Friday, February 17, 2012

Joe Heck Needs a Reality Check on Women's Health Issues

On Monday, we noted the Republicans increasingly turning to "culture war" issues over fear that they can no longer campaign on a lousy economy (since the economy is actually improving under President Obama's watch). Later in the week, we saw this.

And now, it's becoming increasingly clear what the G-O-TEA crowd are talking about when they say they want to "take our country back".

[Rick Santorum's Super PAC "superhero" Foster] Friess’ comment was astonishing in two ways. First, it derailed the entire contraception debate that Republicans have been desperate to keep about “religious freedom” rather than make it about, well, who does or does not keep her knees together. Second, there wasn’t a woman around who didn’t have a guttural reaction.

“I want to punch that guy in the face,” said one female operative who called me on an entirely unrelated matter. Phone calls and IM conversations for the rest of the day included similar appraisals of Santorum’s biggest financial backer.

So there you have it: modern women being told by Republicans that they’re not qualified to talk about their own sexual health, are dressed like “whores” and probably need birth control because they’re so slutty. And this is just in one day.

Democratic women say this is all part of a general pattern that began in 2010 when the tea party helped Republicans win a congressional election based on jobs and deficits and the Republicans then set about passing new anti-abortion legislation and declaring war on Planned Parenthood once in office. They agreed Thursday stood out, though.

“Republican policies have been stuck in the 50s for a while now. I guess this week they decided they wanted the whole retro package,” said Jess McIntosh, communications director at EMILY’s List. “Darrel Issa, you are no Jon Hamm.”

Indeed, it seems like they want to do a "time warp" back to the 1950s... Or maybe the 1850s?

And no, Nevada, we're not immune from this. In fact, none other than our own "Trust me, I'm a doctor!" Joe Heck uttered these words when asked about insurance coverage of contraception:

"The fact is this has nothing to do with women’s health issues.”

Really? Seriously? How could Joe Heck say that?

I've been wondering when someone else would finally notice this. Yesterday, John Oceguera's campaign did.

Joe Heck opposes requiring all employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control, saying that the issue has “nothing to do with women’s health.” Who is he kidding?

It gets worse. Joe Heck doesn’t think insurance companies should be required to cover the HPV vaccine for women, which can help prevent cervical cancer. In fact, as a member of the Nevada Legislature, Heck even voted against it.

Joe Heck even wants to end the right to choose for women. He’s so extreme that he’s been endorsed by an organization that calls exceptions for women’s health “frivolous”.

Well I’ve got news for you, Joe – your positions are out of touch and bad for Nevada women. As a doctor, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Helping women get access to preventative treatment and family planning services is a moral issue – not a political game. As a son, husband and father, I would never put partisan politics ahead of the health and safety of women.

Well, someone had to say it. We have a whole lot of women here in Nevada who regularly use contraception. Why should they face so many obstacles in accessing it? And why doesn't Heck ever propose putting up the same kinds of obstacles on men accessing Viagra and Cialis?

And what's really funny about Heck going hard-line against birth control, as well as Republicans overall working so hard to antagonize women voters, is that they're not realizing they're losing quite badly on this. Ed Kilgore may ultimately be right about this turning into another "Terry Schiavo moment" of the G-O-TEA overreaching on "culture wars" crap. Again, women regularly use contraception and a number of states, including Nevada, have already passed insurance coverage requirements like the one President Obama will be implementing in the rollout of health care reform.

Steve Benen may have hit the ultimate nail on the head of this.

The first is that the Great Recession wasn't just an economic crisis; it was a disaster that dramatically changed the country's priorities. Going into the 2012 election season, when the public is asked which issues matter most, 2% say immigration, 1% say abortion, 1% say religious values, and 44% say economy/jobs. For a party to ignore this is an invitation to be labeled out of touch.

The second is that Limbaugh's confidence about public attitudes is misplaced. Not only does the American mainstream not want to fight the culture war right now, when pressed, most of the public likes contraception, supports Roe v. Wade, and approves of marriage equality. One could certainly make the case that gun control isn't popular, at least not with key voting constituencies, but since Democrats aren't even trying to change the status quo, it's not much of a campaign issue.

Limbaugh complained on the air yesterday that the Republican establishment "wants no part of" the culture war. There's a good reason for that: GOP leaders can read polls.

And I'll add that I can't think of anywhere else this rings truer than right here in Southern Nevada. Folks here are asking about job openings, home foreclosure prevention, and how to save our middle class. They're not interested in refighting "culture wars" on women's health care decisions and whether to criminalize being gay. If Joe Heck really wants to join his G-O-TEA colleagues & Rush Limbaugh, and declare himself a "culture warrior", then he needs to prepare to lose this next election.

1 comment: