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Jay Fleitman: GOP’s supposed ‘war on women’ is anything but

CAROL LOLLIS<br/>Jay Fleitman

Jay Fleitman

Making this a keystone to the presidential election was a successful maneuver by the Democrats, as Obama won the presidency by taking the women’s vote by 55 percent over the share that went to Romney. The Democrats’ prominent use of the “war on women” during the 2012 national election seems to have framed this discussion not only for Democratic and independent women, but also for Republicans.

I was recently at a meeting of a nascent western Massachusetts Republican think tank, and was surprised that the women at this meeting were angered by the socially conservative planks included in the statewide Republican platform as being bad on women’s issues.

As I searched the web in preparation for writing this column, it became clear that the “war on women” is built around three fronts: abortion, the inclusion of payment for contraception by insurance provided by religious organizations and on equal pay across genders for equal work.

The struggle over abortion has the most emotional power of these issues and lies at the center of the Republicans’ supposed “war on women.” For many on both the conservative right and liberal left, it is the defining issue in the perception of cultural values.

For those social conservatives, half of whom are women, this is not a war on women but a war against abortion. In fact, in multiple statistical surveys by Gallup between 2009 and most recently in 2013, more Americans favor banning or restricting abortions by 58 percent over the 39 percent who believe there should be few restrictions.

More women identify with pro-life positions over pro-choice positions in these same surveys. In 2013, 57 percent of all women supported making all abortions illegal or permitting a few under special circumstances, far more than the 40 percent of women who support pro-choice positions. It would seem that a “war on women” that focuses on abortion is less a war of Republicans against women than a civil war among women.

Fluke’s appearance on our television screens at the 2012 convention was to demand her right to have her contraceptives paid for by her medical insurance at law school. At that time, she was in her final year at the prestigious law school of the Catholic institution of Georgetown University. The provision of contraception crosses the religious foundations of the parent church of Georgetown University, and Fluke was to soon graduate and immediately join the top 10 percent of earners in the United States.

Yet the $15 or $20 a month that this contraception would cost her became a rallying cry of a second front in the war against women.

I have never heard of a Republican wanting contraception to be illegal or unavailable. I have never heard of a Republican wanting to limit the availability of contraception to poor women through public insurance. We all recognize the damage that can be wrought on the future of a young poor woman by an unwanted pregnancy.

The only issue with provision of contraceptives that Republicans have raised is that of the federal government forcing religious-based institutions to provide services that are against their beliefs. This is hardly a gender-based assault.

In the same vein, I have never heard a Republican state the belief that a woman should be paid less than a man for equal work. Republican resistance in 2009 to the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is deployed by Democrats to create this imagined attack. Given a name like this, any work against this bill must be evidence that Republicans mean to suppress women’s rights. However, this bill does nothing to change existing equal rights protections, but only overturned a Supreme Court ruling as to when the clock on the statute of limitations starts to run on a lawsuit against this kind of discrimination.

The Republican and Supreme Court concern about this bill was that limitations became so open-ended that a lawsuit could be brought decades after the initial discrimination occurred against a management that was not even there. This bill was viewed as another bonanza for trial lawyers without offering any added protection for women.

Obama himself said that if you can’t win an election on the big things, then make it about little things.

The “war on women” was a successful manipulation of smoke and mirrors that helped give Democrats a majority of women’s votes in 2012. I fully expect to have this replayed in 2016 if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. However, Obama didn’t win all of the segments of female votes. Romney won a majority of white women and a majority of married women.

Perhaps it was the gallery of prominent Democrat champions of women’s rights that drove married women to the Republicans: Bill Maher, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner and, yes, Bill Clinton.

Jay Fleitman, M.D., lives in Northampton. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com.

Legacy Comments17

I've been censored. What's next book burnings? A pogrom on satire? It's hysteria I'll tell ya! (Brought to you by Angelface Darling Honeydew, III)

Librarian- Blah, Blah, Blah. War is hell. This is not Hell. You want equality? Get back to work. Your diatribe is not advancing your cause.

Glad to see you are admitting there is a cause.

A poorly-reasoned and poorly-researched opinion piece. Simply put, Republicans support policies that are detrimental to women, not only in reproductive health issues, but also in economic policy and related issues.

Fleitman's latest column is even worse than most of his consistently terrible writings and calls for a point-by-point lesson in reality. - Paragraph 1: Yes, Republicans have been focused on legislation that limits women's rights for years. - Paragraph 2: Yes, Democrats campaign on women's rights--and the rights of all Americans in general. - Paragraph 3: You were surprised that Republican women don't like Republican platforms that restrict their rights? Do you think that Republican women should like having their rights restricted? Perhaps you think they should just "lie back and think of England." - Paragraph 4: Did his "research" include anything beyond the right-wing, agenda-drive, fact-averse websites that you usually rely on? Did he consider reading an actual book? - Paragraph 5: Yes, reproductive rights is an issue many people care about. How would you feel if one major political party tried to restrict your reproductive rights? I would assume you wouldn't like it. - Paragraph 6: Fleitman completely misrepresents Gallup's polling on the subject of abortion. In fact, Gallup shows that only about 20% of Americans want abortion to be illegal under all circumstances. About 25% want abortion legal under any circumstances. Most important, more than half of Americans want abortion legal under some circumstances. Added together, the current polling shows that 78% of Americans fall into what could be categorized as the "pro-choice" view, while only 20% would be "pro-life." During the past 15 years, Americans have been roughly equally divided in self identifying as pro-life or pro-choice, but Gallup shows that upholding Roe v. Wade beats overturning it by a consistent 20-30 point margin. Here is the link to Gallup's polling on abortion in case anyone wants the facts rather than Fleitman's dishonesty: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx - Paragraph 7: Again, Fleitman misrepresents Gallup's polling to fit his agenda. In fact, only 20% of women said that abortion should be illegal under and circumstances, while 77% said abortion should be legal under any, some, or a few special circumstances. Here's the link to that information: http://www.gallup.com/poll/162374/americans-abortion-views-steady-amid-gosnell-trial.aspx - Paragraph 8: Another lie from Fleitman. Fluke was not focused on herself and her own contraception’s, but on the millions of women who need contraception for both medical and family-planning purposes. Fleitman's ad homenum attack on Fluke is a common tactic among Republicans who would rather focus on one woman whom they believe has no right to speak out in public than to address the larger issues. And pointing out that Fluke has earned an education and should soon be able to secure a good-paying job again singles her out. What about the 90% of women who won't earn as much as Fluke? Fleitman conveniently ignores their needs to focus on Fluke, his target for derision. - Paragraph 9: Belittling the cost of contraception is another Republican tactic. The $15-20 amounts Fleitman quotes are copayments if someone is fortunate enough to have good health insurance. If not, the cost is likely to be more. Most important, Fleitman claims that everyone recognizes the problem of unwanted pregnancy. If Republicans truly recognized that problem, they would go out of their way to make contraception available, covered by insurance, and at minimal to no cost--exactly as Democrats and President Obama have done, against constant Republican obstruction. - Paragraph 10: Fleitman's search of the web must have been very poorly conducted. A simple Google search of "Republicans against contraception" yields multiple results that contradict Fleitman's assertions. Here's a good summary article about Republican attacks on contraception: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/republican-war-birth-control-contraception - Paragraph 11: Wrong. See paragraph 9. Also, religious freedom doesn't give anyone the right to impose his or her beliefs on other people, which is exactly what companies objecting to insurance coverage of contraception are trying to do. - Paragraph 12: Yes, Republicans have said that women should earn less than me. Here's an example: http://www.businessinsider.com/wisconsin-republican-says-women-are-paid-less-because-money-is-more-important-for-men-2012-4 There are many other examples of Republicans denying that women deserve equal pay, denying that there is a gender pay gap, blaming women for the fact that they are paid less than men, defending men's pay rates, or claiming that women are actually paid more than men. Again, Fleitman's Google doesn't seem capable of finding anything that doesn't support his biased agenda. Fleitman's biggest lie so far is contained in this paragraph. He writes about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, "this bill does nothing to change existing equal rights protections, but only overturned a Supreme Court ruling as to when the clock on the statute of limitations starts to run on a lawsuit against this kind of discrimination." In fact, changing the statute of limitations on suing over pay-equity issues actually does expand equal rights protections. The second half of Fleitman's sentence is a direct contraction of the first half. - Paragraph 13: The change in management does not erase the initial pay discrimination or the long-term economic effects of that pay discrimination. The Republican position that corporations are people should imply that a change in management doesn't change the corporation's responsibility for it's actions any more than the shedding of a person's cells would make them somehow not responsible for acts done before their cells were shed. As for the canard about trial lawyers--that hasn't happened. Republican predictions about a flood of lawsuits were about as accurate as their predictions of a Romney landslide in 2012. - Paragraph 14: This is a double lie from Fleitman as he misquotes the president and takes him completely out of context. President Obama was actually speaking about how Republicans run dirty campaigns with personal attacks when they "make big elections about small things." Fleitman's Google must not have been able to find President Obama's nomination acceptance speech in 2008. Here's the actual quote from the actual speech, at about the 38-minute mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ato7BtisXzE - Paragraph 15: Fleitman engages in classic projection with his "smoke and mirrors" comment. Republicans have been experts at smoke and mirrors for decades to cover their lack of substantive positions on the issues. And Fleitman's sexist views come into full display when he alludes to Hillary Clinton's potential presidential run in 2016. Whether the Democratic candidate is a man or a woman has nothing to do with the fact that Democrats support women's rights far more than Republicans. - Paragraph 16: Fleitman ends his column with clear evidence that he has no substantive ideas himself. To complete his smoke and mirrors attack, he resorts to more personal attacks to draw attention away from the Republican record on women's rights. He pulls out four Democrats that do not have a good record of personal behavior. His Google is again somehow impaired if he can't find the many Republican men who have such personal issues with women. But the Democrats Fleitman mentions all have a stellar record of proposing, endorsing, and voting for legislation that supports women's rights. Republicans simply can't make the same claim. Bringing up an entertainer (Bill Maher) and lumping him with Democrats? Maher has never campaigned with Democrats. No Democrat has sought Maher's endorsement. Maher does not sit on the board of prominent organizations that Democrats associate with. That just shows how desperate Fleitman is. Apparently he's never heard of Ted Nugent, a self-confessed pedophile who many prominent Republicans hold up as an example of American values. All in all, Fleitman's dishonesty, ignorance, and frequent reliance on misinformation make his far and away the worst columnist at the Gazette. As the only "conservative" voice on these pages, he is an embarrassment to conservatives and an affront to any clear-thinking person. His dismissal from this otherwise fine newspaper is long overdue.

Yikes, looks like someone needs to have their dewey decimal systemed.

Yes, the response could have been edited to be shorter and easier to read, but Librarian is more accurate in each sentence than Mr. Fleitman is in his entire propaganda piece. Fleitman's half-baked "research" and buzz-word headline is typical of the Fox News mentality that has polarized the nation.

Jdurf1, Clearly it is easier for you to read and believe writings of negative and non factual material as written by Mr. Fleitman vice the meticulously researched information provided by Librarian, perhaps it is too much effort for you as it was Mr. Fleitman to actually gather facts.

"Calm down honey" = overused, inane, cowardly, and cliched response to any intelligent statement or suggestion or rebuttal by a woman. Virtually every woman has encountered it in the workplace, even when expressing the most reasoned opinion. We don't fall for it any more, sweetie pie. It certainly confirms where jdurf1 stands in the "war on women."

Great repy, thanks Librarian for taking the time to write. I don't mind reading thoughtful (and accurate!) conservative commentary but Dr. Fleitman does not come close to that. This is one of the worst pieces of writing I've seen in the Gazette.

Blah, Blah, Blah. Your diatribe is pathetic. Shut up and get back to work. Jeesh.

Freedom, I wonder if you served in our military to protect the very freedom of speech that you so badly treat others with. It is a shame when so many of us who have served, that people like you benefit from it. And if you have served, shame on you.

I don't like the term "war on women", it has an unrealistic ring to it; but when breaking it down perhaps the term would more appropriate to be GOP's "suppression of the rights of women". Perhaps Mr. Fleitman needs to dig a little further in his research to be more accurate in his findings.

@pcon- No, he's not. No, he's not. @danm- Who are you calling a prominent brain dead moronic nitwit Republican? Don't blame me, I'm just a product of the public schools.

You've got to be kidding me.

Jay, While the "war on Women" concept may be exaggerated as regards the average Rebublican, the fairly numerous prominent brain dead moronic nitwit Republicans (men and women) who let fly their troglodyte ideas on these issues during the 2012 election certainly added plenty of fuel to the "War on Women" fire. An independent such as me couldn't conceive of having such jackasses in power.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. :-)

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