Terry O'Neill, NOW President, Says Women Need To Vote In State Races

The president of the National Organization for Women described a Wisconsin bill, based on the idea that single parenting could lead to child abuse, as "astonishing," while calling on women to vote in state-level races in November.

Terry O'Neill said the Wisconsin bill is just the latest attack on women, placing it in the same boat as a series of anti-abortion bills popping up in state legislatures nationally. The bill, which was heard by the state's Public Health, Human Services and Revenue Committee late last month, has not reached a floor vote.

"It is an astonishing new front in the war against women," O'Neill said of the Wisconsin bill.

O'Neill said that the single parent bill -- which calls on the state's agency responsible for preventing child abuse to lead a public education campaign saying that being a single parent could cause a rise in child abuse -- is not just an attack on women. The bill is also an attack on unmarried heterosexual couples and same sex couples with children, she said.

The bill's sponsors, state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and state Rep. Donald Pridemore (R-Hartford), have said that the bill is needed to prevent abuse from the boyfriends of single mothers.

On a local television program, Pridemore said that while he thinks women can raise children, men are "disciplinarians" and that children without fathers "tend to go astray." During the same interview, he said even women in abusive relationships should look at other points in the relationship before considering a divorce.

O'Neill said the comments are an illustration of what the Republican Party will say in what she characterized as a "crusade against women."

And women are not the only target, she said. "This is harming men, too, and they know it," said O'Neill, noting that she has received emails and Tweets from men saying that proposals to ban contraception hurt their family planning and and economic well-being.

She expects women's groups to target the Wisconsin bill and try to defeat it, but said she has not spoken to NOW's leadership in Wisconsin about the bill.

O'Neill and the leaders of other women's groups plan to address state-level voting, along with congressional and U.S. Senate races in 2012 with the group, HER Votes. O'Neill said the decline in women voting in 2010 led to a decline in women serving in state legislatures and Congress, and helped fuel the current national trend.

In addition to electing more female candidates, she said the group plans to address state referendums on women's health that are likely to make the 2012 ballot, including the personhood amendments in several states.

The new campaign plays out with a series of proposals pending in state legislatures, including Kansas' sweeping anti-abortion bill which mandates a sales tax on abortion, the Arizona "wrongful birth, wrongful life" bill and an Arizona bill that would make it easier for employers to fire women for using birth control if the employer objects for moral reasons.

"Kansas is one of many states where women's reproductive health is under attack, this is another example," O'Neill said.

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