The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Political columnist: Women’s rights pushed to limit in contraception debate

Republican lawmakers across the country have put forth bills and amendments that limit women’s access to birth control and have undermined the paramount abortion decision handed down in the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade by inventing hurdles in an already difficult process.

Maine is not untouched by this. Some proposed policies are extreme, and others show little thought and range from states to Congress.

According to the Washington Post, President Barack Obama reaffirmed that because of Obamacare, insurers will be required to cover contraception, counseling for domestic violence and annual wellness exams and HIV tests.

Rush Limbaugh had much to say about the issue after Republicans in the House held an expert man panel — with three celibate religious figures — to discuss contraception. The congressmen wanted to pass the Blunt Amendment, which would allow employers to deny employees’ contraception coverage.

The Republican-led House was content with their all-male panel and denied Sandra Fluke from testifying, saying she was not credible. Female Democratic House members left in protest and the next day Democrats had an unofficial hearing so the public could hear her message.

Fluke had a powerful story about how contraception prevented her friend from developing ovarian cysts, among other reasons why insurers should cover family planning.

As bounty for being courageous enough to testify in Congress that they shouldn’t limit birth control, Rush called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” on his conservative radio show because — according to him — she wanted the government to pay for her to have sex.

Bloomberg News reported 70 percent of women think the issue is about the health of women, not First Amendment rights.

Of our delegation, Sen. Olympia Snowe challenged her Republican colleagues on the Blunt Amendment and was the only Republican to vote against it; whereas three Democrats joined Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins, in voting for the bill.

Republican State Rep. Lance Harvell argued on the floor of the Maine House that health insurance plans shouldn’t be required to cover pap smears — important tests that can detect early indications of cervical cancer, which save money and lives.

The most extreme of the fetus-friendly avalanche was just passed by Georgia’s House of Representatives, requiring that a woman with a dying or dead fetus must carry it until she naturally gives birth. Supporters laud it for protecting fetuses, but it doesn’t take into account the health of the mothers.

A law in Texas passed last month now requires women to undergo a needless vaginal ultrasound before undergoing an abortion, making the individual listen to the heartbeat, in hopes of dissuading them before undergoing the procedure.

Every Republican candidate who wants to run against the president this fall wants to limit women’s access to family planning.

Last week, in an interview with Missouri television station KDSK, Mitt Romney doubled down on his “pro-life” stance, saying he will “get rid” of Planned Parenthood.

Rick Santorum is so extreme that his staunch anti-abortion policy seems moderate compared to his strong opposition to contraception. Contraception, he has said, is “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Anti-contraception and anti-abortion are contradictory polices. The more the government limits contraception, let alone outlaws it, the more abortion procedures will be in demand happen.

If you’re the girl on campus who I walked by and laughed at when I saw your Santorum pin, I’m sorry, but you must see the source of my amusement.

Public opinion is strongly against the policies of the presidential candidates and those in public office who support this assault on women’s reproductive health. In the United States, Bloomberg News said 77 percent of people think birth control should not be up for public debate.

Turning the clock backward is as much a distraction as it is an insult to women everywhere, allowing some politicians to avoid talking about bigger issues.

Each brash initiative to limit contraception and invent invasive hurdles before an abortion are creating sparks of a 21st century women’s movement.

Women gained the right to vote the year my grandmother was born, and she has voted in nearly every election since she turned 18 because she realized if she didn’t vote for politicians who didn’t support women, other people with not-so-friendly views would.


Noel Madore is a third-year public management student. He is a member of the College Democrats. His columns appear every Monday.