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Eaton: ‘War on women’ detracts from those truly at war

Updated: June 3, 2012 8:18AM



This so-called “war on women” is not a war, it’s not even a battle. It’s simply trash talk between differing political sides.

This year’s “ladies’ scuffle” started in earnest when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suddenly announced that religious organizations would be forced against their beliefs to fund birth control, abortion and sterilization. Catholic bishops rose up against the Obama administration’s health care mandate and counseled their flocks to resist its implementation. Eventually, the HHS mandate was revised.

During the hottest part of that debate, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh carelessly referred to congressional witness Sandra Fluke as an immoral woman, stirring up the riff. Limbaugh’s inappropriate comment reminded Republicans of the ugly, degrading things radio commentators said about Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential campaign.

And shortly after the Limbaugh-Fluke story moved off the front pages, Democrat strategist Hilary Rosen berated GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, as being unqualified to comment on the nation’s economic woes and its impact on women because Mrs. Romney, a full-time mom, had “never worked a day in her life.”

Over this past weekend, the Obama campaign unrolled a commercial, attacking the Republicans as initiating a “war on women” by proposing to restrict women’s choices in birth control, abortion and sterilization. The ad also falsely asserted that Republicans are opposed to equal pay and support unfairness for women in the workplace.

That’s where campaign battle lines have been drawn. We’ll be hearing those talking points time and time again as we near November. The “war on women” will be a message that Democrats use a lot.

And that strategy is a problem — not just for Republicans but for any woman concerned about foundational, constitutional liberties. Republicans are weak in lobbing back effective messages and are often politically unable to respond with resonating message grenades.

Perhaps they should try this: What Democrats dub as a “war on women” is nothing more than a disagreement over public policy. Calling it “war” degrades the thousands of women in our military who face danger, if not death, every day to preserve our right to open political debate.

And the Democrats need to be called out repeatedly for their insulting “war on women” campaign strategy and showed what real war is.

Last month, the State Department honored 10 women from throughout the world who understand fully what is a real war on women. Recipients of the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards, these women heroically suffered through real war, experiencing vicious attacks on themselves and their families, homes and communities.

Aneesa Ahmed, of the Maldives, raised the issue of domestic violence and paid a price for it. When religious scholars began identifying on national radio female genital mutilation/cutting as a practice supported by Islam, Ahmed asked the government to intervene and spoke out publicly about the harmful effects of the practice. Her work continues despite the sanctions of powerful religious leaders. Hana El Hebshi bravely documented the violence Libyans were suffering during their year-long revolution against its tyrannical dictatorship. At grave risk, El Hebshi courageously passed information along to outside media the government had banned. Under the pen name “Numidia,” she became a symbol of hope to Libyans that a caring world would soon intervene.

For being a journalist, Jineth Bedoya Lima, of Columbia, was kidnapped, gang raped and physically abused at the hands of members of a smuggling network about whom she was writing. During the attack she was told, “Pay attention. We are sending a message to the press of Colombia.” Lima continues to seek justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Then there’s the plight Chinese women are facing with the government-imposed one-child policy. Women are required to seek government permission to conceive. If they get pregnant without authorization, they are kidnapped and taken to medical facilities where their babies are taken from their bodies. Sometimes, they are forcibly sterilized as well.

Women’s Rights without Borders is working to secure human rights for Chinese women. Its director, Reggie Littlejohn, describes the horror vividly: “When I say forced abortion, I mean women are literally dragged out of their homes, off the streets, can be jailed in family planning jail cells, forced to abort children they want. And this can happen all the way up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Sometimes the abortions are so violent, the women die with their babies.”

American women have no concerns about being in such horrific situations. And while there are dramatic differences in views on public policy between women on the right and the left, all agree that women should never be abused as property or dismissed as irrelevant and ineffective simply because of their gender.

Women on both sides of the birth control debate agree that women should be allowed to decide for themselves their health care alternatives. We do, however, disagree on who should be required to pay for those choices — the patient or the taxpayer — especially when they involve destroying a human life. After all, more than half of those lives ended are female.

Here’s a novel idea: After learning to recognize the real war on women, American women should work together to end it.

Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog illinoisreview.com



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