The Republican Party Platform contains multiple policies that aim to suppress the votes of women and ensure that the political realm remains within the control of white Republican men by controlling women’s bodies and reproduction. The Senate’s iteration of the Republican health care legislation to continue the process of eliminating the Affordable Care Act bolsters these policies and goals. Consider how problematic it is that zero women or people of color were present when drafting the current Senate bill (three Johns and two Mikes were conveniently present, however). This is intentional. The Republicans do not seek to represent us or our interests. They seek to repress us by using our bodies and our health against us.
Women (and particularly women of color) pose a threat to Republicans running for political office. We tend to vote for Democratic political candidates over Republican ones; we are registered to vote at higher rates than men; and we are generally more likely to vote than men. Of all female demographics however, single mothers are registered and turn out to vote in some very low percentages when compared to the rest of American women.
So, how to keep those pesky women out of politics so they don’t screw it up for the Republicans? The answer is an obvious one: ensure women are too busy caring and providing for children to vote.
The Republican Party Platform and recent legislation to continue the process of repealing and replacing the ACA lays out a blatant anti-women’s health agenda with the intention of eliminating women’s access to choice. The platform and legislation directly demonizes Planned Parenthood and threatens to cut Medicaid funding for all health care and family planning programs that provide or refer for abortions (aka most women’s health programs). These policies go hand in hand with eliminating the ACA, which has specifically benefited women by preventing insurers from charging higher premium rates due to gender, provided more (and often free) access to birth control, and provided millions of women with access to maternity services. Eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, the ACA, and Medicaid services for women will result in women having less decision making power when it comes to their own reproductive health and greatly increase the financial burden of health care costs for women of childbearing age.
Furthermore, these types of policies will disproportionately affect women of color. People of color are recipients of Medicaid and registered for the ACA at higher rates than whites. Black women also receive abortions at higher proportions than white women, largely due to a lack of access to contraception. White men in power imposing policies upon women of color and eliminating social services that provide a more equitable standard of living is blatantly oppressive. Ultimately, these policies are part of the larger Republican strategy to further disenfranchise people of color, and black women more specifically, because these demographics tend to vote for largely in favor of Democrats.
In addition to opposing equitable reproductive health care options, Republicans in power also attempt to keep women disenfranchised by failing to provide adequate sexual education for children and adolescents. The Republican platform advocates for strict abstinence-only sexual education. In recent years, there has been a decline in teen pregnancy and it is widely accepted that comprehensive sex education and access to contraception are two leading factors in this trend. It can only be assumed that Republicans, under the thin veil of religious morality, would prefer to make decisions on behalf of young women and girls, and force them to have babies rather than allow them to make educated decisions about their own health, bodies, and future.
Health policies of the Republican Party are blatantly racist, misogynistic, and oppressive. By reducing equitable access to health care services for women, Republicans are effectively contributing directly to the cycle of poverty that many women experience as the result of to teen pregnancy and single motherhood.
In 2015, more than one out of three single mother families lived in poverty and for households headed by women of color, the ratios were even higher. Women continue to earn less than men for the same work, single mothers do not receive adequate financial, societal, or government support, and they (particularly black single mothers) are routinely demonized by Republican rhetoric, which then in turn reinforces the myth that these women do not deserve or need societal or governmental support.
When people are impoverished, it comes as no surprise that they can’t and don’t vote. Single mothers do tend to have high poverty rates and significantly, impoverished citizens have much lower voter turnout rates than wealthy citizens. It is expected that single mothers are not a civically engaged demographic: they do not have the time or the money to spare on politics, especially when this is the line many encounter when voting.
In order to combat the Republican agenda to deprive women of their ability to vote, women must continue to fight for access to equitable health care services, advocate for the voting rights of our single mothers, and encourage all women to become civically engaged. Mobilizing the single mother demographic to get out the vote also has the potential to tip the scales in favor of more progressive, women’s health oriented political groups in the future. We need to make voting as easy as possible, particularly for those of us who are busy and have other priorities. We must adamantly oppose restrictive voter ID laws and encourage the use of voting by mail and automatic registration policies to increase civic engagement.
Contact your legislators and let them know you do not support restricting support to women’s health care organizations. Call them, email them, Tweet at them, show up at town hall meetings, confront them so frequently and on so many platforms that they have to listen. Maybe even stage a sit in at your legislator’s office. Let your representatives know you do not support legislation that reduces health care access for women or for the most vulnerable in this country. This is a fight for our rights.
Original Publication: Nightingale Magazine