On policy towards women, a study in contrasts

An anti-abortion demonstrator (C) shouts at pro-choice demonstrators in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, January 22, 2014.
An anti-abortion demonstrator (C) shouts at pro-choice demonstrators in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, January 22, 2014.
It's become clear over the last several days that high-profile Republicans are eager to engage in a debate over who, exactly, is responsible for waging a "war on women." If last night was any indication, it's a debate President Obama welcomes.
In fact, some the most memorable rhetoric from the State of the Union related to women. He celebrated the fact that "the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest automaker"; he described it as an "embarrassment" that American women do not yet receive equal pay for equal work; and perhaps most strikingly, the president said, "It's time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode."
And it's against this backdrop that Republican politicians have been very busy with their own agenda that relates directly to women. Indeed, consider what House Republicans were up to just a few hours before last night's address.

The so-called "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Bill," which despite its name, actually restricts private insurance coverage of abortion through the exchanges, passed the House of Representatives [Tuesday], 226-188. [...] Democrats pointed out that the bill punishes low-income women, and that the Hyde Amendment already bans taxpayer funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. They also said the vote was, in the words of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, "wasting time" that could be spent dealing with joblessness.

Note that while House Republicans tend to avoid passing any bills unrelated to repealing health care reform, this is the second major anti-abortion bill to clear the chamber in this Congress -- the House GOP approved a 20-week abortion ban last summer.
And while this new bill -- given the designation of H.R. 7 because it's considered one of the House Republicans' top legislative priorities of this Congress -- won't become law anytime soon, it reinforces a larger point: the GOP's war on women cost the party dearly in the 2012 elections, but Republicans haven't learned a thing.
What have we seen just over the last couple of weeks?
* Republicans have gone after Texas gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis (D) over the details of her personal family history. One Texas Republican eventually conceded, "If this involved a man running for office, none of this would ever come up."
* Mike Huckabee delivered a bizarre speech to the RNC in which he argued that Democrats believe women require government mandated  contraception access because women can't control their libidos.
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued Hillary Clinton can be criticized for Bill Clinton's Lewinsky affair 19 years ago because "sometimes it's hard to separate one from the other."
* Republican state policymakers continue to push new restrictions on women's reproductive rights, including a proposed 30-day waiting period in Louisiana.
* Sean Hannity suggested yesterday the creation of an "Adopt-A-Woman Birth Control Program" as an alternative to guaranteeing contraception access in federal health care law.
* Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wrote a book in which he argued wives should "voluntarily submit" to their husbands.
* Republican Senate hopeful Ken Buck in Colorado explained his opposition to abortion rights by comparing pregnancy to cancer, which is why he doesn't think a woman should "be in control of her body."
* Republican congressional hopeful Dick Black in Virginia opposes making spousal rape a crime and has called military rape "as predictable as human nature."
On the other hand, Republicans chose a woman to deliver their official SOTU response, right?
Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) said this week, "It's hard for me to phrase this politely. Sometimes Republicans think that just putting a woman up front means somehow that women are going to feel good about the party. It is not about the messenger. It's about the message. And until we figure that one out, while it's nice that we have a woman as a spokesperson, if the message itself doesn't get changed a bit, it's not going to work."
Finally, note that the AP reported yesterday that Republican leaders are "summoning contenders -- especially those who seem inexperienced, unpredictable or inclined to provocative opinions -- to first-of-a-kind training at the GOP's Senate campaign headquarters to learn, in part, what not to say" about women's issues.
That's nice, I suppose, though it's not a "first-of-a-kind training" -- Republicans have been coached before, more than once, about this. It doesn't seem to be working, and indeed, it can't work since the problem is more substantive and systemic than party leaders are prepared to admit.