Over the last couple of years, the Republican Party did itself no favors when it came to persuading women voters. The "war on women" in 2011 and 2012 -- which included restrictions on reproductive rights, targeting Planned Parenthood, opposing pay equity laws, forcing women to undergo medically unnecessary exams for political reasons, etc. -- cost GOP candidates dearly.
After last year's elections, party leaders recognized the problem and said they would be careful not to repeat the same mistakes. But as my MSNBC colleague Irin Carmon explained today, Republicans have apparently learned nothing.
In the middle of the night Saturday, House Republicans slid a rule into a bill to fund the government that would allow employers to deny their employees insurance coverage of contraception on moral grounds.The so-called "conscience clause," is the same proposal Republicans have trotted out again and again during the health care law debate, making various religious and individual-liberty arguments. It's almost certain not to become law, but the symbolic attempt alone is a reminder of where the party still is on reproductive health.
Quite right. On the substance, empowering employers to block workers' access to birth control is painfully absurd, even by the standards of far-right culture warriors. On the politics, I'd love to meet the strategic GOP genius who thought, "We're in the middle of a budget crisis and creating a government shutdown for which we'll be blamed. This is the perfect time to remind Americans we're also against contraception access."
Obviously, the Senate Democratic majority had no use for this nonsense, but therein lies part of what makes this even more remarkable: House Republicans took this step of going after birth control during a shutdown crisis knowing full well that the policy had no chance of success. In other words, the House GOP just thought it'd be a good idea to go after contraception access, just so they could say they did.
"Once again House Republicans have found a way to mount an ideological attack on women's health as the clock ticks down on a crisis they created," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said. "This is part of the right wing playbook that's going nowhere in the Senate. The truly unconscionable thing is that Republicans would try to rob women of access to health care while holding our economy hostage."