Conservatives bristle at the idea that they are waging a “war on women,” but if you take the sum total of their actions, it’s hard NOT to see it that way. Let’s take the issue of a woman’s right to contraception. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is largely a woman’s responsibility, even today, and the best protection is taking an oral contraception or using a contraceptive patch. When women cannot access contraception it often leads to unwanted pregnancy, which leads to a higher demand for abortion.
Last week, in a rightwing-orchestrated case known as “Hobby Lobby,” the Supreme Court decided that companies cannot be required to provide their employees with access to birth control. The result for women who are employed by Hobby Lobby, or other companies who argue that providing contraception violates their religious beliefs, is that they have to pay for treatment out of pocket, or forego contraceptive protection and risk unwanted pregnancies.
However, conservatives for decades – ever since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973 protecting the right to abortion – have conducted a campaign against women’s access to the procedure. In some states like Virginia, which until the recent election of a democratic governor and attorney general was on the road to driving all abortion providers out of the state by imposing new onerous requirements on abortion providers, is just one example of a state that has tried to pass extreme measures in recent years to make a woman’s access to abortions more difficult.
So what happens when women cannot get contraception or an abortion for unwanted pregnancies? They might well be forced to give birth to a child they don’t want and are ill equipped to feed and care for. Low income women are hit the hardest – they may have to quit their job to take care of that child, and if they apply for welfare or food stamp benefits – well, conservatives in Congress have been declaring war on those programs too. A dramatic reduction in food stamp funding passed in the farm bill last year. As a result, many people have been dropped off the rolls, with single mothers and low-income women disproportionately hit by these draconian policies.
So the vicious cycle of denying women access to contraception, abortion, and then welfare or food stamp benefits to help with them care for an unwanted pregnancy, amounts in my book, to a war on women. It’s an outrage that women bear the brunt of these indefensible policies, but they do. So conservatives should face up to the reality of their mean spirited policies – if the shoe fits wear it – you’re waging nothing less than a war on women.