We all heard about the War on Women's Health last year, when Tea Party-empowered state legislatures passed a record slew of anti-choice laws -- including deluded bills such as Arizona's ban on "race-based abortions" and dangerous ones like Virginia's attempt to shut down most abortion clinics in the state. These unhinged state legislatures were joined by an enthusiastic right-wing Congress that attempted to defund the entire $317 million federal family program, tried to redefine "rape," and ate up lies about their favorite bogeyman, Planned Parenthood.
Well, the War on Women's Health is back -- and now it's a flat-out, all-out War on Women.
Just this week, we have seen not just the stunning spectacle of major presidential candidates coming out against birth control coverage, but Republicans in the Senate holding up domestic violence protections because they protect too many people; a potential vice presidential candidate pick poised to sign a law requiring women to receive medically unnecessary vaginal probes without their consent; a leading presidential candidate claiming that "emotions" will get in the way of women serving in combat; and a House committee holding a hearing on birth control access -- with a panel consisting entirely of men.
And it seems that in the lead-up to 2012, the War on Women isn't going to die down.
The two Republican presidential front-runners, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, have signaled that they are 100 percent on board with the anti-woman agenda of their party's farthest-right element.
For Santorum, this isn't news. As a U.S. senator, he championed the so-called "partial birth abortion" ban, which prevented women from making difficult choices after complications late in a pregnancy. But that was just what he could convince others to do. He not only thinks abortion should always be a crime -- even in cases of even rape, incest and danger to the pregnant woman -- he thinks states should be allowed to ban birth control. Why? Never mind that birth control is the best way to lower the number of abortions, he's against it because birth control "is not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."
In a stunning statement, major Santorum supporter billionaire Foster Friess put it even more bluntly on MSNBC yesterday, saying he didn't see why women need insurance coverage for birth control: "Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly."
But when it comes to reproductive rights, there's not much daylight between Santorum's policy positions and Romney's. Romney wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and has signaled that he'll appoint federal judges with the same priority. He told Mike Huckabee that he "absolutely" supports so-called "personhood" laws that grant zygotes the rights of human beings -- and outlaw the most common type of birth control. This puts Romney far to the right of voters in deep-red Mississippi, who rejected such a plan by double digits last year.
What's more, one of the frequently talked-about picks for the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, is poised to sign into law some of the most extreme anti-woman measures in the country. This week, Virginia passed a bill that would require all women seeking abortions to first undergo an ultrasound. But not just any ultrasound. The roughly 88 percent of women seeking abortions in the early days of pregnancy would be subject to a medically unnecessary vaginal probe -- and they won't be asked for their consent.
It's the kind of government intrusion that you'd think would leave people of all political persuasions aghast. But Gov. McDonnell has spoken in favor of it, and is expected to sign it.
Gov. McDonnell hasn't said whether he'll sign the anti-birth control "personhood" bill that also passed his state house this week. If he does, his state will have the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the country.
The right is staging an all-out assault on women's rights while they have control of the majority of state legislatures, the House and a determined minority in the Senate. The GOP's presidential candidates are promising to join it if they get elected.
We can't let them succeed.