The GOP-controlled House of Representatives last month pushed through a bill that pretends to reauthorize the nation's legislative commitment to ending violence against women but in actuality leaves the women most in need out in the cold. Meanwhile, Republican leaders continue to whine when Democrats say the GOP is conducting a war on women.
But war is simply the only way to describe it as the Republicans launch attack after attack -- calling for restrictions on birth control and women's health care services and refusing to allow even one woman to speak at a congressional hearing about these issues; trying to undermine safe and legal abortion in any way possible without even allowing it to save the lives of women; demanding government-ordered vaginal probes of pregnant women who might consider having abortions; blocking legislation that would put teeth in equal pay laws; and now, limiting protection for woman who are abused and assaulted.
As the saying goes, "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a duck." The sexist quacking from the Republicans has grown so loud it's deafening.
Every time Republican leaders initiate an assault on women's rights, they claim it's only to help women. Apparently ordinary women -- women who society entrusts with raising children, women in the military who fight and die to protect every American, women who work to better themselves through higher education, working women who make up nearly 50 percent of the workforce to keep our families and communities strong -- don't really know what's best for them, but Republican elected officials do.
Last month's charade in the House is a prime example. Finally realizing that having white males make the case against women's rights did not exactly convey a good image, the GOP leadership had female representatives take the lead. They also decided to muddy the waters by creating a substitute bill to the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act that had passed in the Senate, calling their bill VAWA too. But no one fell for their act.
The Senate bill reflected how our understanding of violence against women has grown. It not only funded the vital community and police programs and shelters that have saved women's lives under VAWA for 15 years, it added help for women not previously covered -- Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and gay, lesbian and transgender victims.
But the House faux VAWA would cut coverage for those women, and at one point even included a measure suggested by a GOP donor who runs a Russian mail-order-bride business that would have automatically informed husbands if their wives reported being victimized. The House GOP was forced to drop that provision after even some of their own members thought they had gone too far.
The GOP bill that did pass would leave victims of domestic violence worse off than they are now. Unlike the Senate bill, the House proposal would discourage undocumented immigrant women from reporting abuse by leaving open the possibility that they would be deported if they did so. It would leave women on Indian reservations who are abused by non-Native Americans with no protection. It would leave out protections for the LGBT community altogether.
Civil rights organizations, women's rights groups, domestic violence workers, health care organizations and faith-based organizations strongly opposed the fake VAWA, with only one group (besides the GOP leadership) supporting it -- the National Coalition For Men.
The original VAWA -- whose prime sponsor was then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden -- was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. It has been a force for good, saving women's lives and giving police departments across the nation the funding and training needed to defuse violent family situations and step in to prevent further violence. The House GOP action puts women's lives and the programs they need in jeopardy to appease the party's rabid right wingers, some of whom claim that women's shelters are no more than "havens for runaway wives."
President Barack Obama announced he would veto the faux VAWA if it came to his desk, and all Americans should be proud of him for doing so. The Senate must stand firm in insisting that the House pass the real VAWA. It must demand that House GOP leaders do what is good for the nation and the nation's women for a change.opinion_commentary
Nancy Patton Mills chairs the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. First Published June 6, 2012 9:45 AM