WASHINGTON -- Decades before lawmakers were debating access to birth control on the House floor, Republicans and Democrats actually agreed on issues such as equal pay and family planning. But today's Republican Party has moved far to the right of its predecessors on many matters affecting women, according to a new report released by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday.
Maloney, along with Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), held a press conference the same day to point out that the GOP once found common ground with Democrats on reproductive choice, birth control access, health insurance coverage, equal pay for women, Medicare funding, food stamps, the Violence Against Women Act and federal family planning programs. Today's Republican Party, for the most part, disagrees with Democrats on all of those issues.
As an example, Maloney offered the Title X family planning legislation, which was introduced by then-Rep. George H.W. Bush (R-Texas) in 1970, passed unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Four decades later, in 2011, Republicans in Congress voted to wipe out the program entirely.
The Violence Against Women Act, which passed with strong bipartisan support in 1994 and has twice been reauthorized, is now a major sticking point between Republicans and Democrats in Congress because the Democrats' newly proposed version expands protections for gay and immigrant victims of domestic violence.
Even food stamps, DeLauro noted, once enjoyed some level of bipartisan support. In 1977, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) created the program along with Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.). Now, Republicans are denigrating recipients of food stamps, a majority of whom are women, and trying to slash nutrition programs on which many single mothers depend to feed themselves and their children.
"We do not even have common ground on issues we once thought were settled," DeLauro said. "The days of Dole, McGovern, [Democratic Sen. Claiborne] Pell and [Republican Sen. Jacob] Javits coming together and teaming up to fight hunger are gone. We are back to the era of blaming the victims. It almost seems like the time when the Republican Party and Betty Ford championed the Equal Rights Amendment never happened."
Maloney, Schakowsky and DeLauro called on their GOP colleagues to reach across the aisle on matters that are important to their female constituents.
"We need to come together on the basic goals we have shared in the past," DeLauro said.
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Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
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Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."