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Kathleen Turner Headshot

Take Me Back to the 21st Century!

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Can we not go a week in America without a Republican candidate saying something idiotic and terrifying about women? We had Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, currently a member of the House Science (!) Committee, explain that victims of "legitimate rape" are biologically incapable of becoming pregnant. We had Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock declare that a pregnancy resulting rape is a "gift from God." We had Mitt Romney-- who, by the way, endorsed Mourdock -- explain that he doesn't need to implement equal pay legislation because when he was governor of Massachusetts he deigned to appoint women to some cabinet posts. In four days, all of these men could be on their way to powerful positions on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

I feel like Michael J. Fox in "Back to the Future," stuck in the 1950s and desperately trying to get the DeLorean to take me home.

The 1950s attitude toward women that has taken over the GOP isn't just rhetorical. We are dangerously close to losing some of the important legal protections women have fought for decades to establish. When President Obama tried to close the gap between the amount that women and men pay for health care, ordering insurance companies to provide contraception without copay, the mostly-male congressional GOP revolted. They declared that the president was attacking religious liberty -- specifically, the supposed religious liberty of employers to decide whether or not their employees could afford contraception. Senate Republicans came very close to passing a bill that would have allowed any employer to exercise their "religious liberty" by refusing insurance coverage to any employee for any treatment -- not exactly what I think of as liberty. Mitt Romney, of course, backed them up all the way.

And of course that's not all. Last year, Republicans in the House voted to take away federal funding from Planned Parenthood, the organization that ensures that women across the country have access to affordable reproductive care. (Full disclosure: I'm the proud chairwoman of Planned Parenthood's Board of Advocates.) Their solution was not to replace Planned Parenthood's care with something else. No, they voted instead to eliminate all of Title X, the federal program that provides funding to all reproductive health groups like Planned Parenthood. Their plan was simple: reproductive care only for those who could afford it, and the rest would be on their own. Mitt Romney followed their lead, promising to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood.

Thankfully, none of these measures made it into law, thanks to a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate and President Obama in the White House. But if Romney wins the White House or Republicans take the Senate, we can all pack our bags for the 1950s.

And if a President Romney gets to nominate even one Supreme Court justice, we'll be stuck there for quite a while. Currently, four justices on the Supreme Court are champing at the bit to overturn Roe v. Wade -- and with it, possibly the whole "right to privacy" doctrine that the Court also used to strike down criminal laws against contraception and "sodomy." Romney has openly said that he will nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. It's what the far right has wanted for 40 years, and he has promised them it. (If you want to be terrified, watch People For the American Way's video on Romney's judicial adviser, Robert Bork.)

It's not just reproductive rights that are on the line at the Supreme Court. Romney's favorite Supreme Court justices are the ones who ruled in 2007 that Lilly Ledbetter couldn't sue her employer for decades of pay discrimination because she hadn't found out about it in time. A law fixing the Ledbetter loophole was the first piece of legislation President Obama signed when he took office. Romney refuses to say whether he would have supported it -- only that he had the magnanimity to look through "binders full of women" to fill his cabinet in Massachusetts and made sure that at least some of them could get home in time to make dinner for their children.

If we have Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock making laws about who can access contraception, and a Romney Supreme Court deciding what rights women are entitled to, we can all forget about the DeLorean. We're stuck.