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We Need a Personhood Movement for Women, Too

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Who knew that Rick Santorum would turn out to be a voice of moderation in the war on women? In their fight to maintain control over their own health care decisions, women are now fighting this war on several fronts against the same kind of mouth breathers who opposed civil rights. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see fire hoses turned on women at family planning clinics.

You might think I'm exaggerating. I'm not sure I am.

Texas now has two banty rooster Republicans competing to do their best George Wallace imitations by blocking the door to Planned Parenthood clinics. It started when Rick Perry forbade the state from spending family planning funds on Planned Parenthood clinics -- even though the family planning money went to preventing, not performing abortions.

There was just one small problem. What Rick Perry did was against the law. Family planning money falls under Medicaid, and federal law says that women, not middle-aged Republican men in state legislatures, get to choose the doctors. Because they insisted on waging what one Republican lawmaker admitted was part of a "war on birth control," Texas forced the Obama administration to cancel a Medicaid program that served 130,000 poor women and saved taxpayers millions by preventing unplanned pregnancies.

The best thing an ambitious Southern governor can have is a progressive president in Washington to yell at, and Obama's been very good in that regard to Perry. But now Perry has a rival in the form of a charismatic attorney general, Greg Abbott, who has $12 million in his campaign account and is dying to take Perry's job. Last week Abbott sued the federal government over the family planning funds, because if there's one thing we can agree on, it's the God-given right of Texas Republicans to spend federal tax dollars in a way that not only violates the purpose of the program but breaks federal law as well.

In Tennessee, if you can believe it, things are worse. Republican state Rep. Matthew Hill has introduced the Life Defense Act of 2012. The bill would force the publication of the names of doctors performing abortions along with information about each procedure performed. In an era in which abortion doctors still get shot, the bill might as well be called the Open Season on Doctors Act.

Over in Arizona, Republicans pushed a bill that would give employers the final say on whether a woman gets her birth control covered by insurance. This time the Republicans found a woman, Rep. Debbie Lesko, to sponsor a piece of vomitory legislation that would allow employers who had religious or moral objections to refuse to cover birth control pills if they were used for something as sinful as preventing pregnancy. A female employee, stated the bill, could apply for reimbursement from her employer if she was taking the medication solely for acne or other health concerns. Leave it to Arizona Republicans to make clear skin a priority over a woman keeping her sex life -- as well as her entire medical file -- private from her boss.

Lesko's bill passed the Arizona House and was cruising through the Senate before Sen. John McCain spoke out in opposition, and someone quietly pulled the bill Monday.

It's not enough anymore for Republicans to interject government between a woman and her doctor. Now they want the woman's boss to get a seat in the exam room. But Lesko doesn't see it that way.

"Government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs," Lesko told the State Press. "I believe we live in America. We don't live in the Soviet Union."

Russians don't even live in the Soviet Union anymore, and Lesko and I have very different visions of what it means to be free in America. Freedom doesn't mean what these Republicans think it means, and I'm pretty sure my wife would agree. Let me disclose here that my wife takes birth control pills because we're not planning to have any more children, and no one -- not even employees of judgmental Arizona employers or women unlucky enough to be poor in Texas -- should have to disclose that much.

Maybe what women need is a personhood movement that piggybacks on the Republican dream to enfranchise zygotes with civil rights. It's time for Republicans to recognize that women should have at least as much power in their lives as they imagine a fertilized egg has.

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