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Karen Middleton Headshot

On Party, Platform and Power: Democrats Are Good for Women

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I have had a lot of conversations with voters who don't like political party politics and who don't see a big difference between Republicans and Democrats. There is a call for everyone to just get along and meet somewhere in the middle (which never actually turns out to be in the middle).

I have always believed, and this week my belief was reconfirmed, that there is indeed a significant difference between political parties. At the center of these differences are the core values of each party. The chasm between the parties has been illustrated in recent days as we have heard the comments made by Congressman Todd Akin about rape. Akin's remarks have been painted by many as a unique incident by one hardline conservative. Don't believe it.

Read between the headlines -- this is not one man making a crazy statement. He is a sitting Member of Congress who gets to vote on legislation while holding these views. He is still talking about his remarks and trying to explain himself. His friends and colleagues are supporting him with statements that are just as bad, if not worse. Here is a sample:

Rep Steve King: "I've never heard of a girl getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest."

Sharon Barnes, Missouri GOP official, on rape victims who get pregnant: "If God has chosen to bless this person with a life, you don't kill it."

VP candidate Paul Ryan co-sponsored, with Rep Akin, "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" which sought to limit the definition of rape in the law.

The difference between the parties may not be that obvious if you don't get involved in politics or if you dislike political parties. However, as the party platform is unveiled, and you have a chance to see what the core values of the Republican Party are, you will see that many of the social policies we have seen addressed in the last two years reflect that agenda.

Akin's views are the views of the Republican Party. The chair of the platform community is Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA) where they were discussing mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Todd Akin is being shunned by his peers because he said out loud what the rest of them know and don't want the average "I don't care about party" voter to overlook. He is just describing a piece of the Republican Party platform -- including the draft that was just released in Tampa, Fla. It reflects what the Republican Party values as stated in their platform for candidates and policies.

Akin does not care much about rape -- he was trying to explain why there should be no exceptions in an abortion ban. Clearly, he does not know very much about rape, pregnancy, or women's views of rape, but the stories in recent days have offered a crash course.

Rape is not about sex, rape is about power. Rape has been used in war, to control women, and to keep us out of power both literally and symbolically. The definition of rape and how it is used in public policy is also a form of power. "Forcible rape," or "legitimate rape" are efforts to control public policy by redefining terms already defined in the law.

Abortion is also about power and control. Do women get to decide if they can control their bodies or do we live in fear without options?

Birth control is about power and control. Do women get to decide if they can plan families and control their own fertility in order to make other decisions about their lives?

Do beliefs that restrict women's control and safety of their bodies belong to women or a political party? Why are women's bodies the center of a political debate in 2012? These are rights and freedoms we have fought for and continue to fight for as we see a wave of legislation and votes working against these freedoms.

A vote for a Republican is a vote for the Republican Party platform. Be sure you know what that votes means for women. As a lifelong Democrat, I am going to work to be sure to reach as many voters as possible -- especially women -- urging them to cast their ballots for Democrats this year. Our lives could depend on it.

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