How to Debunk the ‘War on Women’
Forget gender politics and focus on the winning policies.

Wendy Davis


Charles Krauthammer

What is it about women that causes leading Republicans to grow clumsy, if not stupid? When even savvy, fluent, attractively populist Mike Huckabee stumbles, you know you’ve got trouble. Having already thrown away eminently winnable Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana because of moronic talk about rape, the GOP might have learned. You’d think.

Huckabee wasn’t quite as egregious, just puzzling and a bit weird. Trying to make a point about Obamacare mandating free contraceptives, he inexplicably began speculating that the reason behind the freebie was the Democrats’ belief that women need the federal government to protect them from their own libidos.

Bizarre. I can think of no Democrat who has ever said that, nor any liberal who even thinks that. Such a theory, when offered by a conservative, is quite unfortunately self-revealing.


In any case, why go wandering into the psychology of female sexuality in the first place? It’s ridiculous. This is politics. Stick to policy. And there’s a good policy question to be asked about the contraceptive mandate (even apart from its challenge to religious freedom). It’s about priorities. By what moral logic does the state provide one woman with co-pay-free contraceptives while denying the same subvention to another woman when she urgently needs antibiotics for her sick child? 

The same principle of sticking to policy and forswearing amateur psychology should apply to every so-called women’s issue. Take abortion, which is the subtext of about 90 percent of the alleged “war on women,” the charge being that those terrible conservative men are denying women control of their reproductive health.

The charge has worked. Although the country is fairly evenly split on the abortion question, the Republicans’ inability to make their case in respectful tones has cost them dearly. In 2012, they lost unmarried women by 36 (!) points.

Yet there is a very simple, straightforward strategy for seizing the high ground on abortion in a way that transcends the normal divisions and commands wide popular support: Focus on the horror of late-term abortion — and get it banned.

Last year’s Kermit Gosnell trial was a seminal moment. The country was shown a baby butcher at work and national sentiment was nearly unanimous. Abortion-rights advocates ran away from Gosnell. But they can’t hide from the issue.

And the issue, as most succinctly defined by the late liberal senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, is infanticide. Describing one form of late-term abortion known as partial-birth, Moynihan said, “I had once remarked that the procedure was too close to infanticide. And now we have testimony that it is not just too close to infanticide, it is infanticide.” How else to describe crushing the infant’s skull in mid-delivery before the head leaves the birth canal?

Conservatives need to accept that no such consensus exists regarding early abortions. Unlike late-term abortions, where there are clearly two human beings involved, there is no such agreement regarding, say, a six-week-old embryo.

There remains profound disagreement as to whether at this early stage the fetus has acquired personhood or, to put it more theologically, ensoulment. The disagreement is understandable given that the question is a matter of faith.

This doesn’t mean that abortion opponents should give up. But regarding early abortions, the objective should be persuasion — creating some future majority — rather than legislative coercion in the absence of a current majority. These are the constraints of a democratic system.

Not so regarding a third- or late-second-trimester abortion. Here we are dealing with a child that could potentially live on its own — if not killed first. And killing it, for any reason other than to save the mother’s life, is an abomination. Outlawing that –– state by state and nationally — should be the focus of any Republican’s position on abortion.

A test case for this kind of policy-oriented political strategy is the governor’s race in Texas: Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate, has a complicated personal history. Stop talking about it. (Her capacity for veracity is a legitimate issue, but for God’s sake why go into her parenting choices? That’s a snare and a distraction.) Talk policy — specifically the issue that brought Davis to national prominence.

What was her eleven-hour filibuster about? Blocking a state law whose major feature was outlawing abortions beyond 20 weeks. Make that the battlefield. Make Davis explain why she chose not just to support late-term abortion but to make it her great cause.

Stay away from the minefield of gender politics. Challenge the other side on substance. And watch them lose.

Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2014 The Washington Post Writers Group

Meme Watch: Wendy Davis
Recent revelations that Texas politician and pro-abortion celebrity Wendy Davis fudged parts of her biography drew fire from critics who lambasted both Davis and the mainstream media for failing to dig into her past until now. Here’s a look at some Twitter commentary, illustrated by NR.
“Wendy Davis needs a man like a fish needs a rich bicycle that will pay its way through fish law school and take full custody of its spawn.” (@exjon)
“Wendy Davis Feminism: Stand By Your Man Until the Bills Are Paid” (@NolteNC)
”Blurred lines is a Robin Thicke song. It is not interchangeable with "lie." (@DLoesch)
“Hired Wendy Davis PR firm to redo my bio. Turns out I was orphaned. Then reform school, migrant worker. Very inspiring.” (@patsajak)
“So Abortion Barbie had a Sugar Daddy Ken. No exactly the bio she claimed.” (@EWErickson)
“Toots, no one is to blame but YOU and YOUR OWN lies for political gain. Here's the Cliffnote's version: You. Are. Insane.” (@LilMissRightie)
“@WendydavisTexas stands behind every word of her life story, says her spokesperson, Manti T'eo's girlfriend.” (@SooperMexican)
“Next, Wendy Davis will claim she bought her pink tennis shoes from a 1/32nd-Cherokee friend named T-Bone." (@exjon)
“Wendy Davis should really chat with Liz Warren about how to fabricate life stories.” (@guypbenson)
“Wendy Davis should just pack up and move to Massachusetts right away. The voters here love Harvard chicks who are complete frauds.” (@LADowd)
“Seems Obama and #WendyDavis are cut from the same "rewrite your past and embellish your life" to get elected cloth.” (@pambesteder)
“Amazing in all the Wendy Davis interviews by serious journalists, only now basic facts of her bio coming out” (@stuartpstevens)
“Hi MSM! So, if Sarah Palin did what Wendy Davis did, would that make it news? #caring” (@KurtSchlichter)
“Marco Rubio got second hand info wrong about his parents = OMG!!! SCANDALOUS!!! Wendy Davis lies about her life = Meh.
“If her Texas campaign flops, Wendy Davis has a future as chief diary consultant for the mayor of Hoboken.” (@Doc_0)
“Whoa. Wendy Davis had a boyfriend named Frank Underwood?” (@blakehounshell)
“I await Wendy Davis's lawsuit against the Dallas Morning News claiming it harmed her mental health by revealing her lies.” (@EWErickson)
“Waiting for Wendy Davis to turn "Dallas Morning Newsed" into a verb like "Swift Boated." (@JonahNRO)
“Wendy Davis: She didn't build that. She didn't get there on her own. (But really guys, Obama was right on this one)” (@KatiePavlich)
“Don't worry Democrats, there's still time for Wendy Davis to abort her campaign. And she'd be okay with it in the abstract.” (@EWErickson)
“This reminds me of the time Greg Abbott didn't make his wife pay his way thru law school then didn't dump her & his kids.” (@exjon)
FOOT IN MOUTH: Davis compounded her troubles with an ill-considered reference to her opponent in the Texas governor’s race, whom she accused of being involved in the story and also of not walking “a day in my shoes.” Greg Abbott is paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.
“Wendy Davis out Joe-Bidened Joe Biden with that whole "hasn't walked a mile in my shoes" dig.” (@maxjkleber)
“Is @WendyDavisTexas really Joe Biden's younger self in drag? She just keeps digging her hole deeper. #WalkInMyShoes #AbortionBarbie” (@StarCoreOne02)
“Stories of struggle? Looks like @WendyDavisTexas struggles with the truth.” (@TXTrendyChick)
“So the Wendy Davis line will be that her rival, the paraplegic, has lived a life of privilege and ease?” (@jimgeraghty)
#WendyDavisStruggles: The Davis campaign tried to fight back, accusing conservative opponents of orchestrating the disclosures and her critics of sexist motives. But her attempt to elicit sympathy with the #WendyDavisStruggles hashtag only fueled the Twitter-storm. As @amylutz4 put it: “#WendyDavisStruggles is the new #FirstWorldProblems.”
“#WendyDavisStruggles with telling the truth” (@LizardStomp)
“#WendyDavisStruggles all the effort she had to put in finding a man to pay for kids and schooling” (@jensan1332)
“#WendyDavisStruggles "Abortions sure are expensive. That's okay! I'll get my husband to pay for it, then I'll divorce him. Easypeasy." (@Cyntroe)
“These aren't even MANOLOS! YOU walk a mile in them." #WendyDavisStruggles (@ChrisBarnhart)
“#WendyDavisStruggles What shade of pink lipstick works best with these shoes?” (@gapo67)
“What is this? Tap water??? GET ME EVIAN!” (@JayCaruso)
“We are NOT drinking any Merlot! #WendyDavisStruggles” (@JayCaruso)
“I said NO whip in my White Chocolate Mocha!! #WendyDavisStruggles” (@dthompson5150)
“#WendyDavisStruggles being late for her Botox appointment because of waiting in line for a mammogram at Planned Parenthood” (@idideat4414505)
“You don't know the pain of going to college while hoping your rich husband got the kids to school on time. #WendyDavisStruggles” (@EEElverhoy)
“Having to kiss babies on the campaign trail.. #WendyDavisStruggles” (@gigg423)
“Is part of #WendyDavisStruggles that her campaign is in free fall from being a liar?” (@garygramscom)
Updated: Jan. 22, 2014