The Furious Sound of Women Rising

My sister-in-law is steamed. She’s one of the kindest people I know, but she’s filled with rage at what the GOP has been doing and has joined “The Virginia Women’s Strike Force.” My wife, a lifelong Quaker-pacifist, is also on the warpath and prone to saying things like, “What are those morons doing now?”

I’m seeing this same intense, angry reaction a million times over from otherwise stable, strong, intelligent, sensible American women. I see them on the news, in the blogs, in my Twitter feed, signing petitions, and showing up in poll results. There’s a sound like a freight train roaring across the political landscape — it’s the sound of furious women rising. Women are mad as hell at the GOP, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

Last month, the Pew Research Center ran a presidential preference poll, and the storm warnings for the GOP were already becoming apparent. Not only did Obama lead Mitt Romney by 8 percent overall, but among female voters, Obama led by a lopsided 59 percent to 38 percent against either Romney or Crazy Rick Santorum. That’s a 21-point lead. That’s bigger than a landslide; it’s a tectonic shift.

This weekend, The New York Times ran a story about the growing resentment of centrist and moderate Republican women toward the GOP. What should be most alarming to the GOP establishment was that the Times story included people like Mary Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and “old school” Republican. Russell told the Times she may now vote for Obama and that, in no uncertain terms, “Women’s reproduction is our own business.”

From the infamous all-male panel on birth control coverage to Rush Limbaugh’s obscene rant and non-apology about Sandra Fluke, the GOP has been setting itself up to look like a bunch of raving Elmer Gantrys on crack. The GOP keeps pushing measures to meddle with the personal and private affairs of women, and it is causing outrage.

Consider, just recently, on the state level:

  • This past week, 8 of the 9 women in the 51-member Georgia state Senate walked out in protest, saying that the state GOP is waging a war against women. The Senate had passed a bill declaring that employees of private religious institutions have no right to demand that their insurance policies pay for contraceptives.
  • And there is another bill pending in the Georgia legislature that would apply to pregnant women in situations where the fetus was not expected to survive. Regardless of any complications surrounding the pregnancy, under HB 954 a woman is expected to carry the child until birth. Critics of the bill say that it would force women to carry stillborn fetuses or to have Caesarian deliveries.
  • In Virginia, the far right pushed a bill that meant women would likely have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound in order to determine how far along their pregnancy was. This would have applied even for victims of rape.
  • Thanks to Republican-controlled state legislatures all across the country, tens of thousands of low-income women and teenagers have lost or will lose access to subsidized birth control as budgets for family planning are slashed.
  • Montana and New Jersey have eliminated family planning programs altogether. New Hampshire cut its funding by 57 percent and five other states made more modest program trims.
  • But the biggest impact, by far, has been in Texas, where up to 130,000 may lose the access to the reproductive health care that they need.

On the national level:

  • Santorum has called birth control immoral, is against prenatal testing, thinks women should not be allowed to serve in combat, and says that it was “radical feminism” that led women to work outside the home. Women should be grateful he hasn’t suggested legislation about women wearing pants.
  • Republicans in the Senate have, for the first time ever, blocked and politicized the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Republicans passed a bill in the House to end all funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • Republicans introduced the Bunt amendment in the Senate that would have essentially outlawed many popular, safe, and effective forms of birth control. Democrats voted it down, but the Republicans have made it clear that they are not done.

Women look on at these all-male panels pontificating about birth control. They look at the U.S. Senate with just 17 women out of 100 members. They look at the U.S. House with just 17 percent women, and they look at the state houses like in Georgia, where women make up just 17 percent of the membership. And they are asking themselves in greater numbers every day: “Where are the women?” and “What are these insufferable middle-aged fools doing, putting their clammy intrusive laws all over women’s bodies?” They are women. And pretty soon, the GOP is going to hear them roar.