Rep. John Boehner is set to become the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. As Boehner prepares to take the gavel, a survey released last week shows that the vast majority of Americans has no idea who he is. We have no doubt that, before long, Boehner will emerge as the new face of the anti-choice movement in the U.S.
Maybe you're thinking, "Wait a minute, didn't Boehner campaign on jobs and the economy? Isn't calling for attacks on choice inconsistent with the 'limited government' he talks about?"
When it comes to choice, Boehner's rhetoric about limited government rings hollow. Less than 48 hours after polls closed, Boehner did exactly what we expected him to do: make attacking a woman's right to choose a cornerstone (or pillar, rather) of his agenda. He even told the National Right to Life Committee that, when women have the right to choose, "freedom is diminished." A recent front-page story in The New York Times spells out how imposing additional restrictions on a woman's right to choose and ending insurance coverage of abortion is a central part of his push to repeal the health-reform law.
Let's face it. Creating jobs, especially in the short term, will be hard. Boehner won't have much to show his base, unless he takes aim at a woman's right to choose.
Contrary to his statements about 'limited government', Boehner has never missed an opportunity to open the door to more political interference in our personal, private decisions. He even has accepted the endorsement of the Republican National Coalition for Life, which requires all endorsed candidates to "indicate they are faithfully pro-life, and do not justify abortion for innocent babies who are conceived through rape or incest."
Since entering the House in 1990, Boehner has cast 142 votes on abortion and other reproductive-rights issues. All 142 were anti-choice. That's right: in 20 years in Congress, Boehner voted in favor of a woman's right to choose exactly zero times.
Here's a quick glance at his "greatest hits" list of Boehner's anti-choice votes:
- Boehner voted eight times against clinic protection for women and their doctors. [House vote #580 (11/18/93); House vote #582 (11/18/93); House vote #66 (3/17/94); House vote #68 (3/17/94); House vote #157 (5/5/94); House vote #158 (5/5/94); House vote #159 (5/5/94); House vote #125 (2/14/95)]
- John Boehner even voted (twice!) to deny federal funding of abortion care to survivors of rape and incest. [House vote #619 (8/3/95); House vote #51 (3/7/96)]
- He voted 17 times to deny women in the military - who are defending our freedom overseas - the right to use their own, private funds for abortion care at overseas military hospitals. [House vote #109 (5/22/91); House vote #163 (6/4/92); House vote #458 (10/3/92); House vote #382 (6/15/95); House vote #641 (9/7/95); House vote #642 (9/7/95); House vote #167 (5/14/96); House vote #217 (6/19/97); House vote #171 (5/20/98); House vote #184 (6/9/99); House vote #203 (5/18/00); House vote #357 (9/25/01); House vote #153 (5/10/02); House vote #215 (5/22/03); House vote #197 (5/19/04); House vote #216 (5/25/05); House vote #136 (5/10/06)]
- He voted twice against insurance coverage of contraception for federal employees - a provision of the law that ensures health plans cover birth control equally with other prescription medications. [House vote #290 (7/16/98); House vote #493 (10/7/98)]
- He voted twice against the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows Americans to take time off work to care for a child or sick family-member. [House vote #443 (9/30/92); House vote #22 (2/3/93)]
Now that Boehner will control the House, the outlook for women is grim.
Boehner already is a co-sponsor of the dangerous "Stupak on Steroids" bill. This bill is even worse than the original Stupak amendment that threatened health-care reform. It would ban coverage of abortion in the new health-care system and impose a tax on Americans with private insurance plans that include abortion coverage. Eighty-seven percent of private plans currently include such coverage.
In addition, Boehner's plan to repeal the health-reform law jeopardizes the promise of free prenatal care and birth control for millions of American women. He also could revive the failed Bush-era "abstinence-only" programs that censored discussion of birth control and cut funding for family-planning services (the Title X program) that provide women access to basic health care, such as birth control and cancer screening.
Sadly, Boehner faces few obstacles when it comes to a vote count. He will lead a House of Representatives with at least 79 new anti-choice members.
We are under no illusions about changing Boehner's position on choice, but we are committed to making sure he feels the pressure of America's pro-choice majority as he carries the water for the anti-choice movement in the coming months. In just the last two weeks, we've recruited thousands of new activists and educated our supporters about our need to fight back against the incoming speaker.
We will ensure that each and every day more Americans know that, when it comes to women's freedom and privacy, Boehner doesn't speak for the majority of people in this country.
Follow Nancy Keenan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NARAL