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This week, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump revealed the worst kept secret in politics—Republican politicians want to criminalize abortion and punish the women who have them. The other GOP candidates and Republicans around the country feigned outrage at his suggestion. While Trump may have been speaking off script, his comments were entirely consistent with the GOP’s actions. The GOP agenda consistently punishes, humiliates and shames women in myriad ways. The Republicans’ goal is to not only make it as hard as possible for women to access reproductive health care, but to ultimately end that access.
Since the Tea Party wave of 2010, Republicans at the state and federal level, including Ted Cruz and John Kasich, have focused on erecting as many restrictions as possible to reproductive health care.
State funding for Planned Parenthood and the preventative health services they provide, including cervical and breast cancer screenings, has been eliminated in twelve states.
Because of state defunding measures here at home, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has closed five rural health centers that provided cervical and breast cancer screenings, access to birth control and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases to thousands of Wisconsin women. No provider has stepped in to fill the void.
And the results of denying access to family planning services are thwarting women’s ability to plan their pregnancies and receive the health care they need. In Texas, after Republicans blocked state funds from going to Planned Parenthood for prevention-based services, a February study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a 35 percent decline in women using the most effective methods of birth control and a 27 percent rise in births among women who had prior access to injectable birth control. This hasn’t stopped Ted Cruz from trying to shut down the entire federal government to stop any federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood.
While cutting family planning funds that prevent unintended pregnancies, Republicans have simultaneously done everything in their power to block access to abortion, with almost 300 new abortion restrictions passing in states throughout the country since 2011. In Texas, only twenty-two out of forty-one abortion providers remain because of various restrictions imposed on providers that are the subject of a lawsuit pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. In Ohio, John Kasich enacted eighteen different anti-women’s health policies, shutting down almost one-half of Ohio’s abortion providers.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature is just as extreme, enacting measures forcing, in most cases, invasive vaginal ultrasounds on women contemplating abortion, requiring physician admitting privileges at area hospitals in order to eliminate abortion providers, and imposing a twenty-week abortion ban even on victims of rape and incest and women whose wanted pregnancies go wrong.
Governor Walker also recently appointed a state Supreme Court justice who has compared abortion to the Holocaust and equated birth control with murder
Wisconsin still has a criminal abortion ban in law. Should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned, Wisconsin is one of four states where abortion immediately becomes illegal.
Even Dane County, one of the most progressive counties in Wisconsin, can’t escape the ramifications of these harmful policies. Stories of suffering are surfacing in my own community, including one woman who, at her twenty-week ultrasound, discovered that her wanted pregnancy had gone tragically wrong. Because of Wisconsin’s abortion ban, she was forced to travel out of state and pay out of pocket for an abortion she didn’t want, but desperately needed.
The GOP is unbothered by what our history, and the current reality around the world, has shown us – making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortion. It makes it dangerous. It makes it deadly.
In his “misspeak,” even Trump recognized this consequence by stating that women would “. . . go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places.”
Although Trump’s rivals and the rest of the Republican establishment were quick to rebuff Trump for going off-message and saying that women who seek abortions in a post Roe world should be punished, they are unperturbed about the main consequence of their attempts to eliminate access to safe, legal abortion, which is that women die.
Donald Trump may have been the first one to say it out loud, but the GOP has been punishing and shaming women for years, simply for seeking the safe medical care they need.
Their position is the epitome of big government. It doesn’t get any bigger and more intrusive than the government taking away our ability to make our most personal, private decisions. It is time for the Republican Party to stop treating women like second-class citizens. Stop the shaming, stop the punishment and start treating women as strong, empowered individuals who must be able to make decisions about childbearing.
Our lives and our future depend upon it.
Chris Taylor represents Madison in the Wisconsin state assembly.