Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Women will be heard in 2012

  President Obama made one too few phone calls last week.

  The one he made was smart and important, offering support to Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke in her courageous stand for smarter policies about women's health.

  Obama's next phone call should have been to Rush Limbaugh, just to say thanks, and to say keep it up;. Keep demeaning women, Rush. Convince more and more they've been abandoned by your political party.

   This must grate, but: Every word Limbaugh utters on this subject makes it that much more likely Obama will be returned to office. Women will make it so.

    Don't believe it? Since December, Obama's approval ratings among women have jumped 10 points, according to an Associated Press/GfK poll.

   As for Limbaugh, bailing advertisers have reached double-digits as waves from a social media storm lap up against his chalky edifice. We all know Limbaugh likes to hear himself talk. However, even he might not appreciate the extent to which his words —  "slut" and "prostitute" just his headline terms for Fluke, a bright and gutsy young woman —  report like 10 million whip cracks on Twitter and Facebook.

    This is a problem for Republicans, for as whatever Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum aspire to be, Limbaugh is their party's de facto co-chairman, sharing the gavel, as always, with Roger Ailes and Fox News.

    Republicans in Congress helped this situation along by excluding women like Fluke from hearings on legislation that would have allowed insurers to opt out of a host of women's health measures, contraception being just the most obvious.

    Meanwhile, Romney and Santorum debate over how many angels can balance on a birth control pill.

    Much was made of the alleged political damage Obama inflicted on himself with the health insurance mandate, since adjusted, that drew Catholics' scorn over the issue of church-run institutions and contraception.

   Sorry, folks, but the very votes Obama might have lost were already lost to single-issue voters who won't countenance a pro-choice president, no way, no how.

    The actual political effect of these discussions, in fact, is just the opposite. The more Republicans act as adversaries to family planning — particularly contraception — the more they hurt themselves with women, who live the issue daily.

    To most women, contraception should never be an issue at all, no more so than mumps vaccine.

     A license to wanton, unwed sex? The birth control pill has a lot more uses than avoiding pregnancy — to reduce menstrual pain, to treat excessive bleeding, to treat migraines. Rush, this is one battle from which you should have excluded yourself. But the Democrats thank you for imposing your largeness into it, bursting in the picture like the Kool-Aid man — you know, like you want the government to do in women's reproductive decisions.

     Abortion? In a stinging commentary in the Denver Post, Lisa Wirthman writes, "It's precisely because we don't provide federal funding for abortions that we must invest in public funding for contraception." True.

     Yet, Republican legislatures make sport of targeting Planned Parenthood, the nation's go-to agency for family planning for the poor. Why? Because some affiliates perform abortion.

     To judge from the actions of statehouse adversaries, abortion is illegal. No, it isn't, and women are indebted to entities like Planned Parenthood that make sure the option is available and safe.

      Back to contraception and insurance: Twenty-eight states require insurers to cover it. That's right. Obama's mandate is more the norm across this nation than the exception.

      It's smart. It's cost-effective. (Alternative: First obstetrics, then pediatrics.) It allows women to decide how many mouths they will feed. Oh, it also prevents abortion. Period.

      But just keep talking, Rush, Mitt, Rick, John Boehner, MItch McConnell. Though not parties to your conversation, women are listening.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.  

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