The Republican war on women’s rights has become something of a media trope. We all know it’s going on, and we all know the ways, but let me count them for you:
Access to abortion
Access to birth control
Access to Plan B
Rights of pregnant women in the workplace
Right to have a workplace free of sexual harassment
The right for same sex couples to immigrate together
Sex ed in schools
Rape awareness and prevention
Have I missed any?
Back in the news with the opening of his presidential library is conservative darling, former President George W. Bush, the man instrumental in setting up so many of these obstacles to women’s rights in the U.S.
Virtually the first thing he did when he took office in 2001 was reinstate the global gag rule, a provision on foreign aid that specifies that no aid will go to countries where doctors council women about abortion. It’s not even that they recommend abortion, or that they provide it, but that they speak about it at all. So, in countries that need help the most, that have sporadic access to birth control, where rape is often used as a tactic of war, doctors cannot even think of telling women that abortion is an option available to help them avoid forced childbearing.
This problem might be sidestepped, here and abroad, by making birth control easily accessible and inexpensive, but no. In 2008, just before he left office, Bush gave doctors and pharmacies an out by placing morality clauses in legislation. Morality clauses? Yes, if the prescription of birth control, or the practice of abortions, violates the morality or religion on a doctor or pharmacist, Bush would rather they ease their conscience than perform the duty of their job. The lives of the women come second to, you know, doing what they’re paid to do.
A further step in Bush’s war on women was to severely curtail the impact of Roe v. Wade by signing the so-called partial birth abortion ban in 2003. This ban imposed restrictions on medically necessary late-term abortions, abortions that would only be recommended to save the life of the mother. However, as every issue in the war on women shows, the life of a fully grown woman, a citizen of the United States, meant much less to the Bush administration that the ‘rights’ of potential citizens, formerly known as zygotes, embryos, and fetuses.
And what does happen after those potential citizens are born? Why, they get initiated into the public school system (unless they happen to be born rich) where Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy ensures that they can pass standardized tests, while learning not all that much about art, music, critical thinking, or sexual education. Why sexual education, you might ask? Because coupled with No Child Left Behind, Bush proposed and enacted “faith based initiatives” otherwise known as abstinence only sex ed.
However, let’s now move on to legislating who can express their love for their fellow person. Not content with upholding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), in 2004 Bush initiated a press for a constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriage. Proposing this amendment because he thought DOMA might be unconstitutional (it is, as it violates the equal protection clause and the full faith and credit clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but I digress …) Bush wished to write bigotry into the Constitution and ensure that not all citizens of the U.S. have the same rights.
Along with the opening of the Bush Presidential Library, former First Lady Laura Bush is again being lauded for her work helping Afghani women. One only wishes she could have done more to shield American women from the havoc wreaked by her husband.