“War On Women?”
It was 36 years ago when the U.S. House first passed the Hyde Amendment named after the late Rep. Henry Hyde of Chicago. It banned federal funding for abortions through Medicaid, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life. The Hyde Amendment was actually a rider that since 1976 anti-abortion Congressmen have routinely attached to annual appropriation bills.
In spite of continuing opposition to the Hyde Amendment, Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey recently reintroduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. Smith proposes to redefine rape by limiting the exemption for rape to "forcible rape" and thus rule out federal assistance for abortions in cases of non-forcible statutory rape.
Several state legislatures have also been tightening their laws on reproductive issues. Arizona now requires women to provide their medical history to their employer if they seek access to birth control. Rep. Bobby Franklin of Georgia’s legislature, who rejects the term rape "victim," introduced a bill requiring the state’s criminal code to refer to rape victims as "accusers," as long as the accused has not been convicted. Oklahoma’s lower house unanimously passed a bill that allows patients to sue abortion providers who prescribe the medication for an abortion.
Anti-abortion violence has become more frequent in the U.S. against individuals and organizations offering abortion services. Incidents of such violence included vandalism, kidnapping, stalking, assault, murder, arson and even bombings. A bill under consideration in South Dakota’s Republican-controlled state legislature would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include “killings intended to prevent harm to a fetus.” That could make it legal to kill physicians who perform abortions. The bill passed out of committee by 9 to 3 on a party-line vote.
Last year the U.S. House voted 411 to 5 for a $72.5 billion bill funding veterans' programs and military construction projects. Immediately thereafter, the Appropriations Committee cut nearly a billion dollars in food and health care assistance to pregnant women, new mothers, and children.
In Frederick County, Maryland, Commissioners Kirby Delauter and Paul Smith defended budget cuts to eliminate the county’s $2 million Head Start program by saying that a mother or father ought to stay home with their children. The U.S. House passed a bill cutting Head Start by about 15 percent, the energy assistance program by 56 percent, and community block grants by 50 percent. These grants assist community service agencies in running assistance programs.
Last month, the House Agriculture Committee produced $33 billion in savings over the next decade by approving cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, including funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens. House majorities also voted to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers and eliminated all funds for the only federal family planning program. That, however, will only apply to humans because Rep. Dan Burton--representing the northern suburbs of Indianapolis--is offering a bill to provide contraception for wild horses.
With the “War on Women” in the news, both sides of the aisle have cynically accused the other of bringing women's health issues to the forefront in this election year. Over the last few months, however, Republican House members have been unusually active in drastic efforts to impose on American women ever more restrictive laws on reproduction and female health.Congressmen tired of this ugly controversy could change the hostile atmosphere on the Hill and vote for the reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act if Speaker John Boehner will only bring it up for a vote. He and his partisans have a chance to ease off on their “war on women” and vote for the anti-violence bill that in 2005 was reauthorized unanimously in the Senate and with 415 votes in the House.