In The Wake of the Las Vegas Shooting, Republicans Rally to Restrict Women’s Rights

Last week, we suffered the worst shooting in American history. Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. As we would expect, Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House rallied the troops and launched into action. War has been waged on women’s rights.

Given these harsh, political realities, Republicans needed a common cause. An issue around which they could unite. Restricting women’s access to abortion and birth control is that rallying point.

In case you missed it, the House passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which criminalizes abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for instances where the life of the mother is at risk and in cases involving rape or incest. Two days after the bill’s passage, Donald Trump announced that he would roll back the employer contraception requirement. While the bill may not see the Senate floor any time soon, the roll back on contraception is a blow to family planning. Birth control is critical to the prevention of unplanned pregnancy and, until recently, generally had support from politicians on both sides of the aisle. You may remember the Republican-led effort to make certain kinds of birth control available over the counter and the slew of Republicans, including Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (no women’s rights advocate), signing contraceptive coverage laws in their states.

So, what happened?

The Republican Party took power, and the divisions among conservatives became a real problem. It is not an unusual problem. Divisions are common among politicians when their party is in power, particularly among politicians who want their constituents’ continued support. The difference here is that the Republican Party failed on a seven year promise to repeal Obamacare – repeatedly. This public failure is not inconsequential. It undermines constituents’ beliefs that Republicans – or at least establishment Republicans – can get the job done. Roy Moore’s primary victory for the U.S. Senate representing Alabama makes clear that citizens who identify as Republicans continue to take outside-the-beltway candidates with polemic positions and fiery rhetoric seriously. There don’t seem to be many opportunities for Republican unity in the future, not with immigration and tax reform looming around the corner.

Given these harsh, political realities, Republicans needed a common cause. An issue around which they could unite. Restricting women’s access to abortion and birth control is that rallying point.

The social implications of this well-worn rallying point are numerous. One, in particular warrants mentioning additional attention. Pitting women’s rights against employers’ religious beliefs sets a dangerous precedent that American employees are bound to lose. Down the political road, employers could refuse to cover a range of medications and procedure with a claim of “moral convictions,” including something as simple as blood transfusions, which some religions do not allow.

It is heartening to see Democrats and Republicans working together for a change. Gun control legislation is important, particularly when it comes to devices that allow individuals to shoot potentially human targets faster. Women’s rights to prevent and end pregnancy, however, should not be fodder in party politics.

Stop the War on Women

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About Double take Sociology

I am a Professor of Sociology, a Research Associate in the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, and an Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Community Engagement in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University. I research (and write about) social movements, mass media and politics. To find links to my research, visit www.DeanaRohlinger.com.
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