Instead of pushing the 20-week abortion ban, Republican leadership in the House put forth another bill that would result in an unprecedented new restriction on women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market. In other words: This bill goes further than current law, and would restrict access to health insurance coverage that women have today — even coverage they are paying for with their own private funds.
Switching out the bills late the night before a scheduled vote — something that rarely happens — exposes cracks within the GOP around women’s health issues.
The GOP Facade Is Crumbling
The Republican Party would like you to think that it is steadfast, rock-solid, unbending, and anti-abortion. Think again.
Polls show that Americans continue to support a woman's right to choose and that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned. Many of them are Republicans. And they vote.
That's basically what the outspoken Republican congresswomen recently told their leaders. They didn't want their vote on the ultra-extreme 20-week abortion ban, which would have required rape victims seeking an abortion to report the crime to law enforcement. Why? Because they didn’t want it to be used against them and other Republicans come the presidential election in 2016.
Will the Need for Votes Lead to Support Women’s Health?
While it would be preferable that the congresswomen would not support the bill because women’s health decisions are best when left to a woman in consultation with her doctor, her family, and her faith — WITHOUT government intrusion — I am encouraged that they didn’t support the bad bill because it was not politically savvy.
So, I am willing to congratulate them on their sense of political acuity in the hopes it will lead to a lessening of the Republican Party's relentless attacks on reproductive health care across the country.
Perhaps the so-called "revolt" of the GOP congresswomen will open some eyes and political practicality around women’s health issues that have plagued the Republican Party for a considerable number of years.
Such a shift could lead to the realization that supporting comprehensive health care for women is not only good politics, but good policy.