COMMENTARY | The Republicans are hard at work trying to combat the impression the party consists of a bunch of club-wielding misogynists and female members in denial. While there is a distraction going on over Barack Obama supporter Hilary Rosen's remarks about Ann Romney never working, it should be noted Ann Romney, like other conservative women, denies what the Republican Party is doing in state legislatures.
They claim the "War On Women" is a Democratic Party fabrication. But the Guttmacher Institute, a division of Planned Parenthood, has found 944 measures in 45 state legislatures that impact women's reproductive health and individual rights. And that is just in the first three months this year.
Last year, the Guttmacher Institute released a report on legislative trends and found 916 provisions concerning women's health and reproductive right introduced in the first three months of the year. In all, more than 1,100 provisions were introduced in 2011.
The percentage of limitations and constrictions rises as one includes provisions for teen pregnancies, health care coverage defunding, abstinence education requirements and various other restrictions.
To be fair, all 1,860 measures were not done so by Republicans, just nearly all of those that pertained to abortion, invasive medical procedures, gestation limitation, the definition of personhood and such. Some Democrats like Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner fought back tongue-in-cheekily by introducing legislation to protect men's reproductive rights and access to erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra.
She proposed a psychological evaluation, a medical stress test to ensure heart health sustainability during sex and an affidavit from the applicant's sexual partner attesting to the erectile dysfunction.
All of the provisions weren't attacks on individual rights or abortion access but also included measures for things like controlling for lead content and other harmful chemicals that could affect the health and safety of mothers, children and unborn children.
More than 1,100 pieces of legislation related to women's health issues were introduced in all 50 states in 2011. By year's end, 135 of those had been enacted in 36 states, a marked increase over 2010's 89. A record-setting 92 of those provisions were related to abortion access. Nine provisions have been passed into law in various states this year.
The laws include five states that require women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion, including three states that require abortion providers to offer the mother the opportunity to view an image of the fetus or have it described before having an abortion. Four states passed laws prohibiting private insurance carriers to provide abortion coverage in-state unless life endangerment was involved (although additional coverage could be paid for by the individual out-of-pocket).
But the War On Women doesn't stop with the onslaught of attacks against women's health and reproductive rights. It also extends into the area of discrimination and equal pay. Although Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed two bills regarding limiting abortion access and one that required schools that teach sex education to stress abstinence (teachers could opt out of talking about contraception), according to Think Progress, he also signed legislation that repealed Wisconsin's Equal Pay Enforcement Act. The repeal limits women and other minority groups their ability to file lawsuits regarding discrimination based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and/or other factors.
The GOP has people like South Carolina Gov. Nicki Haley out front of the issue claiming there is no war on women. It also has people like Republican strategist and CNN analyst Mary Matalin dismissing the "demonstrably dopey Democrat-fabricated 'War On Women'" in op-eds that tout Ann Romney's courage as a stay-at-home mother while slamming the Obama administration for Obamacare and not supporting Rosen's comments.
But the numbers do not lie. While politicians, pundits, analysts and the media debate it on a national level by digressing into isolated and insignificant firefights over nonissues about who insulted who, the real legislative battles are being fought. And it should be no surprise that in male-dominated chambers of the statehouses, women are slowly but certainly losing considerable legal ground.