I must admit that I wasn’t particularly surprised by Donald Trump’s comments to Megyn Kelly during and after the Republican Presidential debate last debate. After all, Trump has a reputation for misogyny and for disrespecting women. Ironically, perhaps, his outburst and attack of Kelly exemplify the very political problem that Kelly was attempting to ask Trump to account for as part of his bid for the Presidency.
Interestingly, Trump attempted to deflect attention from his treatment of women by accusing Jeb Bush of having a “problem” with women. This, too, is no particular surprise. Even before Bush’s most recent statement to a Southern Baptist Convention event in Nashville that, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” the group Ultraviolet shared the following five things you should know about Jeb Bush on their facebook page:
The comments by Trump and Bush exemplify the Republican party’s “woman problem” which isn’t so much as a woman problem as it is basic misogyny. As I said in a recent post, misogyny is the hatred of women. Something quite evident in the attitudes that attempt to engage in sexual shaming (Bush) and in reducing women to animals and/or their sexuality (Trump).
In an event on Monday, Clinton said, “While what Donald Trump said about Megyn Kelly is outrageous, what the rest of the Republicans are saying about all women is also outrageous.”
Hillary is right. Republican attitudes toward women are not only archaic, they are often offensive, paternalistic, and sometimes veiled in a vaguely Christian religiosity that needs to be challenged and debunked.
Let’s start with the Republican attack on Planned Parenthood in recent weeks, which is not only outrageous, it’s downright misogynist.
Republicans across the board have revived their attack of Planned Parenthood in the wake of a campaign by the anti-abortion group “Center for Medical Progress” which has been releasing secretly taped and heavily edited videos intended to manipulate the public’s emotions rather than talk about women’s health.
So let’s talk about women’s health, specifically, women’s reproductive health.
Let’s start with some facts.
Half of the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.
Half of those unplanned pregnancies are the result of contraceptive failure.
More than 19 million women in the US need publicly supported contraceptive services and 30% or 5.8 million of them are uninsured.
Fewer than 1% of women place their children for adoption. The decision to continue an unplanned pregnancy is a decision to raise a child.
Only women get pregnant. Getting pregnant, having babies, and raising children affect women’s health.
The facts are that Planned Parenthood is a significant provider of affordable women’s health care, particularly for poor women, in this country. 78% of their patients have incomes at or below 150% of the poverty level. One in five women in the country will use Planned Parenthood’s services at some point in her life.
Abortions make up only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services.
One-third of Planned Parenthood’s services consist of providing contraception and they provide contraception to 80% of their patients.
More than a third of their services attend to the testing and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) which impact women differently from men and can cause sterility and neonatal death if untreated.
The Republican attack on Planned Parenthood is political. It is intended to play to a pro-life constituency and is largely couched as a concern over abortion but Republican dislike of Planned Parenthood goes much deeper than abortion. It’s about the desire to control women’s sexuality and women’s bodies. Single mothers and sexually active teens are topics for shaming and control in too much conservative political rhetoric. The Republican concern over Planned Parenthood is also a concern over providing contraception to women who conservatives, often Christian conservatives, don’t think should be having sex.
The median age that Millenials become sexually active in 17. Planned Parenthood is not causing them to become sexually active, Planned Parenthood is just concerned with making sure they have access to good and accurate sex education and to contraception, including protection from STDs.
These are women’s health issues. Planned Parenthood didn’t invent sex or abortion. But they are responding to the reality of women’s reproductive and sexual health needs better than any other provider in the country. Trying to control women’s sexuality by defunding Planned Parenthood is just one illustration of the problem of misogyny that plagues Republicans.
Anyone who truly wants to reduce the abortion rate in the United States should be rushing to increase the funding of Planned Parenthood so that more women will have access to safe and effective contraception. More money for Planned Parenthood wouldn’t increase the number of abortions in the country, it would decrease the number.
The best avenue for reducing abortions is not bullying women into not having them, it’s helping provide better health care, sex education, and access to contraception so that we reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate.
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