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Remedial Women's Studies: The 2012 Republican Party

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Think this year's political focus on women's issues is just some overblown hype fueled by a few rogue Akins and Mourdocks? Think again. I sorted through binders full of Republican candidates, and found a real pattern. To be sure, Democrats have their own transgressions, and not all Republican electeds share these beliefs. (It's about as bad as my 2010 list.) Maybe Republican leaders around the country took the world's worst women's studies class, syllabus below:

Intro Seminar: Women's Anatomy

Abuse allegations against Nicholas Schwaderer, GOP candidate for the Montana State Legislature are unresolved (although when asked to comment he handed the phone to his mother). But here, young Schwaderer comments he has "seen some pretty scary vaginas" and wouldn't "object to the occasional blowy." He passes the phone to his mom with that mouth?

Women of a certain age know you can't tell if you're pregnant until about two weeks after conception. Online, it's even called "the two-week wait." In Arizona, they've found a workaround: HB 2036. It bans abortions for fetuses older than 20 weeks (making it one of the strictest laws in the country), and starts the clock as much as two weeks before conception. Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill.

In Virginia, legislators and extremist Governor Bob McDonnell made national news by supporting a bill subjecting pregnant women to a forced transvaginal ultrasound. Doctors could not object, nor could patients. Supportive legislator Todd Gilbert argued that most abortions are "lifestyle conveniences." After drawing unwanted attention, legislators said they didn't realize the ultrasounds would be transvaginal. But if you don't know enough about women's bodies to know how early ultrasounds are performed, then you probably (read: definitely) shouldn't be legislating them.

Also in Virginia, Republican Delegate Bob Marshall reports that God has a special punishment for women who have had abortions: disabled children. Science reports back: Marshall is wrong.

It was an unbelievable oversight for Congressman Darrell Issa's (CA-49) Oversight committee to not ask a single woman to testify at a hearing about restricting access to birth control. After Sandra Fluke was denied the right to speak, the personal attacks began. Most of them wrongfully accused her of wanting birth control coverage for herself to prevent pregnancy. In fact, she was discussing a friend's medical condition requiring hormonal birth control for treatment.

Special Guest Lecturers: The Class of 2010 (Don't Say You Weren't Warned!)

Congressman Joe Walsh (IL-8) has made the spotlight by repeatedly trashing his opponent, screaming at a constituent, and saying there is no scientific need for a "life of the mother" abortion exception. Despite being an embarrassment to his party, outside groups have spent over $1M on his behalf, more than for almost any other Republican House candidate.

"Family-values" Congressman Scott DesJarlais (TN-4) taped himself trying to convince his mistress to have an abortion. This is not simply salacious; it exposes the hypocrisy of DesJarlais' extreme pro-life stance.

Florida Congressmen Allen West (FL-22) continues to make news, with dismissive attitudes toward women as a recurring theme.

Study Group Topic: "I'm OK, you're not"

Some lawmakers are quick to judge others harshly or with suspicion. Indiana Senator Patricia Miller introduced a law requiring anyone seeking fertility treatments to first get government approval. Miller's bill explains "approval" might include personality tests and information about "hobbies and talents" and church activities. Does developing extreme legislation creating major government overreach count as a hobby, or a talent? (Disclosure: my firm works with some Democratic Indiana State Senate candidates.)

In Arkansas, Republican candidate (and former legislator) Charlie Fuqua released a book saying the bible permits the death penalty for "rebellious children." He also says we should expel all Muslims from the country. He can start an extremist legislator book club with some of his fellow Arkansas Republicans.

Arizona Republican legislators fought for a bill requiring women to submit a medical claim to their employer if they needed birth control for any non-medical reasons. In defense of the bill, Republican State Representative Debbie Lesko said, "I believe we live in America...[not] the Soviet Union." Never mind that no one lives in the Soviet Union anymore, Lesko fails to see many American women might find it even more onerous to provide their bosses with such personal information.

Public Speaking Training: Bad Jokes

Those who know me know I like to work blue. But when Scott Brown, Jim Sensenbrenner, Herman Cain, Mike Huckabee, and (of course) Todd Akin all make fun of women figures for their appearance, voice, ladylikeness or princessy-ness, I see red. And so it's fair to ask: has any male figure (aside from, unfairly, Chris Christie) received such treatment?

Legal Seminar 1: Workplace Discrimination

There's more to the equal pay debate than Lilly Ledbetter. All Republicans in the Senate opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which goes beyond Lilly Ledbetter.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker repealed part of the state's equal pay law that made it easier for people to argue their case before lower courts.

And in Missouri, Republican legislators in both chambers voted to weaken workplace discrimination legislation, making it harder for people to prove discrimination based on gender, pregnancy, race and disability. Even after a spirited debate on the floor. Governor Nixon vetoed the bill, which was sponsored by State Representative Kevin Elmer (Disclosure: my firm works with some Democratic Missouri State House candidates.)

Legal Seminar 2: Domestic Violence

Normally, Congress reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act without much fuss. But not in this current hyper-politicized environment. Republicans in the House voted against extending VAWA protections to LGBT women or undocumented immigrants, led by Congresswoman Sandy Adams (FL-24). Apparently some abuse victims are less deserving of protection from violence. Republicans also voted against stronger confidentiality protections for victims. A tougher version of the bill passed the Senate, so not surprisingly the bill is now stalled. Watch how far Senate candidate Republican Connie Mack (FL-14) will go to avoid talking about the bill.

In New Hampshire, Republican legislators fought to gut protections for domestic violence victims, by requiring police to personally witness the crime (as opposed to evidence of a crime) before making an arrest without a warrant. Law enforcement opposed, but politicians pressed on. (The final bill, sponsored by Dan Itse, died in committee.)

Everyone Gets an F in Rape

We've saved the worst for last. Congressman Todd Akin may be the Lindsay Lohan of rape-comment train wrecks, but there are plenty of other starlets following in his footsteps. But just as a refresher, Akin said the body "shuts down" after a "legitimate rape." Fellow experts Congressman Steve King (IA-5) and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6) agreed.

Have you heard the one about how "some girls rape easy"? You haven't? Well, Wisconsin Republican State Representative Roger Rivard says if a girl gets pregnant during consensual sex, she may then say she was raped. Funny, right? Wait, Rivard would like us to know that was actually advice from his dad, and so maybe this whole thing was "kind of taken out of context." (The right context being the 19th Century.) Mr. Rape Easy has been endorsed by the Family Research Council's Wisconsin affiliate because of his commitment to "traditional families."

And who will "put yourself in a father's position," wondered Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith? He uses his own family's personal story to equate pregnancy out of wedlock and rape, and asks a reporter for sympathy.

What's worse, sexual assault, or illegal immigration? Massachusetts State Representative Ryan Fattman thinks he has the answer. When specifically asked about illegal immigrant rape victims, he said: "if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward."

In Kansas, Republican State Representative Pete DeGraaf said women should "plan ahead" for an abortion from a birth control failure or rape. After all, he said, he carries a spare tire in his car. Maybe if more women planned ahead, we'd have fewer representatives like Pete DeGraaf.

And when the New Hampshire legislature tried to scrub the phrase "mentally defective" from the state's sexual assault law, Republican State Representative Ken Kreis objected, noting a recent victim in the news "had her entire life to get used to being called 'defective.'"

Of course, just this week Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said in a debate pregnancy from rape is a "gift from God." What if you're a rape victim who disagrees with Mourdock's view? Well, I'm sure someone that extreme has no chance of getting elected, or won't get the help of his party. Oh wait.

Homework: Defeat Romney/Ryan

Who is in charge of this class anyway, the students, or the instructors? Regardless, we'd be wise to abandon Romney and Ryan; they seem uncomfortable with the subject matter. And I have some suggested remedial reading. Let's start with Our Bodies Ourselves, and Free to Be You & Me. As classics from over five decades ago, they might be the right first step for Republican candidates hoping to get caught up on women's issues.