House Republicans have revealed their true agenda and it is not a pretty sight. They came to power in November chanting the mantra of job creation, job creation, but they have already dropped the "job" part. Instead they are focusing on "creation" -- that is, on resurrecting their failed old campaigns against contraception and women's reproductive health care.
Do we have to go through this yet again? Poll after poll finds Americans strongly support access to family planning for everyone, at home and abroad. Programs to supply it are among the most wanted and welcomed in the 50 developing countries where the U.S. Agency for International Development works and the 150 countries that embrace projects of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Yet this week House Republicans submitted legislation to zero out U.S. contributions to UNFPA and to de-fund USAID's international family planning assistance.
They have also proposed measures to gut funding for programs that reduce infant mortality and save women's lives by providing access to prenatal and post-natal care. They have attacked women's access to legal abortion services and tried to re-define rape by setting up various "levels," as though violent sexual assault had delicate nuances that no one previously noticed.
The issue here is control. Contraception is just fine with Republicans when women are not involved. Rep. Dan Burton (Republican of Indiana) proved this with a proposal this week to push the Bureau of Land Management to control the size of its wild horse and burro herds with contraceptive injections, rather than penning them up. The whole House, including yours truly, rose as one to support this. Rep. Burton gave no indication that he saw the irony of his position.
Other parts of the $61 billion in cuts contained in the Republican stopgap funding measure to keep the government operating decimates programs that benefit women and girls worldwide. Girls' education, disaster relief, vaccination programs for children, food aid, agricultural support, shelter for refugees from conflict and disaster, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment -- these get broad U.S. popular support in every survey. Yet they are the areas hardest hit in the Republican proposal.
Disaster assistance would be cut 67 percent from 2010 levels, for example, so that victims of another Haiti earthquake or Pakistan flood would just have to tough it out. Migration and refugee assistance would lose 45 percent of its 2010 budget; the women and children who seek refuge from conflict zones would just have to keep moving. And as tides of change sweep the Mideast, opening new possibilities for women's rights and challenging American diplomacy as never before, the Republicans would cut State Department funding by 21 percent.
When it was pointed out that all the Republican cuts in the stopgap bill would cost some 200,000 federal jobs, Majority Leader John Boehner didn't care. "So be it," he said.
His message could not be much clearer. It isn't "job creation" that House Republicans care about, it's "creation" itself, controlling women's sexual and reproductive lives. They do not trust women to make decisions about our own bodies and they will cut or eliminate programs that help us do that. They are on the wrong side of history on this one.