Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

The “War on Women” Trap?

Posted by Warren Peterson on March 10, 2012

The Democrats are having some success changing the subject from Obama’s abysmal performance by charging Republicans with gross insensitivity concerning women’s health. How did it happen?

The Trap

Back on Republican Presidential Debate number twenty something, George Stephanopulos, former Clinton aide and now unbiased TV journalist, asked Mitt Romney an off the wall question about the power of states to ban contraceptives. An incredulous Romney responded that no one has proposed that or would want to do it. There was some media comment about such an odd question but it faded quickly.

Baiting the Trap

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a policy requiring religious organizations such as a Catholic university to include coverage for contraceptives in their health care insurance plans. This sparked a huge outcry over religious freedom. In an attempt to make the new requirement more palatable, President Obama offered a bait and switch compromise. Insurance companies would have to offer the coverage for free, no charge to the insured or the institution providing health benefits. Of course it all depends on the meaning of free.

The Trap is Sprung

Congressman Issa, California Republican, held a hearing on the question of religious liberty. Two panels of speakers, one of four males and a second that included two women, were scheduled to testify. At the last minute, Democrat members of the committee, including Nancy Pelosi, demanded that a law student from Georgetown University be invited to testify. Chairman Issa rejected the request noting that the subject of the testimony was to be on the constitutionally of restricting religious freedom not a right to contraception. Snapping the trap shut, the Democrats walked out and held their own hearing where the law student expounded on the need for someone else to pay for women’s contraception needs.

Conservative media, most notably Rush Limbaugh, jumped into the fray but only caused the teeth of the trap to sink further into the ensnared Republicans. The female law student became the abused little girl assaulted by those mean old white men and an instant heroine of the media left. But beyond that, most people found Rush’s use of slut and prostitute over the top offensive. He did apologize but too little too late. Democrats saw the dust up as a twofer, a chance to label Republicans as anti women and bring down Rush, a major thorn in the liberals side.

You would think Republicans experienced in the ways of politics, perception and the media would have seen this one coming a mile away. They should have allowed the law student to testify, listened to what she had to say, shown sympathy for her statement that birth control prescriptions given for medical problems such as ovarian cysts should be covered and moved on.

True, the whole controversy has allowed conservatives to once again point out the hypocrisy of the left but it has also opened a potential wedge issue, true or not, that could be significant in a close race. It just was not necessary.


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