In an interview yesterday, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois talked about how his stroke had changed him--how it had challenged some of his core beliefs, in particular noting that Medicaid recipients in his situation would have been limited to only 11 rehab visits.
“Had I been limited to that, I would have had no chance to recover like I did,” Kirk said. “So unlike before suffering the stroke, I’m much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face.”
In fact, personal experience seems to be one of the only things today that can move people and change minds. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Rep. Peter King, both Republicans, went to bat yesterday against their own party! To secure relief for Sandy victims; victims whose plight they had seen and heard first hand.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how the Republican House could possibly have failed to extend the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). An act that, just as it sounds, helps protect women who are victims of sexual and domestic abuse. And the only reason I can come up with is that the male dominated House Republican Caucus; which didn’t bother to appoint a single woman as committee chair until pressured; which didn’t allow a single woman on a committee panel about birth control coverage; cannot relate to the personal experience of a woman who has been stalked, raped, or beaten by her spouse. The Senate renewed the legislation back in April, with bipartisan support. Bipartisan support that came primarily, I should add from Republican women. Meanwhile the House totally, utterly, failed.
Now just so you don’t think I’m skipping over some super objectionable thing that the Democrats put in to make this bill unpalatable, here are the three new provisions Republicans object to:
- Protections for illegal immigrants who are being beaten by their spouse but can’t report it for fear of deportation.
- Protections for all women regardless of their sexual orientation.
- Expanded protections for American Indian women who are twice as likely to be victims of violent crimes
I don’t know how you could object to any of those things. The only explanation is a lack of personal connection to the problem. Since the Republican men are obviously lacking in their own experience though, here is Rep. Gwen Moore, a sexual assault survivor, sharing hers:
"I don’t have enough time to share all these experiences with you but I can tell you that when this bill came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with all the Republican Senators, all of the guys voting no, it brought up some terrible memories for me of having boys sit in a locker room and sort of bet that I, the egghead, couldn't be ‘had.’ And then the appointed boy, when he saw that I wasn’t going to be so willing , completed a date rape and then took my underwear to display it to the rest of the boys. This is what American women are facing."
I am confident that if the Republican men of the house actually had a visceral connection to the terror of violence and rape, they would make this a priority. And don’t worry Republicans, protecting a lesbian, American Indian or an illegal immigrant woman from violence isn't a slippery slope to actually recognizing these people as full human beings and giving them equal protection under the law. Thanks to the re-election of President Obama, the Supreme Court will take care of that.